top of page
  • Writer's pictureSim Elliott

South Downs National Park, fauna & flora from Seaford Head to Friston Gallops. 26.04.22

Updated: Oct 3, 2022

When I go for walks in nature, I try to be open to experience and enjoy every aspect of nature that presents itself, whether that be a familiar species of plant or animal, or a new-to-me species. However, I often choose where to go with some specific foci in mind; the things I particularly wanted to attend to on this walk were:

- are there Kittiwakes at Seaford Head's splash point

- what wild plants have come into bloom on Seaford Head

- what butterflies and birds are about on Seaford Head including Hope Gap, as I know Hope Gap is good for butterflies in particular, and Seaford Head is a good place to see newly arrived migratory birds (returning to the UK mostly from Africa via mainland Europe_

- what plants and animals inhabit Friston Gallops at Butchershole. This was a patch of landscape I had not visited before, and it is known for rich butterfly abundance and diversity.

Butterfly Conservation Sussex: Butchershole Bottom, East Sussex *** Grid ref: TV 555 994

Large open Downland area, surrounded by woodland. Mainly managed by Forest Enterprise.

Access details Well signed car park off road between Friston and Jevington. Open downland is to the West

Key species Adonis Blue, Chalkhill Blue, Marbled White. Good populations of Common Blue, Small Copper, some Dark Green Fritillary. Silver-washed Fritillary and White Admiral in the adjoining Friston Forest.

Other common species The open Downland area has a huge population of common butterfly species, and wild flowers, including Pyramidal and Common Spotted Orchid.

I enjoy visiting locations repeatedly, as I like getting to know the seasonal cycle of flora and fauna in those locations; however I also like visiting new-to-me locations. However, it is not necessary to go to entirely new locations to experience novel environments; I have visited Seaford Head, Cuckmere Haven and Friston Forest many times; but I had never visited the Butchershole area before. Probably all of the places that I visit often have areas that I have not yet visited.

All photos are in chronological order.

All sections text in italics are quotes; sources given.

I took the 12x bus from Brighton to Seaford Library, and walked from there to Seaford Head. I walked over Seaford Head to Hope Gape, where I walked up the Hope Gap path and then down to Cuckmere Haven beach. I then walked up the river Cuckmere path (west side of the river), at Exceat bridge I walked along the road to the Seven Sisters Country Park car park kiosk (and bought a coffee!)

A House Sparrow on the way from Seaford Library to Splash Point

Seaford Head

A Herring Gull at Splash Point

A Starling on the sea defences below Splash Point

A Herring Gull flying across the face of the Splash Point cliffs; NO Kittiwakes (perhaps they were off foraging for fish)


Sea Thrift. One of the advantages of walking the same routes frequently is you get a feel of when you are going to see things. When I walked over Seaford Head a few weeks there was no Sea Thrift, Armeria maritima, aka 'Sea-pink' and 'Cliff Clover', in bloom, and I thought at the time that the next time I walk this route I'll see it coming in to bloom. Sea Thrift is one of the most common chalk cliff plants, it likes to be near the sea. So do I. Sea Thrift is a really important plant for wild bees (bumblebees and solitary bees), butterflies, moths and hoverflies, as it is a rich source of nectar.

A daredevil Rock Pipit very close to a 400m drop, from the top of the cliffs.

Ground Ivy


Looking east from Seaford Head


Sheep (Seven Sisters in background)

Pair of Linnets and Male Linnet

There were four pairs of Linnets singing on the fence that separates the sheep from the golf course on Seaford Head. They sung for a while, and then chased each other round for bit.

Male Linnet singing


Skylark in song flight

The Seven Sisters and Belle Tout lighthouse

A Wheatear

Same Wheatear on the path by the Linnets

A Skylark by the gold course

A pair of Linnets; female with nesting material.

Hope Gap

Wheatears on the top of the cliffs near Hope Gap.

I saw several Wheatears on the top of the cliffs. They were eating insects busily. These are different photos of the same bird. They may have just arrived from across the channel on there long flight back from central Africa. Bird migration is extraordinary.

Another daredevil Rock Pipit.

The Seven Sisters

Another Wheatear in Hope Gap

A Pied Wagtail

A female Stonechat in Hope Gap

A Dunnock

A male Linnet in Hope Gap

A Robin

A Peacock Butterfly - open and closed!

Another Peacock Butterfly

Cuckmere Haven

Looking down on Cuckmere Haven from above the Coastguard Cottages. Cattle conservation grazing.

Cattle and, Canada Geese and Black-Headed Gulls


Seven Sisters and the Coast Guard Cottages

Seaford Head Nature Reserve (Sussex Wildlife Trust) notice board.

Little Egret just north of the beach

Another Little Egret

The Cuckmere Valley

Canada Goose

Brown Tail Moth caterpillars

The Brown-Tail Moth is found in considerable numbers along the coast of South Eastern England and can be a problem in the Brighton & Hove area from spring to summer.

In spring the caterpillars become active and may be seen on the branches of trees and shrubs. They are between 7mm and 38mm in length (depending on age), dark brown in colour with a distinct white line down each side. The whole body is covered in tufts of brown hairs and two distinct orange/red dots are noticeable on the caterpillar's back towards the tail.

The caterpillars carry up to two million spiked and barbed hairs which can penetrate skin, causing an irritant reaction.

For asthmatics and hay fever sufferers, it is important that the hairs are not inhaled as these may cause severe breathing difficulties. Brown-Tail Moth (

Little Egret



Atriplex (Halimione) portulacoides (Sea purslane)

Intolerant of waterlogged ground, therefore favours more sandy areas

Salt is extruded onto the surface of the leaves via salt glands and eventually salt laden leaves are shed

Leaves are succulent

Not very tolerant of grazing or trampling

When conditions are favourable (optimal niche) this species can blanket cover whole areas of the saltmarsh

Hairs on the leaves reduce water loss

Has mycorrhizae on the roots which helps the plant obtain nutrients in a nutrient poor environment. The Sea Shore - FSC (Field Studies Council)

Little Egret

Mute Swan

Little Egret

Grey Heron

Wall brown

Speckled Wood

Friston Forest

Garlic mustard

Garlic mustard, also known as 'Jack-by-the-hedge', likes shady places, such as the edges of woods and hedgerows. It can grow to over a metre tall and has small white flowers that appear from April. It is a biennial plant, so takes two years to complete its lifecycle. It grows young leaves in its first season, which it keeps over winter, and then flowers in the spring of its second year. Garlic mustard | The Wildlife Trusts

Herb Robert

A pretty, pink flower commonly found in shady places.

It has five petals with rounded ends, five-lobed leaves and thin, reddish, stems. The latter are often quite hairy and produce a strong, unpleasant smell! The sepals are red.


Common throughout the UK, apart from areas of north and north-west Scotland.


Woods, hedgerows, shady places, scree, shingle, trails, garden weed especially by shady walls.

Did you know?

Herb Robert has a plethora of local names including Bachelor’s Buttons, Granny-thread-the-needle, Stinking Robert, Robin redbreast and Pink pinafores. Herba Sancti Ruperti was probably given to St Robert of Salzburg.

Both in England and abroad it was believed to be the plant of the house goblin, the German Knecht Ruprecht, and in England Robin Goodfellow. 16th Century mentions of this creature make him hairy, red-featured, sometimes wearing a red suit and carrying a candlestick so common qualities with the plant include colour, hairiness and candlestick beaks.

It is considered the vegetable counterpart to the Robin which can bring good luck if treated kindly or conversely terrible mishaps if killed or its nest destroyed. Associations between the bird and Herb Robert relate to colour, the beaks and the way it keeps humans company round the house. Plantlife :: Herb-Robert

Roe Deer


Mallard on Friston Pond

Fox, off the Old Willingdon Road

Friston Gallops - with information about what Butterflies you may see

Friston Gallops - I saw no Butterflies

Linnet on Friston Gallops

Friston Forest


Common Carder Bumblebee on Bluebells.

The path



bottom of page