Firehills Walk with the Experts: 22nd July
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.
The Friends invite you to join them for a gentle walk round the Firehills to learn something of the both the history and the natural history of this scenic corner of the Country Park Nature Reserve in the company of Haydon Luke (local history), Jacqueline Rose (botany), Andy Phillips (insects and invertebrates) and Alan Parker (birds).
Saturday 22nd July: Meet at the Visitor Centre at 10.30am. Duration about 2 hours. Free for Friends, otherwise £4.
A group of seventeen Friends and guests enjoyed an extremely informative talk and walk last Saturday led by local pterodologist, Paul Ripley.
The event started at the Milking Parlour at Place Farm with a short talk to introduce us to the various types of fern we might encounter on our walk. Paul had brought several fronds with him to aid our identification and he also gave us a brief history of these long-lived plants. Fascinating to learn that the fossil ferns to be found on our local coastline are virtually identical to some of today’s living specimens!
We then set out, suitably equipped with lenses and notebooks, to search for ferns in the Nature Reserve, our ultimate destination being Fairlight Glen which is renowned for the diversity of ferns to be found there. Our first stop along Barley Lane was to take a close look at the bracken (Pteridum aquilinum) growing along the lane edges. Our walk then took us down into Fairlight Glen where we were able to identify a variety of ferns from the beautiful Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina) to the Common Polypody (Polypodium sp.) spotted growing high up on the branches of a large oak tree.
On our return to the Milking Parlour we were able to see the spore ‘print’ left by a frond of a perfectly ripe Broad Buckler Fern (Dryopteris dilitata). Paul was then warmly thanked for both his enthusiasm and erudition and the general consensus was that a return visit next year would be most welcome.
A fuller report on this event including information on all the ferns observed during our walk will appear in the next issue of The Volunteer.
For further information about ferns in general, including identification guides, do look at the website of the British Pteridological Society: www.eBPS.org.uk
Park Ranger Nick Hennessy will be leading another Friends’ Volunteer Day this month on Saturday 17th June. The group will meet outside the Milking Parlour at the farm buildings, Fairlight Place Farm at 9am and the day will finish at 1pm. The task is a vital one - to pull Ragwort and Thistle in Fishponds Meadow, just off Barley Lane. Tools, training, tea and biscuits will be provided by Nick, so just bring yourself!
This is a reminder that the Friends of Hastings Country Park NR have two events coming up in the next few weeks at which you will be most welcome.
The first is a talk by Karen Hammond of the National Trust all about Bats. Karen is based at Bodiam Castle which is home to several important colonies of bats and she also runs a local rescue service for injured or orphaned bats. We are hoping that she might be able to bring a few live bats with her for us to view provided that they have woken up from their winter hibernation. Karen led a bat workshop for us a few years ago at Place Farm which proved extremely popular and we are hoping that this time even more Friends will be able to enjoy her talk in the larger venue of All Saints Church Hall.
Date: Saturday 20th May @ 10.30am
Venue: All Saints Church Hall, All Saints Street, Old Town, Hastings, TN34 3BP
Cost: £4, or free to Friends of HCPNR
Following on closely will be our June event, a talk and walk all about Ferns led by local expert, Paul Ripley. The talk will take place in the Milking Parlour at Place Farm and, as space is limited, this will be a Booking only event. The Country Park is host to a wide variety of ferns, some quite rare, especially in the glens, and Paul will take us on a short walk to search for and identify some of these after his talk.
Date: Saturday 10th June @ 10.30am
Venue: The Milking Parlour, Place Farm (full details will be given on booking)
Cost: £4, or free to Friends of HCPNR
Please contact Jill Howell on 01424 815256 or Jan Armour on 01424 715556 to make a booking.
The Friends' first experience of a Mindfulness Walk, led by Roxanna Mullick of The Conservation Volunteers, received many positive comments and requests for similar walks in the future. The short stops we made for seeing and hearing meditations really did concentrate our minds on those everyday sights and sounds which can so easily be overlooked. Many small things caught our eyes from the luminous white glow of greater stitchwort flowers and the bustling of tiny ants to the trilling sound of birdsong and even the gentle hum of the radar at Coastguards' Cottages. It really was a relaxing and enjoyable start to the weekend.
Forty years ago today , April 6th 1977, a Wallcreeper was discovered in Ecclesbourne Glen, the rarest bird ever recorded in Hastings Country Park NR, it stayed for 5 days and was seen by many birders. This beautiful and much sought after bird nests above the snow line, eg in the Pyrenees, and the last British record was in 1985. Here is a picture of one I saw in Bhutan recently.
Free your spirit, recharge your batteries and enjoy a gentle start to the weekend on a Mindfulness Walk led by Roxanna Mullick of the Trust for Conservation Volunteers. This is a new venture for the Friends and we welcome you to come along and join us for a gentle stroll through the Country Park this Saturday, 8th April. Meet at 10.30am at the Visitor Centre for a walk of about one hour's duration.
Cost £4, or free to Friends. We look forward to seeing you for this new event.
In the dark about Moths? Come and join us to see them in a new light.
We invite you to an illustrated talk by local naturalist Keith Palmer for an illuminating talk on these 'night butterflies'
Date: Saturday 18th March 2017 @10.30am
Venue: All Saints Church Hall, All Saints Street, Old Town, Hastings, TN34 3BG
Cost: £4, or free to Friends of HCPNR