Reports

2nd April 2013 - Seaford Golf Course

A very cold day with temperature in single figures, a biting Easterly wind and one of the coldest Marches on record did not auger well for the prospect of finding many of the Spring flowers foreshadowed in the programme! I half expected that, at best, a valiant few members might show up out of loyalty, that I could make my excuses that there was little to see and get back into the warm. So it was with some surprise that I found myself facing 27 members and visitors. Perhaps because at least it was sunny, perhaps because it is Spring and we are going out come-what-may. Perhaps because the views are spectacular. Perhaps because it is an area less familiar to some.

I rather optimistically speculated that we might see perhaps ten plants in flower but, as it had been very frosty in my morning survey and even the few plants around had mainly unopened flowers, it seems a little daunting.

We got up to 5 without actually moving any great distance although we had to look closely to actually find some of them. There were a few daisies (Bellis perennis), a couple of dandelions (Taraxacum sp) and some Ivy-leaved speedwell (Veronica hederifolia) on the grass verge opposite the start of the bridlepath. From the verge we could see Cherry Plum (Prunus cerisifera) blossom on the trees planted adjacent to the bridle path - apart from being in flower before Blackthorn it can be identified by having smooth, green young twigs whereas Blackthorn is brown and furry. All along the edge of the start of the bridlepath is sweet violet (Viola odorata) which flowers continuously from about October through the winter - at least these were in significant numbers.

A little way along the track to the two reservoirs are a couple of hazels (Corylus avellana) which, while common in the Weald is not something one expects to find growing in this area. Catkins (male flowers) were visible as was one of the small crimson female flowers, bringing the tally to 6. Nearby is a Monterey pine (Pinus radiata) on which the cones persist in whorls for some time and which open only after forest fires. A hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) hedge grows under the conifers here and, at least where it is sheltered and gets the sun it was starting to come into leaf.

A little further on there are primroses (Primula vulgaris) growing in a small wildlife garden by a small recently installed pond. Although all plants have hermaphrodite flowers, Primroses grow in two forms, pin-eyed (with the stigma showing) and thrum-eyed (with stamens showing) and were the subject of detailed investigations by Charles Darwin. Opposite under the hawthorn hedge where the sun was reaching I found lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) in flower here for the first time this year. These brought the tally to 8.

A little further on is a small triangle of land where the top soil is piled into mounds for use elsewhere. Here we found ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) with a few flowers (this is an important early nectar source for insects), common field speedwell (Veronica persica) and groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) bringing the tally to 11.

We then ventured out to the footpath along a field edge, walking straight into the cold wind. There was little to see as the ground was ploughed very late so the normal arable weds had not yet germinated, although there are magnificent views from here over Seaford Bay and Newhaven harbour.

Back onto the concrete track to the reservoir which is bounded by Gorse (Ulex europaeus) which was in flower, as it is for most of the year. On the gorse some candyfloss-like web was visible. This is the web of the Gorse Spider Mite (Tetranychus lintearius) a parasite of the gorse, used in some countries as a biological control. It was too cold and windy for most insects to be out but we did see a single Buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) on a lone dandelion.

Behind the upper reservoir are some Oak trees (Robur quercus) also unexpected on chalk and looking in rather poor condition and evidence of former gardens from temporary summer residences as evidenced by lesser periwinkle (Vinca minor) and the skeletal remains of the fruit of Japanese lantern plant (Physalis alkekengi) a poisonous relative of the Cape-Gooseberry (P peruviana) often seen as an edible decoration on desserts.

On the final stretch of the walk following the bridlepath through the golf course looking closely the small flowers of Common chickweed (Stellaria media) and, finally, the uncommon plant Climbing corydalis (Ceratocapnos claviculata) which had one or two on their knees attempting to photograph the tiny flowers. It also showed the value of many pairs of eyes as the group found a significant number of these plants which I may not have found working alone.

In addition to the 13 plants we found in flower there were other signs of things to come - native bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) and Cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvatica) suggesting that a vistit in the next few weeks may be rewarding.

Chris Brewer

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23rd April 2013 – Herstmonceux

We were blessed with a lovely sunny morning as eighteen of us set out from Herstmonceux Church. Straight away we saw greater stitchwort in flower, also primroses. In the wooded area there were only a few leaves of the climbing corydalis to be seen, the cold weather had held it back from flowering but, at long last, some bluebells were showing blue. At the top of the hill, looking across the valley, we saw a herd of over 400 dairy Friesian with, interestingly, a few Jersey, to help raise the fat yield in the milk.

As we turned into the wood we stopped to admire the avenue of ancient sweet chestnut trees. In the lake there was greater tussock sedge, with emerging yellow iris and mare’s-tail; by the stream we saw opposite-leaved golden saxifrage and a few marsh marigold, or kingcups, and by the path were wood anemone. There was also a rather invasive plant known as shallon or salal, but apparently it is useful for providing green leaves for commercial bouquets of flowers.

As we headed towards the Castle we heard blackcap, chiffchaff and blue tit singing and had good views of these. On the edge of the track were barren strawberry, ground ivy, red deadnettle and dog violet in flower, hoverflies and bees were drawn to these and to the gorse. Among them there was a tree bumblebee, this was a continental insect but, due to global warming, is now becoming common in the south.

We climbed the hill and had a good view of Herstmonceux Castle. At the end of our walk were some very small plants, these included whitlowgrass, changing forget-me-not and grey speedwell. In the churchyard was a nice patch of slender speedwell, and we all enjoyed the expansive view over the Levels.

Wendy Meadway

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14th May 2013 -Shooters’ Bottom and Birling Gap.

It all started off so optimistically- but like all best laid plans…. For the first time a spring migration walk was included in the schedule and to maximise the chance of seeing some good migrant birds it was arranged for an optional early meeting at Shooters’ Bottom to add one extra usually very productive site to the now standard walk prior to the meeting at Birling Gap at 10.00. The theory was good and the date ideal – or at least it would have been had we enjoyed any sort of spring migration in Sussex this year. Instead, a hardy band met up under leaden skies to trudge around disconsolately in search of almost anything with wings – and even then we failed to score. Indeed, the tally of species recorded over a total period of 5 hours was so derisory that I cannot even bring myself to put it in print – and as we all know I have delivered some pretty frustrating birdless days to members in the past. This, however, exceeded even my own worst expectations - and by a considerable margin!

A total of 9 enthusiasts met at Shooters’ Bottom at 07.00 in weather conditions which threatened the rain promised in all the forecasts I had seen over the preceding days. I also knew from bitter daily experience that the prevailing wind direction and extraordinary unseasonal cold had done much to hold up the migration northwards over the last ten days. Worse still, it was also clear that when birds did cross the sea they tended to do so on clear nights and as such they did not land until they were well inland. As a result, we were soon wandering around Shooters’ Bottom in much the same way a punch drunk boxer staggers uncomprehendingly around the ring stunned by the almost total absence of birds – and in the very strong SW wind even the few that were present made a point of keeping well down in the dense vegetation. In the circumstances, it did not really help much when I related stories of the incredibly confiding corncrake and the extremely pale long-eared owl I had seen at extremely close range on these same paths over the past fortnight. After finally shedding any illusions that something would turn up, we headed off to the Plantation. A walk eastwards struggled even to get a decent view of a common whitethroat although a couple of tree pipit which had obviously just arrived overnight was a rather unexpected find. Beyond this, however, the area was almost devoid of birds. Most frustrating was that my planned ‘magic rabbit’ which I hoped to pull out of the hat had not been located when I did my initial pre-meeting recce at 06.00. Fortunately after a few minutes looking around in the tree tops this time I did manage to locate the resident brown morph tawny owl and everyone had good telescope views of this bird looking down on the assembled observers. By now it was time to get back to Birling Gap where the second group had assembled.

The traditional walk through the Plantation to the corner below Belle Tout produced equally few birds of any kind but we did locate plenty of flowering spikes of the early purple orchids. Better still, we also located a largish patch of early spider orchids in excellent flowering condition – which I was subsequently told deteriorated very soon after we saw them. Unfortunately, the tawny owl had moved by the time the second group got to it but after a few anxious moments it showed even better than for the first group and after enjoying good close views of this cracker through the scope we headed back to the car park in light rain. All in all, not quite the birding bonanza I envisaged when I proposed a spring bird walk – but it ended a whole lot better than it began and most, I think, went home reasonably satisfied. But in future, I am thinking of changing my name to Jonah.

Bob Self

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4th June 2013– Abbot’s Wood

What a lovely day we had on Tuesday. About 24 folk turned up for a walk at Abbot’s Wood. We were regaled by two nightingales singing and also heard, I believe, a garden warbler, a cuckoo and a blackcap. Flowers seen were white bugles, wintergreen, brooklime and, of course, bluebells.

It was unusual to see holes made in horizontal lines in an oak tree showing where a woodpecker had been sap sucking; this is a common practice in North America but unusual in this country. It was interesting to see the adult and juvenile leaves of the aspen trees near the lake (the juvenile have pointed and mature rounded leaves). Also seen were several pearl bordered fritillaries, a brimstone, a chaser dragonfly and damselfly.

Peter Davys

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18th June 2013 - Friston Forest Dew-pond pond-dipping

16 of us collected in the Exceat forest car park ready to dip for wildlife in the pond. Unfortunately the Wildlife Trust’s leader had decided to swap the usual programme morning for afternoon so as to do orienteering in the morning with bug-hunting and pond-dipping in the afternoon; worse still the afternoon session was split between the leader and the volunteer, so the poor creatures in the pond were dipped three times in the afternoon!

Once we had started, I detected even more excitement from adults than we get from the school-children I am usually dealing with! By the time we were at the pond the water was rather muddy and the Autumn’s leaves somewhat stirred up, but there was enough clean water both to fill the bowls we tip the nets into and the white bowls for identifying.

All the usual animals were found, wandering and ramshorn snails , whirligig and great diving beetles, pond skater, water hoglouse and greater and lesser waterboatman. There were the nymphs of dragonfly (2×) damselfly and mayfly and phantom (biting midge) lava. It was good to find a newt tadpole, though the juvenile and adults must have taken refuge at the far end of the pond, having learned their lesson from being caught twice already that afternoon. Not often found by schools, as children do not look for the smallest creatures, there was a water shrimp and great diving beetle lava, only a few millimetres long. A mystery was another lava, black and also a few millimetres long; fortunately members had brought cameras (we are not allowed a camera with schools) - our best guess is a caddis-fly lava but not in its case.

This year the weather was kind to us, not too hot, but unlike last year, NOT raining. All the equipment was at the pond from the school afternoon dipping, and I had just had time, after they had finished, to wash out the bowls and refill with clean water.

Our great thanks go to the Trust's Education department for the use of the equipment, and to the members who stayed behind to wash the equipment so it was ready for the school to dip the following day.

Colin Pritchard

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2nd July 2013 - Rowland Wood and Park Corner Heath

On a dry but not particularly warm day about 14 of us met up with Michael Blencowe, who organises volunteers at the reserve which is run by the Sussex Branch of Butterfly Conservation.

At the start in Vert Wood Michael showed us some birch trees which someone had drilled holes into to take the sap in order to make birch sap wine – regrettably without asking permission first. He also pointed out the ditch and bank boundaries noting that we had moved from Heathfield to Laughton parish. Michael gave us a brief history of the reserve saying that originally the wood would have been composed of native trees and there would have been lots of wildlife including deer. However, during the1930s with war threatening, the Forestry Commission was formed in order to create plantations of pines to provide wood, and many of the ancient trees were destroyed. The new habitat unfortunately was not good for wildlife because the plantations became dense, dark places.

At Park Corner Heath in the 1860’s what became known as the Lewes Wave moth was found. This attracted lots of butterfly and moth enthusiasts from far afield and the species remained common until the 1940s, when numbers declined steeply because of changes in habitat. In 1953 this area was turned into an SSI but the attempt was too little and too late to save the Lewes Wave moth from extinction in the early sixties. The species had already disappeared from elsewhere in the UK. The moth is now only found in Eastern Europe. However, the site remains home to more common species.

A few minutes into the walk and Michael spotted a nettle tap moth and brown silver lined moth although there was a complete dearth of butterflies. At this time of year you would expect to see plenty of speckled wood, silver washed fritillary and white admiral. He told us that because of the wet and cold conditions following on from a difficult 2012, 2013 had so far been another bad year for butterflies. They were about 3 weeks later than normal and there were very few around; if the warmer weather which had been forecast did not materialize Michael was worried that some of the more vulnerable species would not come back next year.

Another factor contributing to the decline in butterflies is that caterpillars are fussy both in their choice of habitat and in what they eat. For example, the caterpillars of silver washed fritillaries like violets, while those of the white admirals feed on honeysuckle which is preferably in the shade and not in the sun.

Michael explained that the small pearl- bordered fritillary, which is only found here in the South East, is in a vulnerable position and he was concerned that it will not survive at Park Heath Corner. The small pearl- bordered fritillary feeds on violets and the ideal habitat has been created with lots of bracken and violets underneath. It is frustrating that the habitat is now in place but not butterflies. As he had already explained, conditions and the weather have not been right for several years. Another concern is that there are people who trample over everything in order to photograph butterflies, plants or birds with no regard for the habitat.

Further on some of us managed to see a grass snake. We were fortunate to see the lesser butterfly orchid which is very rare here and is kept within a cage to protect it from predators. (Again, there was evidence that the cage had been removed, damaging the orchid, presumably so that someone could take a photograph.) We also heard a chiff chaff and goldcrest. We passed a natural pond which drains and then refills every year. This supports rare plants, including the rare three lobed water crowfoot which was seen.

Coppicing is carried out in order to manage the wood. Different areas are managed in rotation which helps to create diversity - insects can flourish in one, birds breed in another, and a denser area contains nightingales. Last year 4 pairs of nightingales were recorded as breeding.

There are 4 species of deer in the wood and sometimes they have to be culled to control their numbers – otherwise they would destroy the woodlands. Unfortunately the reserve has experienced some poaching which is a cruel method of killing the deer.

Thanks to a generous legacy Butterfly Conservation were able to buy Rowland Wood three years ago in order to considerably enlarge the reserve. In this short time they have been managing the land by cutting down pines in order to open up the woodland. Sycamore also is a problem. Brambles are left because they are good for nectar. Michael then took us to see a large man-made lake where a little grebe was heard. This lake, which does not drain like the smaller one, encourages great crested newts to breed. A number of dragonfly and damselfly species are also found in the area. Michael said he was hoping that planned improvements would lead to a more suitable habitat for the two types of fritillaries.

On the way back to the cars we switched parishes again, and saw bush cricket and marsh thistle. We also saw the oldest beech tree in the reserve which must be a few hundred years old, regrettably slowly dying. We paused for a moment to imagine how the wood must have looked when the whole area was covered with native trees. It was however encouraging to see the new trees which are being planted and that thanks to the efforts of societies like Butterfly Conservation areas like this reserve are being restored to once again sustain a mix of wildlife.

Susan Painter

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23rd July 2013 - Seaford Head

Around 20 members and several visitors were gathered for our regular annual walk. It was a lovely hot, sunny day, and for once no wind. These conditions probably accounted for the large number of butterflies we saw: small copper, meadow brown, small heath, marble white, comma, peacock, small skipper, common blue, and red admiral (because of the drought many of the latter are smaller this year than usual). We also saw a gatekeeper which is similar to the meadow brown but the meadow brown has only a single white pupil or eye spot on the forewings.

Also we saw lots of wild flowers including: ladies bedstraw, yarrow (including a pink one), agrimony, wild parsnip (still small), eye bright, common centaury, salad burnet, viper’s bugloss, perforated st. john’s wort, weld (used as a blue dye), spear & musk thistle, and burdock. Also 2 moon carrot (seseli libanotis) - see the separate report on the survey done at the end of August.

We saw soldier beetles on a thistle and 6 spot burnet moth and its empty chrysalis on a blade of grass. Also cinnabar caterpillar on ragwort: Colin said that this species of caterpillar goes into the soil to pupate. Also seen were the small holes made by the endangered solitary potter flower bee (anthophora retusa). Found at only a handful of sites in England mainly on South East coasts and one of the best places to see it, is Seaford.

Thanks to Chris, Colin and Richard for help with identification. Perhaps I will remember them for another year.

Diana Swaysland

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6th August 2013 Friston Gallops

For once the gods smiled on us and we had perfect weather for a butterfly walk - a calm, warm and sunny day. For good measure there were a few summer, fluffy, white cumulus clouds.

Some 24 members set off from the car park at Butchershole to head towards Friston gallops. We entered the gallops from the Forestry Commission track at the northern end which leads from trees into a sunny area between the trees.

A few butterflies were immediately apparent stimulating the production of cameras and tests of identification of butterflies on the wing.

As we progressed slowly up the track we reached the open rabbit-grazed area which is a stronghold of the chalkhill blue butterfly. In a sight that is not often seen these days there were clouds of male chalkhill blues shimmering just above ground level. As clouds drifted across the area casting shadows the butterflies disappeared only to reappear as soon as the sun reappeared. The impressive sight brought the walk to a halt for sometime as those who had no seen this sight before stood and watched the spectacle.

Eventually the group was encouraged to move on and, at the bottom of the hill, the group split with some heading back to the car park and others walking on to the far end of the gallops in the hunt for more butterflies. Some were easy to see and identify, some only fleetingly seen so not positively identified and at least one moth seen and studied but still eluding identification.

A brave few ventured to the top of the gallops and were rewarded with, amongst other things, a clouded yellow and the classic cluster of numerous male chalkhill blues extracting minerals from dog poo.

In all at least 14 species of butterfly and three moth species were seen - chalkhill blue, gatekeeper, meadow brown, peacock, red admiral, painted lady, small tortoiseshell, small heath, small skipper, clouded yellow, brimstone, large white, green-veined white, small copper, 6-spot burnet moth, silver y moth. Possibles included small blue, small white and comma.

Chris Brewer

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27th August 2013 - Shooters’ Bottom and Birling Gap bird walk

In football parlance, this was a classic ‘game of two halves’. Moreover, while those who attended the 07.00 meeting at Shooters’ Bottom were soon ‘over the moon’ with the results, those who met at 10 .00 at Birling Gap probably returned to their cars feeling ‘as sick as parrots’ - but enough of this torturing of inappropriate sporting metaphors. Driving down to Shooters’ Bottom an hour at first light it was already clear that it would be a good morning for birding. There were wheatear and whinchat all along the roadside wires around Birling Gap and conditions were near perfect - still, bright and warm.

Having made a quick circuit of the bushes it was also clear that they were alive with birds. As I walked back to meet the first arrivals, I caught sight of a spotted flycatcher (the first of several) and a very colourful male common redstart which still retained much of its splendid summer plumage. Fortunately the entire group were able to enjoy good views of both of these species along with an equally impressive lesser whitethroat. While we admired these handsome migrants, a reed warbler popped out of the bushes in front of us.

We then walked on only a few yards and were soon enjoying excellent views of the first wryneck of the morning sitting sunning itself on the top of a bush in full view. Soon after another one of these magnificent cryptically-plumaged birds appeared briefly although we were the only people to see it and later searchers failed to relocate it. Beyond these individual highlights, one of the great joys, for me, at least, was simply the abundance of birds to be seen. In various sheltered spots in the glorious early morning sunshine the bushes were dripping with common whitethroat supported by smaller numbers of willow warblers. Flying over we also had four sand martins among the swallows, a peregrine and a hobby. Having been alerted to some good birds at the old trapping area, we were soon watching no fewer than four spotted flycatchers, another redstart and one very spiffy female/juvenile-type pied flycatcher.

Feeling that luck was finally running with us, we made a brief final stop at the Belle Tout Plantation where we enjoyed yet another spotted flycatcher, two wheatear and two whinchat. I think it would be fair to say that everybody went home feeling that the early start was worth the effort. It was a truly excellent morning for migrants with a good selection of the scarcer species being well represented.

Inevitably the sheer quality of the first session meant that I was late and thus compelled to run back to join the other group in the Birling Gap car park. Having regained my breath, we then set off again in optimistic mood towards Belle Tout. By now, however, the wind had got up and the birds were distinctly uncooperative. Almost nothing showed on the walk up to the woods and when we got there the spotted flycatcher which had shown so well only 20 minutes earlier had disappeared altogether. Unfortunately, this was an augury of things to come and it took a great deal of effort to find even a common whitethroat or stonechat.

Having reached the cliff edge below the Belle Tout lighthouse with very little to show for our exertions we returned rather disconsolately to our cars. Indeed, I fear there were several members of the second party who did not see a single summer migrant throughout the entire walk. Although unpredictability is all part of birding, it is difficult not to reflect bitterly on the stark contrast between the fortunes of the two groups. For all that, I think experience has vindicated the decision to hold a preliminary meeting at 07.00. As a result, the same structure will be adopted for the two bird walks in 2014. Hope to see you all there.

Bob Self

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15th September 2013 – Cliff End – Geology and fossils of Hastings

Nine members of the Seaford Natural History Society met opposite The Smuggler Inn at Pett Level. A brief introductory talk was given, explaining the geology of the area and the importance of the 8 km section of coast between Cliff End and Rock-a-Nore. It is one of the few terrestrial deposits of this age in the world and is renowned for its dinosaur discoveries (second only in the UK to the Isle of Wight) and also its fossil plants. A number of locally found fossil specimens were passed around, including some dinosaur bones that Colin Pritchard’s grandfather had collected locally at Old Roar. The party then proceeded towards the beach.

At the end of the concrete promenade we stopped to view from a distance the sunken forest which is exposed at low tide on the foreshore. This forest dates back approximately 5,200 years to a time when sea levels were around 30m lower than today, and extends from Pett Level to Bexhill. It includes the still soft remains of oak, birch and hazel, and hazelnuts can often be found. There is also a cave in the cliff top where flint tools including a Mesolithic hand axe were found in the early 20th century, and it has been speculated that stone-age hunters used the cave to survey the surrounding landscape for game.

From here we could also view the cliff section extending to the south-west. These cliffs are of Early Cretaceous age, around 140 million years old, at which time Britain lay around 40 degrees north of the equator and enjoyed a Mediterranean type climate. Much of the south-east of England formed what we call the Weald sub-basin, a low-lying floodplain with lakes and meandering rivers, with sediments being washed in from the London uplands. The result is that the present day cliffs are formed of sandstones and silty mudstones (clays). All of the deposits were laid down in freshwater conditions.

Our first stop was at the Cliff End Fault, a text book example of a normal fault, where tension caused by tectonic activity had stretched the rocks allowing the block to the north-east to be down-thrown by around 3 m against the block to the south-west, the displacement in the strata being clearly visible. The tensions that caused this were generated by the collision of the African Plate with the European Plate around 40 million years ago. The forces generated by this collision of continents led to the formation of the Alps, and around 25 million years ago to the buckling of the Wealden sediments in south-east England to form the Wealden Dome (or anticline).

As we proceeded along the beach we looked for blocks of the ‘Cliff End Bone Bed’, a fossil-rich conglomerate consisting of grains of quartz and chert bound together by a calcareous cement. It contains fish teeth and scales, sharks teeth, reptilian bone fragments and teeth, pterosaur teeth and, very rarely, primitive mammal teeth. A small block picked up by a member of the group contained a tooth of the Wealden fish Scheenstia (previously known as Lepidotes). Various sedimentary structures were also seen on the beach, including gutter casts, formed when water carved small grooves as it trickled across the mud of a floodplain; ripple marked sandstones, marking wave currents on the shoreline of an ancient lake, or flowing water on a river bed; trace fossils showing trails across the surface of the sediment and burrows through the sediment; and dinoturbation, disturbed sediment possibly caused by herds of migrating iguanodont dinosaurs traversing the Wealden floodplain. A number of dinosaur footprints were also seen in fallen blocks, including one of a theropod (fast moving predatory dinosaur). We also saw many fallen blocks containing the abundant remains of the small fossil bivalve Neomiodon. About 370 m from where we accessed the beach we came to a bed of quillworts in the cliff face. This is an in situ bed of quillworts first discovered in 1996 and extending for about 0.5 km along the cliff face, implying the existence of a large shallow lake. Closer to the end of the walk at Cliff End Point we found a fallen block of the quillwort bed, displaying the cross-sections of more than 20 quillworts. River channels were also apparent in the cliff face, marking the course of ancient rivers.

At the entrance to Fairlight Cove we stopped to view Haddock’s Reversed Fault. In contrast to the normal Cliff End Fault we had seen at the start of the walk, where one block had dropped downwards against another, at the Haddock’s Reversed Fault the older rocks of the Ashdown sandstones to the south-west had been thrust up against the younger rocks of the Cliff End Sandstone to the north-east by a distance of around 60m, hence the term ‘reversed’ fault; the smooth slip plane could be easily seen.

At this point we could also see across Fairlight Cove to two sets of coastal defence works. The first in the bay itself was constructed of larvikite brought over from Norway by barge in 1990 to protect the cliff base from erosion. Fairlight village is situated at the top of the cliff, and in the 1970s a number of houses were lost following rapid erosion and collapse of the cliffs. However, after a campaign by the villagers a revetment was constructed at the foot of the cliff to protect it from undermining by the sea. Remains of long abandoned houses could be seen perched on the cliff top, but the scheme does appear to have worked as the scree slope formed behind the revetment is now heavily vegetated and the cliffs have stabilized. On the far side of the bay a second revetment could be seen. This was to hold back the Fairlight Landslip and was constructed in 2008 of Carboniferous Limestone from the Bordeaux Region of France. Whereas the problem in Fairlight Cove was due to the cliffs being undermined by erosion, at the Fairlight Landslip the problem was caused by rotational slipping, and was resolved by building drainage into the slope and building a ‘toe’ of Carboniferous Limestone at the foot of the slope.

The party then retraced its steps back to The Smuggler Inn.

Peter and Joyce Austen

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23rd September 2013 – Tide Mills

Around 24 members arrived at Tide Mills car park on a fine sunny morning.

After warnings of bad dog mess, we proceeded over the rail track and down the east side of the Mill Creek towards Newhaven. Here a curlew was spotted feeding in the mud and also an egret was looking for some fish.

After admiring the view from the rail bridge, we turned around to cross the creek and out towards the sea. Here some plants were still flowering, such as everlasting pea, tea plant, blue fleabane, common centaury, hedge mustard, dense flowered mullein, large flowered evening primrose and vervain.

Some members saw a stonechat and wheatear, and also late flying clouded yellow butterflies.

Janice Reynolds

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Page updated 1st November 2013