Plants and Places of interest in East Sussex - 17/02/18

A few days before the Beast from the East arrived (for posterity that was a bitterly cold weather system with withering winds, snow and ice from Siberia), we had a day trip out to the East Sussex coast from Pett Level to Winchelsea then to Bexhill to see what we might find.

The view East towards Camber. In a month or so there will be plenty of coastal plants to see, clovers, mouse-ears and so on. Even now there are the distinctive young plants of Yellow Horned Poppy to be found.

 But we didn't go East, we went West to the base of the cliffs at Pett Level. These have a large layer of clay over the bedrock and cliff falls are common as a result. The fall shown below was extensive and took out a large area that had been full of wildflowers amd Greater Horsetail the previous year.

However, there were still a few plants to be found like this invasive non native Hottentot Fig. This sprawled down the cliff smothering everything below it. It does have attractive flowers, though the only one I could find was up high.

Carpobrotus edulis

In the photo below you can see it draping down the cliffs. In places it's broken off and started new colonies at the base of the cliffs.

Many plants can be identified without flowers. These are the seeds of the Stinking Iris. The only similar native species it could be confused with is Yellow Iris (also called Yellow Flag), but the seeds of that are browny yellow.

The leaves are typical Iris leaves but could be confused without closer examination with Pendulous Sedge.

Iris foetidissima

Winter Heliotrope starts flowering in late December, so this one below was a straggler with most florets gone to seed now. They are another attractive alien plant and can be found along many rural road verges, often for 100s of metres in an unbroken line of large leaves that again block out light for native plants.

Petasites fragrans

Coltsfoot is a herald of Spring, though the recent extreme cold will have put most back a bit for now.

The photo below shows the stem with its scale like bracts up it, quite unlike the smooth Dandelion.
It's a quick coloniser of waste areas and disturbed soils. The recent cliff falls mean there is new habitat for this plant to colonise.

Tussilago farfara

Gorse is always a winter favourite for being in flower, even in extrmely cold conditions.
It's also an indicator that the underlying soil is not alkaline.

Ulex europaeus

From Pett we drove the short distance to the ancient town of Winchelsea with its fantastic old church from the 1200s.

I'll indulge myself here with a few photos from inside the church, a beautiful building.

This church featured on the recent ITV Britain at Low Tide series with "grafitti" on the walls in memory of shipwrecked sailors from the area.

Old church grounds are often worth a look round for botanical interest and here was no exception. I was surprised to find a lot of Navelwort growing all around the churchyard. Of course, it's far too early for flowers. I was surprised because it has a western distribution in the UK. In SE England it's quite scarce.

There was a very large colony on top of a bus shelter by the church, most of it on the road facing side (not in photo due to traffic).

Umbilicus rupestris

Also along the road verge and no doubt planted in the past were lots of Early Crocus.

Crocus tommasinianus

From here we drove to Hastings, but there was nowhere to park so we carried on to Bexhill. There's a small area of cliffs here and we drove up to the top for a look around. This is the view from there towards Hastings pier.

 A walk along the cliff tops revealed nothing of interest to be found. Lesser Chickweed was flowering this time last year, but the cold has put them back a bit.  A Herring Gull provided some interest.

In previous years I had found some Sweet Violets in some scrubby woodland behind the cliffs so I went for a look. Sure enough I found some in flower.

Viola odorata

After that it was time for the long drive home. If I had written this the day after this trip, I might have said Spring was definitely on its way, however, the Siiberian blast of the last week or so has been dramatically cold, so I'lll reserve judgement on when botanical spring will arrive properly.

Take care


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