This delightful wet meadow just south of Chichester has a mixture of rare, calcareous fen meadow, old watercress beds and pasture. The fen is cut and raked by hand at the end of each summer before cattle grazing in the autumn; the cuttings from the fen are then spread by hand in the pasture field next door to add more interest there.
In early summer the fen, covered in thousands of Southern Marsh-orchids, is one of the most stunning meadows you can possibly see. In amongst this great mass of flowers there is Dyer’s Greenweed, Fen Bedstraw, Marsh Valerian, Cuckooflower, Meadowsweet, Water Figwort and even Marsh Fragrant Orchid. There are also wonderful little sedges growing here including Brown and Carnation Sedge. We also find Early Marsh-orchids and occasional Bee and Pyramidal Orchids.
In and around all this flowering structure, are masses and masses of giddy damselfies, all trying to mate and then lay eggs in the barely flowing chalk streams before they become prey to dragonflies, birds or spiders. Dragonfly species include Black-tailed Skimmer, Southern Hawker, Emperor, Large Red Damselflies and Ruddy and Common Darters. Indeed, the fen seems to be alive with invertebrates, especially grasshoppers and bush crickets and Wasp Spiders are recorded here, snaring and then quickly and efficiently wrapping anything caught in their sturdy webs.
The vegetation is barely inches above the water table here and the rich growth means we have to partially clear some of the streams each year as they get choked with species such as Lesser Water-parsnip and Hemlock Water-dropwort. Eel, Perch and Three-spined Stickleback are recorded here along with caddis fly larvae that construct fabulous larval cases out of stones and plant debris.
The gravel pits next to the reserve are well known for their wintering wildfowl and Common Terns can be seen and heard above the meadows in summer – we also regularly see Kingfishers and Grey Herons and occasionally Little Egrets and Mediterranean Gulls.