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  • Writer's pictureSim Elliott

Uncovering the secrets of Tide Mills, Newhaven: Adder's-Tongue Fern, Sedge Warblers & Reed Warblers singing, and a Cunning Fox on Thursday 03.05.24

I reached Tide Mills from by the 12 bus; which has a Tide Mills bus stop. Coaster 12 - Eastbourne - Brighton | Brighton & Hove Buses. I was tipped off that there were Adder's-Tongue Ferns by a fellow member of the Sussex Botanical Recording Society. I found 50+ spikes of this inconspicuous, small but fascinating fern. I have been looking for Ophioglossum vulgatum for a few years and hadn't found ii so it was quite a thrill to find it.


I visit Tide Mills frequently; as it is historically and biologically fascinating.


The now abandoned village of Tide Mills and its mill and outdoor hospital has a fascinating social history, see: Newhaven Port Nature Reserve/Tide Mills: birds & flowering plants seen on 03.05.22 (simelliott.net)


All italicized sections of text represent quotations with sources cited


In a few weeks the introduced, naturalised, rare, but common at Tide Mills, Orange Mullein, Verbascum phlomoides will bloom - tall spikes like flowery triffids. One of my photo from 21.10.23


The vegetated vegetated shingle at Tide Mills is a home for some rare maritime plants, such as Crambe maritima, Sea Kale; and Yellow Horned Poppy, Glaucium flavum


Sea Kale photo taken on 30.04.23


A photo I took of of Yellow Horned Poppy at Tide Mills on 27.05.22


On the vegetated shingle there is a an area of lichen heath where Cladonia rangiferina, Grey Reindeer lichen and Cladonia furcata dominate


Photo from Tide Mills vegetated shingle on 27.04.24


Many of the pebbles are covered in bright orange Xanthoria species; and have many Lecanora and Verrucaria that are hard to identify


Photo form Tide Mills vegetated shingle on 08.10.23


Tide Mills is a very good location for birds.


Ringed Plovers, Charadrius hiaticula, used to breed on the vegetated shingle; but sadly frequent dogs off leads has stopped them from attempting nesting at Tide Mills. A photo from Tide Mills from 05.05.22 shows a parent distracting a dog from its chicks The broken-wing display is a well-known and conspicuous deceptive signal used to protect birds' broods against diurnal terrestrial predators. e Framond L, Brumm H,Thompson WI, Drabing SM, Francis CD. 2022

The broken-wing display across birds and the conditions for its evolution. Proc. R. Soc. B 289:


Linnets, Linaria cannabina, are common, despite being on the RSPB Red List, as they are on other areas of vegetated shingle in Sussex (Pagham, Cuckmere Haven, Rye Harbour). On 30.04.24 I saw 15 Linnets on Danish Scurvy-grass, Cochlearia danica, eating its early set seeds. Linnets are predominantly seed eaters.


And on the same day, I saw two Whimbrel, Numenius phaeopus, fly down into the old mill pool; on passage further north to breed. In the UK, this species only breeds in north Scotland. It is a passage migrant to other areas in spring and autumn on its way from and to its wintering areas in Africa. Whimbrel Bird Facts | Numenius Phaeopus (rspb.org.uk)



Adder's-tongue fern


The adder's-tongue fern is so-named because the tall stalk that bears its spores is thought to resemble a snake's tongue. An indicator of ancient meadows, it can be found mainly in southern England. Adder's-tongue fern | The Wildlife Trusts


A rhizomatous, deciduous fern found on mildly acidic to base-rich soils in open woodland, meadows and damp pastures, and on sand dunes, under bracken on heathlands, and on peat in regularly mown fen. O. vulgatum is an inconspicuous species which is best searched for in early spring, being easily overlooked later in the year. Although under-recording may have contributed to some apparent losses shown on the map, it has certainly been extirpated from many lowland sites due to the destruction or neglect of its principal habitats, though there are many new records across its range since 2000 due to fuller recording, most notably in Ireland and north-western Scotland. Ophioglossum vulgatum L. in BSBI Online Plant Atlas 2020


The boggy ditch that the Ferns grow around is a remnant of the former course of the Ouse River


Sedge and Reed Warblers singing



The Sedge Warbler is a small, quite plump warbler with a striking broad creamy stripe above its eye and greyish-brown legs. It's brown on top with blackish streaks and creamy white underneath. It's a summer visitor, and spends winters in Africa, south of the Sahara Desert. Its song is a noisy, rambling warble compared to the more rhythmic song of the Reed Warbler. Sedge Warbler Bird Facts | Acrocephalus Schoenobaenus (rspb.org.uk)


The Reed Warbler is a plain unstreaked warbler. It's warm brown on top and beige underneath. A summer visitor to breed in the UK, the largest concentrations are East Anglia and along the south coast. There are relatively few breeding in Scotland and Ireland. It spends winters in Africa. Reed Warbler Bird Facts | Acrocephalus Scirpaceus (rspb.org.uk)


A cunning fox stalking rabbits: they escaped!





Quotation for herbalists are presented for historical interest; I do not recommend using Adder's- Tongue

Synonym---Christ's Spear.


---Parts Used---Root, leaves.

The Adder's Tongue, known also in some parts of England as Christ's Spear, has no resemblance to any other Fern. The stems which grow up solitarily from the small root - formed merely of a few stout, yellow fibres - are round, hollow and succulent, bearing on the upper part a simple spike, issuing from the sheath of a smooth, oblong-oval, tapering, concave, undivided, leafy frond. Embedded on each side of the stalk - at the top is a single row of yellow thecae, not covered by any indusium. The whole has much the appearance of the Arum flower.

The name is derived from ophios (a serpent) and glossa (a tongue).

This strange little Fern, growing only from 3 to 9 inches in height, is generally distributed over Great Britain, being not uncommon, buried in the grass in moist pastures and meadows. It is tolerably easy of cultivation.

---Medicinal Action and Uses---This Fern has long had a reputation as a vulnerary. A preparation of it, known as the 'Green Oil of Charity,' is still in request as a remedy for wounds.

The older herbalists called it 'a fine cooling herb.' The expressed juice of the leaves, drunk either alone, or with distilled water of Horse Tail, used much to be employed by country people for internal wounds and bruises, vomiting or bleeding at the mouth or nose. The distilled water was also considered good for sore eyes. An efficacious ointment for wounds was made as follows:

'Put 2 lb. of leaves chopped very fine into 1/2 pint of oil and 1 1/2 lb. suet melted together. Boil the whole till the herb is crisp, then strain off from the leaves.'

This is a very ancient recipe for wounds.


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