An excellent turn-out of nearly 30 people enjoyed a two-hour walk from the Visitor Centre to the Firehills last Saturday morning in the company of several experts drawn from the ranks of the Friends.
Our first stop was near the Visitor Centre car park where we looked down the grassy slopes towards the distant view of Pett Level and Dungeness power station. Our historian, Haydon Luke, pointed out the area where medieval strip fields existed and suggested that a visit in the late autumn evening sun would enable us to see the shadowy markings of the boundary banks. Even earlier human settlement in the area was evidenced some years ago by the discovery of Mesolithic worked flints in a field where cows were now grazing contentedly.
A short distance further on behind the row of old coastguards’ cottages Andy Phillips showed us the decaying log piles which had been created as a refuge for various small creatures and insects whilst Haydon chatted to us about the history of the coastguard station and the underground bunker which was last used during the Cold War.
A buzzard was spotted soaring over Warren Glen and our ornithologist, Alan Parker, told us that the annual autumn migration of birds would be starting very soon (Autumn comes early for birdwatchers!)
When we reached the area of heathland regeneration Jacqueline Rose explained how successful the work has been so far with several plant species not seen for many years making a welcome re-appearance. She particularly pointed out the delightful yellow flowers of dwarf gorse with nearby, the parasitic dodder clambering over a variety of plants in a wet flush. Bell heather was also seen in some abundance though it is not known whether the plants we spotted are the result of regeneration or if they have come from seeds from Ashdown Forrest which were scattered over the area.
In this same area some excitement was caused by the discovery of a rarely seen Grey Bush Cricket, normally found on the undercliff, but obviously enjoying the heathland regeneration. Andy had also found some tiny solitary bees with bright yellow pollen baskets on their back legs for us to see and Alan told us of several species of moth now to be found in this area of the Firehills. He also pointed out a very smart male Stonechat and confirmed that this species has successfully produced young this year in the Country Park.
Our walk back to the Visitor Centre included a couple of stops for Haydon to tell us about the history of the Fairlight Estate and the creation of the village of Fairlight..
All in all a most enjoyable morning and a huge ‘Thank You’ to our four experts – Haydon Luke, Jacqueline Rose, Andy Phillips and Alan Parker.