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.
summer plants of the upper meadows of Mill
Hill include Greater Knapweed, Hardheads
Scabious, Meadow Cranesbill, Alexanders,
Meadow Vetchling, Yarrow,
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
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
Thistle and the ubiquitous Creeping
Thistle. The first flowers of Clematis
also appeared on Mill Hill. Lady's Bedstraw
was also noted in flower.
were very common on the lower slopes of
Hill, and these are both Autumnal Hawkbit
and Rough Hawkbit
were noted for the first time this year.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A handful of Sweet Violets were in flower at the top of the wooded slopes on the southern section of Mill Hill.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Hill Wildlife Reports 2007 (Link)
First Draft of the Article for the Shoreham Society Newsletter