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  • Writer's pictureSim Elliott

Wildflowers, Birds & Butterflies. Southease, Itford Meadow & Beddingham Hill, South Downs. 02.07.23

Updated: Jul 15, 2023

I walked from Southease Station (train from Brighton to Southease; 31 minute journey; 1 train an hour) to Beddingham Hill, via Itford Hill, for a field meeting of the Sussex Botanical Recording Society. I returned home by walking down the bostal (a path that steeply climbs the side of a down) from Beddingham Hill that leads to Little Dene and then Glynde (train from Glynde to Brighton; 25 minute journey, 1 train an hour).



Attending local meetings of the Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland (bsbi.org) is a great way of developing your botanical knowledge. The Sussex branch, Home - Sussex Botanical Recording Society (sussexflora.org.uk), field meetings are always excellent and very friendly.


The photographs are presented chronologically, in the order of my walk through the commons. I did not photograph every plant we recorded; just a selection.


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


The identifications of the plants in the section of this post on the Sussex Botany Recording Society survey of a dry valley (combe) pm Beddingham Hill were made collectively by the group (I have much less expertise in botany than the the other member). The identification of the plants in the Itford Meadow and the walk up Itford Hill were made by me alone. I am only an amateur naturalist; thus my dentifications 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.


Southease to Beddingham Hill


Outside the station at Southease there is an historic swing bridge across the Ouse


The River Ouse south of Lewes was canalised between 1791 and 1795, to create the Lower Ouse Navigation, designed by William Jessop and supervised by Cater Rand. This work cut off a lengthy meander of the river between Itford and Durham Farms, and severed farmland, necessitating statutory provision of a bridge across the new canal at Southease. The current structure, which replaces an earlier bridge approximately 10m upstream, dates from 1880 and incorporated a swing span to permit the passage of masted vessels. SWING BRIDGE OVER RIVER OUSE, Southease - 1393389 | Historic England


Around the bridge many birds were singing in the early morning sun.


Whitethroat, Curruca communis, a summer migrant


A Goldfinch, Carduelis carduelis


A Greenfinch, Chloris chloris


There were many Red Admirals; the first time I had seen a large number of Red Admirals in 2023


Gatekeeper, Pyronia tithonus - the first Gatekeeper I had seen in 2023.


Marmalade Hoverfly, Episyrphus balteatus on Mouse-Eared Hawkweed, Pilosella officinarum


Ragwort, Jacobea vulgaris with female Swollen-thighed Beetle, Oedemera nobilis


Before walking up on Beddingham Hill, I walked across the bride to Southease Village. Beside the road is a dyke bordered with reeds, in which a Reed Warbler, Acrocephalus scirpaceus, was singly loudly


The banks of the dyke also had many Water Horsetails, Equisetum fluviatile


The C11 nave, possibly pre-Conquest as it may have had porticus, and mid-C12 round tower remain. The chancel has gone. Most windows are later and there are C13 and post-Reformation wall paintings. Southease – St Peter – Sussex Parish Churches only one of only three in Sussex [with round towers],the others being at neighbouring Piddinghoe and at St Michael's in Lewes Introduction (southeasevillage.info)


Next to the Southdowns YHA, at Itford Farm, the South Downs Park Authority have created a meadow going up Itford Hill. In 2014 South Downs Way ranger Ben Bessant and National Park ranger Jan Knowlson set themselves the challenge of turning a large patch of nettles into a wildflower meadow. For National Meadows Day, on 7 July How to make a meadow - South Downs National Park Authority We have lost 97 per cent of our meadows in Britain since the 1930s, a shocking statistic. So when the opportunity to convert a large patch of nettles next to the South Downs Way at Itford came along we jumped at the chance – whilst nettles are a great food plant for some butterfly species, a meadow with a variety of native plants can support a much wider range of pollinator species.


The Meadow

Oxeye Daisy, Leucantheum vulgare

Brown Knapweed, Centaurea jacea

Field Bindweed, Convulvulus arevensis

Lady's Bedstarw, Galium verum

Restharrow, Ononis spinosa

Meadow Brown, Maniola jurtina

Wild Marjoram, Origanum vulgare

Bird's Foot-Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus

Musk Mallow, Malva moschata

Alsike Clover, Trifolium hybridum

Black Horehound, Ballota nigra


The walk up Itford Hill to Beddingham Hill


On Itford Hills and Bedding Hills, I heard many Skylarks; an iconic bird of the short grassland habitat of the South Downs. In their valleys I saw Marbled White, Meadow Brown and Small Heath butterflies, and one Dark Green Fritillary, although far fewer Marbled Whites, Meadow Browns and Dark Green Fritillaries than I typically see at the beginning of July. There was a complete absence of Common Blues, which I would expect to be seeing on the Downs throughout the summer. Last years drought has had a significant negative effect on butterflies UK butterflies hit hard by extreme weather, findings show (yourweather.co.uk)


The Ouse Valley from Itford Hill

Mullein sp., Verbascum sp,


Cut-leaved Crane's-bill, Gernaium dissectum


Great Hairy Willowherb, Epilobium hirsutum


Hoary Plantain, Plantago media


Small Heath, Oenonympha pamphilus


Corn Bunting, Emberiza calandra


Black Medick, Medicago lupulina


A South Down's Dry Valley's flowering plants


The Sussex Botanical Recording Society field meeting entailed recording the species in a dry valley (combe) to which there is no public access by the farmer who manages the site. However. there are many dry valleys (combes) on the South Downs that have open access and have many of these species


Agrimony, Agrimonia eutopia

Yarrow, Achilea millefolium, with Four-spotted Orb Weaver, Araneus quadratus

Scarlet Pipernel, Anagallis arvensis

Burnet saxofrage, Pipinella saxifraga

Gromwell, Lithospermum officinale

Cinquefoil sp., Potentilla sp

Ploughman's-spikenard, Inula conyaze

Glaucous Sedge, Carex flacca

Downland Chafer, Omaloplia ruricola, seen in it's typical habitat south-facing dry valley (combe) on fringe of woodland. A typical habitat for this species Omaloplia ruricola | uk beetles

Fairy Flax, Linum catharticum

Field Rose, Rosa arvensis

Bittersweet, Solanum dulcamara

Pyramid Orchid, Anacamptis pyramidalis

Mouse-ear Harkweed, Pilosella officinarum

Black medick, Medicago lupulina

Views of the valley


Marsh Thistle, Cirsium palustre

Yellow Wort, Blackstonia perfoliata

Weld, Reseda luteola


Small Skipper, Thymelicus sylvestris or Essex Skipper. Thymelicus lineola

Cat's-ear, Hypochaeris radicata

Small Scabius, Scabiosa columbaria

Marbled Whites, Melanargia galathea

Squiancywort, Asperula cynanchia

Eyebright sp., Euphrasia sp

Restharrow, Ononis spinosa

Cut-leaved Crane's-bill, Gernaium dissectum

Six-spot Burnet, Zygaena filipendulae

Musk Thistle, Carduus nuntans

Curled Dock, Rumex crsipus

Dark Green Fritillary, Speyeria aglaja

Cinnabar moths, Tyria jacobaeae


Seen on my walk back down Beddingham Hill to Glynde


Round-Headed Rampion, Phuteuma orbiculare


A summer walk on the South Downs is not quite complete to me unless you see a Round Headed Rampion

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