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  • Writer's pictureSim Elliott

The flowers, bryophytes, lichen & birds of West Beech Nature Reserve, Littlehampton. 02.07.23

Updated: Jul 15, 2023

I visited West Beach Nature Reserve by chance. West Beach NR is in the Climping Beech SSSI see: Magic Map Application ( I was volunteering at RSPB Pagham Harbour and because of the ASLEF dispute Southern Rail decided to split the journey from Chichester to Brighton at Littlehampton, so I visited the reserve at the end of the afternoon after doing a ranger shift at Pagham. To get to Littlehampton by train is a 44 minute journey and there are typically 2 trains an hour. On leaving the station turn right (north) and walk up to the footbridge that crosses the Arun; then walk down the foot path marked to West Beach Nature Reserve. It is about a 40 minute walk to the beginning of the resere.

All sections of text in italics are quotations, sources sited.

The photographs in this post are presented chronologically (in the order in which I saw things)

I am only an amateur naturalist; thus all identifications are provisional; if you note a mistake in identification please feel free to tell me. If you want to contact me about any aspect of this blog, email me at simeon[underscore]elliott[at]gmail[dot]com.

Extract from the Climping Beach SSSI citation:

The site is a stretch of coast with a vegetated shingle beach, behind which is a sand dune system. The intertidal zone supports important populations of wintering birds and the numbers of wintering sanderling, in particular, are of European significance.

Vegetated shingle beaches are a nationally uncommon habitat. The beach at Climping is broad in the west but narrows to the east. Plant communities are mainly restricted to sheltered areas behind the main shingle bank and include yellow horned poppy Gaucium flavum, sea dale Crambe maritima, sea beet Beta vulgaris, curled dock Rumex crispus and sea holly Eryngium maritimum. Scrub of tamarisk Tamarix gallica and hawthorn Crataegus monogyna has developed in a few places behind the shingle.

Sand dunes are fragile systems, susceptible to erosion and often unstable. Stablilised parts of these dunes are dominated by marram-grass Ammophila arenaria. Other plants which are present include dune fescue grass Vulpia membranacea, red fescue grass Festuca rubra, sand catchfly Silene conica, sand sedge Carex arenaria, viper’s bugloss Echium vulgare and a locally uncommon plant, Nottingham catchfly Silene nutans.

The intertidal zone consists of soft muds and sands which support large populations of marine invertebrates. The invertebrates are an important food source for wintering birds. In particular up to 300 sanderling have been recorded from this site in winter; a figure which represents 1% of the West European population of this bird which breeds in the high Arctic but flies south to winter on sandy coasts and estuaries. Other wintering birds include grey plover and oystercatcher.

The path to the beach

Arun port

Sea purslane along the intertidal mud of the estuary.

Along the path: Japanese Rose, Rosa rugosa. Probably an escapee from a garden or urban planting schemes

Alfalfa aka Lucerne, Medicago sativa, naturalised after introduction as a fodder crop

A male Linnet, Linaria cannabina. Linnet numbers have dropped substantially over the past few decades, with the UK population estimated to have declined by 57 per cent between 1970 and 2014. The latest Breeding Bird Survey results show a decrease in all countries. Linnet Bird Facts | Carduelis Cannabina - The RSPB. Whilst Linnets are declining I frequently see them along the coast along shingle beaches where there are few people; they can be seen in quite large numbers in the southern part of RSPB Medmerry

Vegetated shingle and sand dune

A small flock of Linnets sand and flew back and forth the Sea Kale and the dune fence posts.

Flowering plants, bryophytes, ferns and lichens (listed alphabetically by common name). I do not think of sand dunes as a common habitat for lichens, bryophytes and ferns; but a saw a moss, a lichen and a fern growing in/on the sand of the dunes

Cladonia sp lichen, - possibly C. rangiformis Habitat: On neutral or basic dry grassland, chalk-flint grassland, cliffs and dunes, especially along the coast; often common. Cladonia rangiformis | The British Lichen Society

Creeping thistle, Cirsium arvense

Hare's Tail. Lagurus ovatus. An annual grass, naturalized on sand dunes in the Channel Islands and in England An annual grass, naturalized on sand dunes in the Channel Islands and in England ... L. ovatus was introduced to cultivation in Britain by 1640 and is widely grown in gardens. It was first recorded in the wild by 1787 in Guernsey, where it has long been naturalized. Deliberate attempts to establish it in Jersey were eventually successful in the 1860s. It appears to be increasing as an established alien on sand dunes in England. Lagurus ovatus L. in BSBI Online Plant Atlas 2020

Ladies Bedstraw, Galium verum

A Polypodium sp. fern; which grow on sand dunes around the country, including in East Anglia and Northern Ireland

Sand Sedge, Carex arenaria; Sand sedge is an important feature of our coastal sand dunes, helping to stabilise the dunes, which allows them to grow up and become colonised by other species. Sand sedge | The Wildlife Trusts

Sea Beet, Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima, much-branched perennial herb found on coastal rocks and cliffs, saltmarsh drift-lines, sea-walls, and on sand and shingle beaches, favouring nutrient-enriched sites such as seabird cliffs and coastal paths popular with dog-walkers. Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima (L.) Arcang. in BSBI Online Plant Atlas 2020

Sea Bindweed, Calystegia soldanella, an entirely coastal species of bindweed. A trailing perennial herb found on sand dunes, and above the strand-line on sand and shingle beaches, often growing with Eryngium maritimum [Sea Holly]. Calystegia soldanella (L.) R.Br. in BSBI Online Plant Atlas 2020

Wild Carrot, Daucus carota subsp. carota; a magnet for small polinators

Whitish Feather-moss, Brachythecium albicans. B. albicans is characteristic of light, well-drained, base-poor soils, especially sand. It is frequent in dunes by the coast. Brachythecium-albicans.pdf (

Sea Radish, Raphanus raphanistrum subsp. maritimus Daucus carota L. in BSBI Online Plant Atlas 2020

The lichen Xanthoria calcicola, common on coastal rocks and walls



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