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24.04.14 Top of the Bottoms

24 April 2014 | Posted in Uncategorized

This morning I visited Ashcombe Bottom on the Downs to the South of Lewes with National Trust Ranger Lee Walther. This fantastic downland valley is part of the National Trust's land on the Downs between Lewes and Offham. I've led walks to this area before but it was great to have a guided tour from Lee.

No matter how you approach it it's quite a hike to get to Ashcombe Bottom - but it's certainly worth it. Here you'll find a variety of habitats; old oaks stand alongside abandoned hazel coppice. Lichen covered hawthorns line chalk grassland glades. It's unlike anywhere else in East Sussex.

Ashcombe Bottom
Ashcombe Bottom

Lee and I discussed the future management of the site which will help to ensure that Ashcombe Bottoms wildlife rich glades and rides are kept open and that the grand old trees here are preserved.

In some of the glades the bugle, ground ivy, bluebells and early purple orchids are blooming in profusion....

Early purple orchids
Early purple orchids

...providing important spring nectar for insects. I saw my first small copper of the year - surely our prettiest small butterfly

Small Copper
Small Copper

and my first dingy skipper too. Which, as the name suggests, isn't going to win any beauty contests but has a moth-like charm of it's own.

Dingy Skipper
Dingy Skipper

We also managed to see an elusive green hairstreak, our only green butterfly, which used its colouration to blend in on a hawthorn branch.

green hairstreak
green hairstreak

Around the woods we also heard plenty of blackcap, chiffchaffand lesser whitethroat.

In the treetops were clouds of green longhorn moths - I managed to take a short video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykvbTh0i9M4

Lee and I hope to lead a walk up to Ashcombe Bottom in the summer. Keep an eye on the 'What's on in Lewes' page at www.leweswilldife.org.uk

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