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I fell in love with a ghyll

Author Graeme Lyons

Last week I was out again with the bryologists Sharon Pilkington and Tom Ottley. This time at Marline Valley, my first real opportunity to walk the length of the ghyll stream there and see some of the rarer mosses and liverworts along its length.

Marline Valley ghyll stream / Graeme Lyons
Marline Valley ghyll stream / Graeme Lyons

Now this is tough going. The valley gets quite steep while fallen trees and 'course woody debris' makes progress slow. A lot of recent rainfall made the waders a good decision but slippy clay makes climbing the valley sides very difficult which you have to do often to avoid fallen trees. You really have to want to go down here. However, the first things I have to say is just how stunningly beautiful this place is. What is also great is that it's so untouched. There are no signs of people or management except the inevitable odd bit of litter and in this case the bryophytes are ticking along just fine under natural processes.

Marline Valley nature reserve / Graeme Lyons
Marline Valley nature reserve / Graeme Lyons

It's hard to see how this could ever have been different. A real wild oasis just on the edge of Hastings. Waterfalls, sandrocks, base-rich flushes, plunge pools, hard bottomed sections, iron ore seepages. This stretch of stream is really quite something; every turn seems to throw up something new. wild garlic is showing its head and the banks are sometimes covered in greater woodrush.

Hookeria lucens  / Graeme Lyons
The rather strange looking moss Hookeria lucens grows all along the steep sides of the ghyll / Graeme Lyons

 Fissidens rivularis / Graeme Lyons
This is the nationally scarce Fissidens rivularis growing along rocks on the edge of the stream.

There really is no management we can do to enhance the bryophytes here. All we really need to do is monitor the species and keep an eye on any potential pollution events. I saw 12 bryophytes new to my list putting me on 4168 species!

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  • 04 Feb 2013 15:28:04

    Regarding those pollution events, the path of the imminent Hastings to Bexhill link road and any new developments that stem from it borders Marline. What effects, if any, could this major new road and/or urban developments have on the valley?

  • 05 Feb 2013 07:29:55

    Noise from the Link Road will certainly diminish the sense of remoteness which Graeme evokes in this post, all the moe precious for its proximity to the town and a sense which one could share till recently at the head of the Combe Haven valley.
    By focusing on the road’s impact on a small range of species I worry that SWT risks forgetting its commmitment to the broader Wealden landscape.

  • 05 Feb 2013 12:00:49

    Graeme was blogging about a particular suite of species but Sussex Wildlife Trust’s objection to the Bexhill Hastings Link Road has always been based on our concerns about the environmental damage, which we do not believe can be adequately mitigated. The cumulative effects of the scheme on the whole valley will lead to fragmentation and isolation of habitats and species as well as direct loss. We agree that there will be noise intrusion across the valley and that this will also affect the two SSSIs. The southern most end of Marline Woods is probably the least disturbed part of the nature reserve at present. We are also concerned that there will be a deterioration in air quality and that the road may impact on water quality, although this is more of a risk to Combe Haven SSSI than Marline.

    You can see the Trust’s objections to the Bexhill-Hastings link road here

  • 25 May 2013 05:57:50

    Marline Wood (see link) acquired by ESCC (I understand) ostensibly to save it from development – yet as SSSI should be secure from development … – and a site that nothing needs done to or should be done to, but, get this, the Council is counting it in its BHLR environmental mitigation total. Look at this the other way round, Rupert Clubb on Meridian boasts of the Council’s mitigation – planting trees, hedges etc – but a chunk of that mitigation is not planting, at all – is not replacement habitat, at all – but counting in pre-existing habitat.

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