Friday, 18 January 2013

Castle Hill Local Nature Reserve, Newhaven has a Facebook page!

Thyme, bird's-foot trefoil and agrimony growing on the clifftop
I have created a Facebook page for the Castle Hill Local Nature Reserve (LNR) in Newhaven. Here's the link:

We (the Friends of Castle Hill) thought it would be a great way of raising awareness about the reserve and of sharing with the public the work we and Lewes District Council (the owner) carry out there. This includes conservation and maintenance work, organising and leading guided walks and events such as talks presented by guest speakers.

Guided walk, July 2011
The first recorded Ringlet at  Castle Hill (July 2011)
Comma Polygonia c-album on buddleia (July 2011)

The LNR had suffered years of neglect prior to its designation and prior to the formation of the Castle Hill Group in 2002. Photographs I have seen of the site taken up to the 1950s show an expanse of grazed maritime grassland similar to that found between Holywell in Eastbourne and Seaford Head. By the time I began playing up there as a child in the mid-1980s it had scrubbed over and the grassland and its resident fauna had been lost in most places except the clifftops.

The land is geologically fascinating: there is an area of raised beach and fossilised oyster bed visible above the upper chalk cliffs, plus outcrops of clay formed by Woolwich and London Beds. The plant diversity reflects this with a patchwork of calcareous grassland interspersed by chalk heathland. Invertebrates recorded at the reserve reflect the flora and the geography with heathland and calcareous grassland species present along with a number of maritime and coastal specialists.

Conservation work on the reserve is performed by the Friends with lots of additional work from volunteer groups regularly organised by the Lewes District Rangers Dan Ross and Thyone Outram. 

We focus mainly on 'glade creation' by removing scrub (mostly bramble, gorse, hawthorn and blackthorn). The intention is to encourage grassland and associated flora, but the seedbank often has other ideas: the first summer following clearance often sees a blanket of willowherb before grasses slowly begin to take a foothold. Introducing grazing animals is too complicated for the site at present for a number of reasons.

Willowherb on a newly created glade

There is plenty more to say about the LNR, but I'll leave that for another day. In the meantime, why not visit our reserve yourself? It's right next to Newhaven Fort - you can't miss it!

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