Montague Farm, Pevensey Levels

Field meeting reports
Picture of Ranunculus baudotii (Brackish Water-crowfoot) on Pevensey Levels
Ranunculus baudotii (Brackish Water-crowfoot) and possibly R. trichophyllus (Thread-leaved Water-crowfoot). Photo: Evan Jones

Meeting date: 11 May 2019

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

We had a wonderful day at Montague Farm. Despite a rather dodgy forecast, about fifteen members came. Montague is an all-grass livestock farm, with three-quarters of the land falling within the Pevensey Levels SSSI. We were accompanied by Martin Hole, the farmer. He and his wife Gundrada are passionate about wildlife. He has installed sluices to control the water levels, producing areas of wetland that attract birds and where really nice species of plants move in. He gave us a brief introduction before we squeezed ourselves into a couple of all-terrain vehicles to be transported to the best bits, botanically speaking.

Our first stop was a marshy field where for some the star species were undoubtedly two sedges that are scarce in East Sussex – a large stand of Carex acuta (Slender Tufted-sedge) and frequent Cdisticha (Brown Sedge). For others it was the white patches of water-crowfoot’s delicate flowers – we saw both Ranunculus baudotii (Brackish Water-crowfoot) and R. trichophyllus (Thread-leaved Water-crowfoot). Then it was back to the vehicles to visit the field with the Anacamptis morio (Green-winged Orchid) for which the farm is famous. Where you find these orchids you often find Ophioglossum vulgatum (Adder’s Tongue) growing alongside, which indeed it was. There was also a scattering of Silaum silaus (Pepper-saxifrage), but it was too early for flowers.

After lunch the promised rain arrived. We tumbled out of the vehicles to look at ditch vegetation, wet all round! With many typical species not yet in flower this proved a good place to test vegetative ID skills. We didn’t have to test them on Hottonia palustris (Water-violet), still in flower en masse in several places. A further excitement there was spotting Oenanthe lachenalii (Parsley Water-dropwort), and finally Evan Jones showed us the huge egg case of the Great Silver Diving Beetle that floats near the surface of the water and has a snorkel-like device for air!

With many thanks to Ady and Ellen, who did an amazing recording job in the difficult circumstances of a spread-out group shouting species names from all directions on a windy and sometimes wet day!  We recorded 30 species in TQ60H, 27 in TQ60M and 63 in TQ60I.

Picture of botanists looking at Hottonia palustris
Examining Hottonia palustris (Water-violet). Photo: Evan Jones