Firehills, Hastings

Field meeting reports
Picture of Isolepis setacea (Bristle Club-rush)
Isolepis setacea (Bristle Club-rush). Photo: Brad Scott

Meeting date: 12 August 2017

(Leaders: Ellen Campbell/Judy Clark/Jacqueline Rose)

It was a day of cloud and sunshine. Nine of us walked over the Firehills to the survey site, which gave everyone a chance to see the extent of the work carried out by contractors with diggers in 2015. The aim of our survey was to monitor management operations, and the date had been chosen for the maximum flowering and recognition of heathland species. However the weather pattern had wound up the season prematurely, leaving us with quite a lot of hay to ponder over!

Picture of Firehills, Hastings

We looked at two areas of regenerating heathland. Heather cuttings from Brad’s home patch, Ashdown Forest, had been scattered on one of the survey plots. There wasn’t a lot of difference between the two, and Michael Woodhouse, who has known the area for decades, remembered that many of the species we found had grown on the Firehills before the gorse crowded and shaded them out. Calluna vulgaris (Heather), Erica cinerea (Bell Heather) and Ulex minor (Dwarf Gorse) have appeared and are thriving, as well as Cuscuta epithymum (Dodder) which shows a predilection for Teucrium scorodonia (Wood Sage). It would be useful if it helped keep the Ulex europaea (Gorse) down. There is a wet flush which has attracted Carex demissa (Common Yellow-sedge), C. binervis (Green-ribbed Sedge) and C. flacca (Glaucous Sedge), as well as Ranunculus flammula (Lesser Spearwort), Typha latifolia (Bulrush), Iris pseudacorus (Yellow Iris), Juncus bulbosus, J. conglomeratus and J. articulatus (Bulbous, Compact and Articulated Rushes), Hydrocotyle vulgaris (Marsh Pennywort) and Isolepis setacea (Bristle Club-rush). The latter is also forming a dense springy turf of dwarf plants by the footpaths. In all we recorded 69 species in the relatively small area.

Picture of Senecio sylvaticus (Heath Grounsel)
Senecio sylvaticus (Heath Grounsel). Photo: Jacqueline Rose

Brad surveyed the mosses, and found eight typical heathland species. A Wall Brown butterfly caused a brief excitement, and proved a first for the tetrad. Lunchtime in sunshine with views over the English Channel was blissful. Many thanks to all our helpers, especially those who had travelled a long way. We were particularly pleased to have Sian Matthews join us, who had come all the way from Nottingham.

See also: Brad Scott ‘Firehills’. Sussex Bryophytes. 3 September 2017

Picture of botanists at Firehills, Hastings