Marline Valley is a wonderful mix of semi-natural ancient woodland, unimproved meadows and a classic Sussex ghyll stream situated on the edge of Hastings. Leased from Hastings Borough Council since the 1980s this site is designated both a Site of Special Scientific Interest and Local Nature Reserve.
The woodlands are a mix of Oak, Ash and Hornbeam with old Sweet Chestnut coppice and Hazel. The woodland floor is carpeted with Bluebells and Wood Anemones in the spring and in slightly damper areas these are replaced with Ramsons or Wild Garlic as it is also known. Although once coppiced, due to difficult access most of the wood is now left as non-intervention. However, along some paths and where the woods meet the meadows we still carry out some coppicing on rotation, creating nice scrubby growth at the edges, perfect for many warblers and invertebrates.
Water is an important feature of the nature reserve. Numerous springs rise through the meadows and woodland at the boundary between clays and sandstones, creating side streams and wet flushes, adding to the diversity of the reserve. These all reach the ghyll stream at the bottom of the valley, which meanders unmodified through the landscape over occasional waterfalls. This ghyll stream maintains a near constant temperature and humidity throughout the year and is perfect for a suite of rare mosses, liverworts and ferns more characteristic of the North and West of Britain, to thrive.
There are four unimproved meadows, managed in a similar way for many years without the addition of fertilisers. Big Meadow is the largest and full of Common Spotted-orchids in the summer along with Common Knapweed, but there are also real rarities here such as Adder’s-tongue Fern, Burnet-saxifrage, Dyer’s Greenweed and Pepper-saxifrage. The meadows are fantastic for a range of invertebrates and are literally buzzing with bees, butterflies and other insects in the summer. We manage these meadows through a combination of cutting and grazing with our own traditional breed cattle. Volunteers help control the Bramble and Bracken in the meadows, which would quickly take over if left uncut.