It's been a few year since I visited Well Bottom; a 'hidden' valley on the South Downs between Lewes and Seaford. When I last visited the area the hawthorn and scrub had grown over most of the precious chalk grassland. Despite this the few patches of open grassland left were home to large numbers of dingy and grizzled skipper butterflies as well as other downland insects and plants. Since this visit the South Downs National Park have been working with the landowners to restore this site and open up the area to allow wildlife to flourish. It was time to pay another visit to the site to see how the work here has progressed.
For today's walk we teamed up with the Sussex Community Rail Partnership and caught the train from Lewes to Southease. From here there is great access onto the South Downs via the South Downs Way.
On the top of Well Bottom the cowslips were putting on a fine display and migrant swallows and house martins were arriving into England. We were lucky to see a hare as it sprinted towards the horizon ahead of us. The South Downs National Park and their hardworking volunteers have really improved this area for wildlife by clearing back the overgrown gorse and re-instating the dewpond.
It was amazing to see how much work has been done in the valley itself. Large areas of the valley have been opened up to produce plenty of open grassland and scalloped edges along the scrub have created a great habitat for downland insects. There were early purple orchids, common heath moths, two-coloured mason bees and slow-worms on the slopes. In a tree Steve spotted a spotted flycatcher migrating through the valley.
After exploring the valley we headed back to Southease - just in time to catch the 12:36 back into Lewes.
Thank you to Jan Knowlson for helping to lead the walk to Well Bottom today.