Some Indicator Plants of Ancient Downland
Horseshoe Vetch (Photograph by Andy Horton)
Autumn Gentian
Horseshoe Vetch
Common Milkwort
Dog Violet
Autumn Gentian

Other indicators on the lower slopes include Dropwort, Autumn Ladies Tresses (upper plateau), Hairy Violet, all of which are rarely found on pastures, restored wildlife meadows or agricultural downland. Other downland plants that are more likely on the biodiverse down herbland are Wild Thyme, Carline Thistle, Stemless Thistle, Squinancywort, Fairy Flax, Small Scabious, Common Centaury and Wild Basil. There are other more widespread wild plants like the Mouse-eared Hawkweed, Rough Hawkbits, Autumnal Hawkbit, Creeping Cinquefoil, Bird's Foot Trefoil, Ground Ivy, Germander Speedwell, Field Speedwell, Scarlet Pimpernel, Sweet Violet, Self-heal and Yellow Wort as well as many others.

Noticeable summer plants of the upper meadows of Mill Hill include Greater Knapweed, Hardheads (=Lesser Knapweed), Field Scabious, Meadow Cranesbill, Alexanders, Pyramidal Orchids, Plantains, Melilots, Meadow Vetchling, Yarrow, Eyebrights, Musk Thistles, Hounds-tongue*, Perforate St. John's Wort*, Great Mullein* and many others. Herb Robert is found amongst the scrub.
(*notably on disturbed ground.)
Some Indicator Plants of Ancient Downland (Link)
Wild Flora and Fauna on Chalk   flickr
Wild Flowers 2008



15 July 2008
Wild Mignonette on the lower slopes of Mill Hill. Dead heads of Carline Thistle (on the lower slopes of Mill Hill)
Wild Mignonette
Dead heads of Carline Thistle

13 July 2008
Marjoram Greater Knapweed Agrimony Purple Toadflax Perforate St. John's Wort
Greater Knapweed
Perforate St. John's Wort

11 July 2008
Stemless Thistle Spear Thistle Welted Thistle Musk Thistle

Creeping ThistleFive species of thistle were recorded on Mill Hill including the first Stemless Thistle of the year on the lower slopes of Mill Hill, as well as Spear Thistle, Welted Thistle, the impressive Musk Thistle and the ubiquitous Creeping Thistle. The first flowers of Clematis also appeared on Mill Hill. Lady's Bedstraw was also noted in flower.
Adur Thistles

Hawkbits were very common on the lower slopes of Mill Hill, and these are both Autumnal Hawkbit and  Rough Hawkbit were noted for the first time this year.
Adur Hawkbits
Autumnal Hawkbits

5 July 2008
Marjoram was seen in flower in the Triangle middle slopes area of Mill Hill and this was the first for this year and the first time I noted this plant on Mill Hill.

22 June 2008
Welted Thistle, Musk Thistle and the ubiquitous Creeping Thistle were all noted. Squinancywort was seen in flower for the first time this year on the lower slopes.
Full Butterfly Report

19 June 2008
Mill Hill recorded Agrimony, Musk Thistle, Perforate St. John's Wort, one Field Scabious and Common Centaury were all recorded in flower for the first time this year. White Campion was noted as common beside the paths through the scrub in large clumps. On the middle slopes, in the Triangle area, Bird's Foot Trefoil was flowering in swathes but not in as large swathes as previous years.

8 June 2008
Common Blue Butterflies (30+) were mating in the thin strip of intermittent horse pasture to the east of Mill Hill. There were at least three Small Heath Butterflies seen on the edge of the swathes of Bird's Foot Trefoil.
Bird's Foot Trefoil
Common Blue Butterflies

1 June 2008
When the yellow carpet of Horseshoe Vetch, Hippocrepis comosa, was seen to be rapidly fading on the lower slopes of Mill Hill, the thin strip of intermittent horse pasture to the east of Mill Hill, adjacent and parallel to the A27 dual carriageway on the northern side, was covered in swathes of Bird's Foot Trefoil covering a measured 1.5 acres. Most other flowering herbs were lost amongst the yellow but they included sparse amounts of Cut-leaved Cranesbill, Cleavers,Fairy Flax, Eyebright, Scarlet Pimpernel (mostly on the periphery), White Clover, Ground Ivy and Field Speedwell.
The adjacent cattle pasture was devoid of these herbs.

Swathes of Bird's Foot Trefoil with the copse at Mill Hill in the background

 A single Welted Thistle flower had opened in the scrub in the north-west of Mill Hill. A large patch of Silverweed with at least fifty flowers was noted immediately to the west of the Reservoir adjacent to the well trodden path winding between the blossoming Elderberry, and the Hawthorn that had ceased flowering. The scrub had been cleared in places and patches of Stinging Nettles had appeared next to the path.
19 May 2008
Elderberry was beginning to flower on Mill Hill. On the plateau south of the upper car park, the Horseshoe Vetch, Hippocrepis comosa, was much less than previous years, but a patch still occurred at the southern end, just north of the Revervoir. White Campion was noticed in flower on the edge of the scrub on the upper parts of the hill.

14 May 2008
A late afternoon visit to Mill Hill was undertaken for the purpose of ascertaining the extent of the covering of Horseshoe Vetch, Hippocrepis comosa, which could be seen from Old Shoreham by the Toll Bridge. It was at least as spectacular as the best year, but a close inspection revealed that a proportion (c 5%) of the flowers were already fading on the lower slopes. The Horseshoe Vetch was rather sparse on the middle and upper slopes. It is usually later in these areas, but it still appeared much less than expected.  At least one Bird's Foot Trefoil was seen. Other flowers noted were the poisonous White Bryony, Bryonia dioica, mostly were the conservation workers had been on Mill Hill, and the first sign of flowering Hound's Tongue, Cynoglossum officinale, notably near the Rabbit burrows. The invasive Ground Elder, Aegopodium podagraria, was noted on the upper part of the hill.

9 May 2008
The Horseshoe Vetch, Hippocrepis comosa, was visible from a distance but still a week off its best showing.
Cow Parsley and Alexanders on the southern part of Mill Hill (upper)
Hawthorn with Cow Parsley and Alexanders on the southern part of Mill Hill (upper)

6 May 2008
Horseshoe Vetch on Mill Hill
The beginnings of he flowering Horseshoe Vetch  on the lower slopes of Mill Hill
Horseshoe Vetch on the Mill Hill Cutting
Horseshoe Vetch on Mill Hill 

Horseshoe Vetch, Hippocrepis comosa,was much more prominent on the lower slopes of Mill Hill and could be seen covering the lower slopes before I descended the steps at the southern end. Dog Violets were very common and Milkwort was all over the slopes.

6 April 2008
A surprise April snowfall throughout the morning (9:00 pm to 12:30 pm) left snow to a depth of 100+ mm on Mill Hill, drifting to much deeper in places. Ground Ivy was seen in flower under the Hawthorn in the north-west scrub.

9 March 2008

Early growths of Dogwood on the Triangle meadow area on the middle slopes section of Mill Hill, west of the upper car park. Old Erringham Farm is in the background.

27 February 2008
Frequent Sweet Violets were now to be seen flowering on the lower slopes and under the thorn in the scrub in the north-west corner of Mill Hill. The cattle now appear to have been removed, but the hoof prints and dung were still widespread, and some were fresh.
Adur Violets

10 February 2008
A handful of Sweet Violets were in flower at the top of the wooded slopes on the southern section of Mill Hill.

Hoof prints caused by the cattle damaging the flora of Mill Hill. 

The cattle break up the integral turf flora allowing coarse grass seeds, ruderal common wayside plants and scrub seeds to settle and be buried and seed, gradually and quickly displacing the natural chalkhill grasses and herbs. 

In perspective, the turf is also broken up by human trampling (as evidenced by the paths) and the burrowing of Rabbits and Moles. The cattle damage is so much more serious because it is unnecessary and the ground is fertilised as well. This fertilisation has a destructive effect on chalkhill flora, allowing common plants to flourish in the richer disturbed conditions. Sheep also cause damage in wet weather but the because of their lighter build if they are stocked at a density of up to one sheep per acre, damage to the chalkhill is acceptable.

The cattle were still trashing the upper plateau area around the car park.

28 January 2008
The cattle were now seen from the Adur Levels on the richer floristic middle zone of Mill Hill, where they will do more damage.
In business farming terms, butterfly food plants are weeds to be eradicated.

22 January 2008
The cattle were still on Mill Hill dumping their excrement all over the long grass south of the Reservoir, but also on the recovering herb-rich plateau north of the Reservoir. Cattle cause great damage by disturbance of the soil and nutrification with their urine and faeces. Both these factors change the flora for a long time and encourage grasses and ruderal plants. A dog was seen in panic in the presence of the cattle.
A commercial breed of beef cattle grazing the southern part of Mill Hill. 

This area of rough grassland has already been extensively disturbed and the damage the cattle will do will be minimal. However, they confer no advantages and are nuisance to visitors and road traffic. 

4 January 2008
Alas the cattle are still trashing the top of Mill Hill in an asinine plan by the Sussex Downs Conservation Board on an important Nature Reserve. The flat area being grazed (seen from the Adur Levels) is an area that contains a recovering low fertility wildlife meadow flora including Horseshoe Vetch, Hippocrepis comosa, and many other important caterpillar food plants and nectar plants. The cattle indiscriminately eat the flora, but more importantly the destruction occurs because of the ground disturbance they cause and their patterns of urination and cow pats which are making the paths impassable on shallow chalk soil in wet muddy conditions. Chalkhill herbs require low fertility undisturbed land and are wiped out (most of them permanently) if the conditions change.
List of Butterfly Articles


Mill Hill Wildlife Reports 2007 (Link)

Identification of Grasses (Link)
Mill Hill Grasses


Horseshoe Vetch, Hippocrepis comosa
First Draft of the Article for the Shoreham Society Newsletter

Link to the Adur Nature Notes 2008 web pagesLink to the Adur Nature Notes 2007 web pages
Link to Adur Valley Nature Notes 2003Link to the Adur Nature Notes 2004 Index pageLink to Adur Nature Notes 2005  Index pageLink to the Adur Nature Notes 2006 web pages