Corporate report

East Sussex's National Nature Reserves

Published

Castle Hill

Castle Hill is one of the finest examples of ancient, wildflower-rich, chalk grassland sites in the country. It lies within the South Downs National Park and covers 47 hectares.

Main habitats: Lowland chalk grassland and mixed scrub.

Other designations: Special Site of Scientific Interest, Biogenetic Reserve by the Council of Europe, Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the European Habitats Directive

Features of interest

The site’s SAC designation stems mainly from the chalk grassland being sufficiently rich in orchids to be recognized as of European importance. Species include fragrant, common spotted, pyramidal and autumn lady’s tresses, as well as the rare early spider orchid, for which Castle Hill is the national stronghold.

Typical chalk flowers to note are kidney vetch, horseshoe vetch, birdsfoot trefoil, fairy flax, dropwort and the round-headed rampion, also known as the Pride of Sussex.

Of the 58 UK species of butterfly, 31 have been recorded on Castle Hill, including adonis blue, chalkhill blue, small blue and silver spotted skipper.

This grassland contains a wide variety of grasshopper, cricket and leafhopper species, including rarer species like the long-winged cone head and Roessel’s cricket. Rarest of all is the wartbiter cricket which has its largest UK colony here.

Birds include whitethroat, linnet, yellowhammer, dunnock and blackcap. Kestrel, sparrowhawk, buzzard, red kite and peregrine have also been seen.

There is an information leaflet for this reserve.

Directions

By cycle

The reserve is near the path of the South Downs Way National Trail and Route 89 of the Sustrans National Cycle Network.

By train

The nearest train station is Falmer, 3 kilometres to the north and there is a mainline train station in Brighton.

By bus

Bus services between Brighton, Falmer and Woodingdean are provided by the Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company.

By car

By road, access to the site is by tracks from the B2123 to Woodingdean, or by tracks from the village of Kingston-near-Lewes, 2 kilometres to the north east of the reserve. The nearest car park is in Woodingdean.

Contact

For further information about the reserve, please call the senior reserves manager on 07971 974401 or the reserves manager on 07825 386620.

Lewes Downs (Mount Caburn)

Lewes Downs (Mount Caburn) NNR is a chalk hill and valley with south-facing slopes, clothed in flower rich grassland with a scattered scrub.

Main habitats: lowland chalk grassland

Area: 49 ha

Management: Natural England under an agreement with the owners, the Glynde Estate

Features of interest

Mount Caburn’s ancient, traditionally managed chalk downland has extensive south facing slopes, perfect for sun loving flowers and their associate insects, such as rare butterflies.

As an excellent example of orchid-rich chalk grassland, it has been given the European designation of a Special Area of Conservation (SAC); Mount Caburn is also part of the larger Lewes Downs Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) encompassing more downland to the north and west.

The ‘Caburn’ itself is the best preserved and most important Bronze Age hill fort in Sussex (English Heritage Monument Number 405932).

The site has the largest British population of burnt-tip orchid and pyramidal orchids are typical. Sweet briar is the rarest of wild roses found here. Marjoram, deep-blue round-headed rampion, tiny chalk milkwort and the bright yellow horseshoe vetch thrive on the sunny slopes

Adonis, chalkhill blue butterfly, silver-spotted skippers, day-flying moths, such as the metallic green scarce forester and the red and black six-spot burnet can also be spotted. The re-introduction of the wart-biter cricket in the mid-nineties has established a new population of this nationally rare species.

Skylarks, meadow pipits, yellowhammers, corn bunting, kestrels and buzzards are amongst the birds that find their homes and food on Mount Caburn. If you’re lucky, you might also catch a glimpse of the speedy peregrine falcon.

There is an information leaflet for this reserve.

Directions

By train

The station in Glynde village is only 1 stop from Lewes on the Brighton to Eastbourne or Hastings route.

By bus

Buses 25, 38, 124, and 125 connect the village of Glynde to Alfriston, Barcombe, Berwick, Brighton, Cooksbridge, Lewes and Ringmer. See www.travelinesoutheast.org.uk for bus timetables and stops

By car

The village of Glynde is just off the A27 between Lewes and Polegate. There is some car parking available in Glynde village, BN8 6SX.

On foot

The reserve may be reached from Glynde village by the public footpath starting opposite the village shop or along the licensed path which starts opposite the entrance to Glynde Place. Another path over Saxon Down joins the licensed path north of the reserve.

School and community groups

You are welcome to bring an independently led visit to the reserve - contact us beforehand. We can also do a small number of activity sessions for school groups each year. Please contact us for dates when these are available.

Volunteering

The South Downs National Park Rangers organise volunteering on the Nature Reserve.

It is also sometimes possible to work directly with the reserve manager. Please contact volunteerenquiries@naturalengland.org.uk for more information.

Contact

For further information about the reserve, please call the senior reserves manager on 07971 974401 or the reserves manager on 07825 386620.

Lullington Heath

Lullington Heath NNR is one of the largest areas of chalk heath in Britain.

Main habitats: lowland calcareous grassland and lowland chalk heath

The chalk heath that covers just under a third of the reserve is pink in August with flowers of heather and bell heather, surrounded by gorse bushes whose yellow flowers smell of coconut. Over 250 types of plant grow here. More than 98 types of bird have been seen, 50 of which nest on the reserve.

The slightly acid, fine soil has allowed the development of an intimately mixed chalk and heath plant community. Acid loving heathers and tormentil grow among plants such as thyme, salad burnet and dropwort, which have adapted to the chalk.

There is an information leaflet for this reserve.

Directions

By train

The nearest train station is Polegate.

By bus

Local bus services are provided by Eastbourne Buses, and the Brighton and Hove Bus and Coach Company provides a service along the A259 between Brighton and Eastbourne.

By car

Jevington and Litlington are accessed via minor roads from the A259 and A27. There are Forestry Commission car parks in Friston Forest.

On foot/cycle

The reserve is near the path of the South Downs Way National Trail and the Wealdway.

For nearby cycle routes see the Sustrans map

Volunteering

There are many opportunities for people interested in volunteering and learning new skills like habitat management, species protection, construction and surveying.

Contact

For further information about the reserve, please call the senior reserves manager on 07971 974401 or the reserves manager on 07825 386620.

Pevensey Levels

Pevensey Levels NNR lies in the heart of a large grazing marsh which is home to many species of wetland bird.

Main habitats: wet meadows, scrub, willow carr, freshwater fen, pools and managed ditches

Area: 4,300 ha

Features of interest

Pevensey Levels is very popular with bird watchers, using the country lanes and Rights of Way (including the 1066 path) crossing the marsh. The lanes are also very popular with cyclists.

The Pevensey Levels lie between Eastbourne and Bexhill-on-Sea.

The part of the NNR owned by Natural England is currently closed to the public except for the eastern-most field. This is because the rest of the site is so fragile that unrestricted access would damage the wildlife interest.

To the north of the NNR lies a 132 hectare reserve, owned and managed by the Sussex Wildlife Trust, which was declared a National Nature Reserve in July 1996. Access is by permit only, but the trust organises guided walks in the summer.

Species on the NNR include 20 species of dragonfly and damselfly, including black-tailed skimmer, Orthetrum cancellatum, and red-eyed damselfly, Erythroma naja. Rare invertebrates include the fen raft spider, Dolomedes plantarius, and several species of water snail and water beetles.

Waders and wildfowl include redshank, lapwing and snipe. Smaller birds of wetland habitats include reed bunting, yellow wagtail, reed, sedge and Cetti’s warbler.

Wetland plants include the rare sharp-leaved pondweed Potamogeton acutifolius and narrow-leaved water plantain Alisma lanceolatum.

There is an information leaflet for this reserve.

Directions

By train

The nearest railway station is Norman’s Bay on the Eastbourne – Hastings line.

By bus

The nearest bus service is the Stagecoach 99 stopping at Cooden, 4 kilometres east of the reserve.

By car

The reserve is half way along a narrow lane running between the A27(T) – A259(T) roundabout and the junction with the B2182 in Cooden. Roadside parking is limited to 1 or 2 cars.

On foot/cycle

The Sustrans National Cycle Route 2 (Downs and Wealds) passes through the reserve.

School and community groups

Students and naturalists wishing to access the NNR, for example to study the aquatic plants and invertebrates, need to arrange for permission with the reserves manager. Guided visits for groups can be arranged by request.

Volunteering

There are many opportunities for people interested in volunteering and learning new skills like habitat management, species protection, construction and surveying.

Contact

For further information about the reserve, please call the senior reserves manager on 07971 974401 or the reserves manager on 07825 386620.