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  • Writer's pictureSim Elliott

Wild Plants, Insects and Birds. Birling Gap, Beachy Head and Lullington Heath NNR. 09.06.22

I visited the Downs to the west of Birling Gap, and the east, specifically the area around Horseshoe Plantation, and north of Shooter Bottom, because they are identified in The Butterflies of Sussex: A Twenty-first Century Atlas, as good places to see Butterflies. I decided on the day to walk onto Lullington Heath, Lullington Heath is also known for its butterflies, but it is best known as a unique habitat: The 62 hectare Reserve is nationally important and was established in 1955 to conserve one of the largest areas of chalk heath remaining in Britain. Chalk heath only occurs where, by the remotest of chances, acid soils have been deposited on the alkaline chalk, allowing acid loving plants to grow together with these of the chalk. Lullington Heath National Nature Reserve; Nature walks - NE362 (

I caught the 12 bus to East Dean Pond Today and then I walked through Crowlink, Birling Gap, Horseshoe Plantation to the Beachy Head Hotel (for cheap lunch). Then I walked via East Dean and Jevington to Lullington Heath Natural Nature Reserve. From the Lullington Heath Nature Reserve I walked into Littlington and back to Exeat (Seven Sisters Country Park Centre), and caught the 12 back to Brighton

East Dean Pond

The Walk from East Dean Pond via Crowlink to the coast at Gap Bottom (Seven Sisters Cliffs)

A Whitethroat singing

Rabbits in Gap Bottom

Gap Bottom


A rather tatty Red Admiral in Crowlink

A Rabbit


The grass is greener on the other side of the fence

A Blue Tit bathing in the Gap Bottom dew ponds

Same Blue Tot after bath!

Dunnick on a fence post round the dew pond

An Azure Damselfly

A Pond Snail

The dew pond

Another Azure Damselfly


A Small Heath Butterfly - the most common butterfly I saw on the walk

A lamb on the wrong side of the electric fence

Looking up Gap Bottom

Flagstaff Brow to Birling Gap

A Jackdaw on the edge of the cliffs (Jackdaws nest on cliffs)

A bad photo of a Small Tortoiseshell

A female Stonechat (Stonechats were the most frequent bird I saw on the day),

The Stonechat above flying off

A fledgling Stonechat

A male Stonechat

The Belle Tout Lighthouse and Birling Gap

A ,ale Linnet; I saw many Linnets along the coast, in small flocks (2-8 birds)

The Bell Tout Lighthouse and Baily's Hill

A Small Heath Butterfly

Viper's Bugloss

Probably a Peacock Butterfly

Viper's Bugloss

A Common Blue (possibly an Adonis Blue) on Bird's-Foot Trefoil

Another Small Heath

A Common Blue

Birling Gap to Horseshoe Plantation (below the Belle Tout Lighthouse)

Sheep amongst Viper's Bugloss

Along the path below the cliffs from Birling Gap to Horseshoe Plantation, there were many pairs of Stonechats, calling to each other with their clashing stone call.

A Goldfinch

A Linnet

A male Stonechat

A Stonechat flying off

A Common Blue

A Common Blue on Bird's-Foot Trefoil

A Small White on bramble, fringe of Horseshoe Plantation

A Speckled Wood, one of many on the edges of the Horseshoe Plantation

A Burnet Companion Moth

A Speckled Wood showing its underwings

Buff-tailed Bumblebee on Yellow Rattle

A Painted Lady

A View from the East side of the Horseshoe Plantation to the Belle Tout Lighthouse

Scarlet Pimpernell

Small Heath next to Yellow Rattle

A Pied Wagtail


Small Heath on Oyeye Daisy, Shooters Bottom

The Daisies and Red Clover of Shooters Bottom

Shooters Bottom and the Belle Tout Lighthouse

Bullock Down

Walking south to north toward East Dean

A male stonechat

A juvenile Stonechat?

Another Stonechat

Viper's Bugloss

A Linnet

Buff-tailed Bumblebee on Viper's Bugloss

A Common Blue

A Red-tailed Bumblebee of Yellow Rattle

A Male Linnet

A Buff-tailed Bumblebee on Yellow Rattle

A Common Carder on Viper's Bugloss

A Silver-Y Moth

A Dog Rose

Another Male Stonechat








Viper's Bugloss, Oxeye Daisy, Dandelion, Buttercups, Shootters Bottom

Speckled Wood

Small Tortoiseshell

Silver-Y Moth



Shooters Bottom to Lullington Heath, via Bulling Dean, Bullock Down, Kiln Combe, Bramble Bottom, Crapham Hill, Eastbourne Downs Golf Course, South Down Way, Borne Hill, and Jevington

Shooters Bottom to Bullock Down

Common Toadflax - Frost Hill

Looking back to Belle Tout

Mignonette - Frost Hill

Speckled Wood - copse at Long Down

Highland cattle - Long Down

Small Tortoiseshell

Ringwood Bottom, recently shorn sheep.


Bramble Bottom


Small Heath


Small Tortoiseshell

South Downs Way, Bourne Hill to Jevington

Small Tortoiseshell - South Downs Way Path

Small Tortoiseshell, under wings - South Downs Way Path

Painted Lady - South Downs Way Path

Small Tortoiseshell - South Downs Way Path

South Downs Way Path



St Andrew's Church Jevington. The restored tower is C11. The nave is c1200, with a later C13 chancel and north aisle. Most windows are C14 or C15. A C11 carving shows Viking influence. Jevington – St Andrew – Sussex Parish Churches

Common Carpet Moth

Lullington Heath National Nature Reserve

Lullington Heath NNR lies on the South Downs between the villages of Jevington and Litlington. The 62 hectare Reserve is nationally important and was established in 1955 to conserve one of the largest areas of chalk heath remaining in Britain. Chalk heath only occurs where, by the remotest of chances, acid soils have been deposited on the alkaline chalk, allowing acid loving plants to grow together with these of the chalk. Chalk heath covers just under a third of the Reserve. Elsewhere, bushes, chalk grassland and valley grassland form a patchwork across the site. Over 250 types of plant grow here. More than 98 types of bird have been seen, 50 of which nest on the Reserve, and 34 butterflies are listed amongst the hundreds of types of insects known to be present. Badgers and foxes do well on the Reserve, as do other small mammals such as rabbit, stoat, weasel and several types of mouse, vole and shrew. The Reserve is open to access on foot and horse riders and cyclists are welcome to explore the site using the various public bridleways marked on the map. Please take care not to cause damage or disturbance; leave wildflowers for others to enjoy and keep dogs under control and out of the bushes, particularly in the spring and summer when birds are nesting.

Several thousand years ago, Neolithic farmers cleared area of forest from the Downs and cultivated their thin soils. Excavations on site have revealed pottery dating from 500-250 BC. Aerial photographs show remains of a system of ancient fields covering the western end of the Reserve. By 400 AD, the heavy Saxon plough allowed cultivation of the richer valley soils and the settlers moved off the Downs, leaving them as pasture. Sheep grazing remained as the dominate type of farming on the Downs for over a thousand years allowing herb-rich grasslands and chalk heath to develop. Grazing continued until around the Second World War. Thereafter, grazing was stopped to prevent pollution of water which is drawn from the chalk beneath the site for public consumption. Lullington Heath National Nature Reserve; Nature walks - NE362 (

Painted Lady

Speckled Yellow Moth


Red-Legged Partridge

Large Mushroom



Red Sorrel, common heath plant

Exmoor Ponies conservation grazing

Meadow Sweet

Firle Beacon

Winchester Pond


The Litlington White Horse

Fragrant Orchid

Haywards Bottom

Common Spotted Orchid


The Bridleway to Litlington

This Large White Horse consist of six tons of chalk and is approximately 93 feet long and 65 feet high. According to the National Trust, the first figure was originally crafted by four men in 1836. It was carved again in 1924 by one of the original creator’s grandsons. The technical term for this type of figure is a geoglyph. The predecessor to this amazing creation and many others like it is the prehistoric Uffington White Horse.

The reason behind the creation of the Litlington White Horse remains unclear. Some suggest it was originally constructed to commemorate Queen Victoria’s upcoming coronation. Others speculate it was a publicity stunt to amuse the town. Regardless of the reasons behind its origins, it stands as impressively today as it did when it was first crafted thanks to ongoing maintenance from volunteers of the National Trust.

Set within the South Downs National Park, the figure lies amid beautiful fields, mixed woodlands, and wild meadows that act as a natural canvas for this odd, yet lovely giant piece of art. Litlington White Horse – East Sussex, England - Atlas Obscura




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