Guided Walk Crowborough Country Park

posted 10 May 2017, 01:42 by Sue Bamblett

What a beautiful morning for a walk. At 7.30 today I joined a group of seven, guided by Martin and accompanied by Dan the Ranger (who also looks after the Ghyll and the Bluebell Woods as well as some other smaller pockets of land). 
We took a stroll through Crowborough Country Park listening and, in my case, attempting to identify bird song. Martin assured us we heard 22 different birds this morning. The most noticeable of these was the Marsh Tit, quite rare nowadays as lots of woodland is not boggy enough, but the right conditions seem to be found at the Country Park. 

My perso
nal highlights were spotting a Blue Jay and watching a Tree Creeper as he crept up a tree swaying in the breeze. To my naked eye he looked rather like a mouse scampering up the trunk. I can highly recommend this event. Book online now if you'd like to join the walks scheduled for 07.00 Saturday 13th May or Tuesday 17th May. Meet at the Country Park Car Park in Osborne Road.

New Species of Fungi in East Sussex

posted 19 Nov 2015, 09:21 by David Taplin

Martin Allison, who led the fungi walk in the Country Park on the 17th October has listed all of the fungi found that day. It turns out that we found a new species for East Sussex - Poplar Knight!

Crowborough Country Park Fungi 17th October 2015


English Name



Agarics (Gilled Fungi)


Coprinellus disseminatus

Fairy Inkcap

Coprinellus micaceus

Glistening Inkcap

Coprinopsis atramentaria

Common Inkcap

Crepidotus mollis

Peeling Oysterling

Entoloma minutum


Entoloma rhodopolium

Wood Pinkgill

Hypholoma fasciculare

Sulphur Tuft

Inocybe geophylla

White Fibrecap

Kuehneromyces mutabilis

Sheathed Woodtuft

Lactarius pubescens

Bearded Milkcap

Lactarius tabidus

Birch Milkcap

Marasmiellus ramealis

Twig Parachute

Mycena epipterygia

Yellowleg Bonnet

Mycena leptocephala

Nitrous Bonnet

Mycena speirea

Bark Bonnet

Naucoria escharioides

Ochre Aldercap

Tricholoma cingulatum

Girdled Knight

Tricholoma populinum

Poplar Knight



Bracket Fungi


Ganoderma australe

Southern Artist’s Bracket

Mensularia radiata

Alder Bracket

Piptoporus betulinus

Birch Polypore; Razor Strop Fungus

Stereum hirsutum

Hairy Curtain Crust

Stereum subtomentosum

Yellowing Curtain Crust

Trametes versicolor






Lycoperdon pyriforme

Stump Puffball



Cup Fungi & Allies


Helvella lacunosa

Elfin Saddle

Rhytisma acerinum

Sycamore Tarspot

Xylaria hypoxylon

Candlesnuff Fungus

Fungi in the Country Park

posted 19 Oct 2015, 07:38 by David Taplin   [ updated 19 Oct 2015, 07:49 ]

On Saturday 17th October a small group of fungi enthusiasts had a very enjoyable and informative tour of Crowborough Country Park, led by fungi expert Martin Allison. The group found a variety of specimens, some common fungi and some not so common. A full list of specimens found will placed here in due course.




posted 30 Jun 2015, 14:17 by David Taplin

At 21:30 tonight (30th June) in the area around the pond in the Country Park, we watched a wonderful flying display of pipistrelle bats. We had a bat detector but it was easy to see then against the light sky. In addition, we were also able to watch them flying close to the ground. Wonderful.

Ghyll Visit

posted 20 Sep 2012, 13:51 by Haley Whittall

The Autumn is here and today was my first experience of seeing Dormice ‘At Home’!
Had a lovely walk in the Ghyll today with our conservators’, checking nest boxes for signs of occupation.  To our delight we found quite a few unoccupied but with nests, and then, like the London Bus, two together (a Mr & Mrs) at home.

If you come across a nest box - ‘Please don’t disturb’ - signs should be put up as these adorable little critters are endangered.
By Laura Dansie

Folly Wildlife Trust : Hedgehogs in Crowborough and the surrounding area

posted 12 Jul 2012, 11:53 by Haley Whittall

Folly Wildlife Rescue Trust have been working with hedgehogs for over 20 years, initially from the home of founders Dave and Annette Risley in Eridge and latterly at the Trust’s new wildlife hospital in Fairview Lane on the Broadwater Forest near Tunbridge Wells.

Contrary to popular belief, hedgehogs are more common in towns and villages than they are in open countryside. The reasons for this are not fully understood, but perhaps their natural enemy, the badger, tended (until recently) to steer clear of human habitation, offering it some protection, while much of the persecution they formally suffered at the hands of farmers and game keepers, would have been largely absent in these places.

Ironically though, this protection comes at a price, as being in such close proximity to humans, has left them vulnerable to our destructive and wasteful activities that cause so much animal suffering. In a typical year, we admit some 3500 wildlife casualties of all types, but 500 of these are hedgehogs, a hugely disproportionate figure for a single species.

Hedgehogs are, unfortunately, somewhat ungainly and although they can climb well and are good swimmers, they cannot climb out of broken drains or uncovered post holes and trenches, while their swimming skills are quickly defeated by steep-sided ponds and uncovered swimming pools. They are also often the victims of entanglement in plastic garden netting (and if undiscovered, suffer a horrible, lingering death), while attacks by domestic dogs are an increasing problem (and their spines offer very little protection, especially when terrier breeds are involved). Additionally, burning in bonfires (that haven’t been checked before being lit), garden pesticides, broken glass and litter and discarded games netting, all take their toll.

During their breeding season (which begins in April and extends right through until October) many nests are dug out by dogs or destroyed by gardeners. A typical hedgehog nest comprises a football-sized ball of woven grasses, leaves, plastic bags and litter, situated just below the surface and they can be difficult to spot.

Electric strimmers, too, are a common cause of injury and death, as many hedgehogs, especially in very warm weather, will sleep in the open, usually in long grass and undergrowth.

The Mammal Society and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society now believe the UK population of hedgehogs has crashed in recent years and it has even been suggested that they could become extinct in many places before the end of the decade. Little work has been done on the reasons for this steep decline, but it is very likely that loss of habitat, combined with the relentless toll of accidents, is a major factor in their decline.

In our own local area, we have seen unprecedented house building in the past few years, with large gardens often being sold off to developers, who then squeeze three or four new houses into the space, removing at a stroke, much prime hedgehog habitat. Hedgehogs it seems do not like such disturbance and often, soon afterwards, disappear completely.

Years ago, it was a fairly common site to see hedgehogs squashed on the road, but this is now a rare occurrence and could mean there are just no hedgehogs left to be squashed? People visiting our wildlife hospital and perhaps seeing a hedgehog, often remark ‘we used to have hedgehogs visit our garden, but we don’t see them any more’. Amazingly, hedgehogs enjoy very little legal protection. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 makes it illegal to catch, trap or kill them without a licence and The Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996 protects them from cruelty, but that’s about it.

If you are a gardener, always check bonfires (and if possible, move the pile) before lighting it. Check areas to be strimmed very carefully for hedgehogs (and always bear in mind that other creatures may be present too; every year we admit frogs, toads, newts and slow worms that have been strimmed). If you’re clearing out a flower bed, especially a much neglected one, be aware that a hedgehog nest or hibernaculum may be present. Hedgehogs often make their nests inside sheds and garages, utilising old newspapers, bin bags and other rubbish and if you’ve left a bin bag of garden waste outside for any time, check it before disposal, because they are a favourite hiding place.

If you let your dog out in the garden last thing at night and you know you have hedgehogs in the vicinity, either go with it or check the area first; many of the injuries hedgehogs incur from dogs often prove fatal.

In Crowborough and the surrounding area there are still apparently healthy pockets of hedgehogs (but no one really knows how many and whether or not they are in decline). Whitehill Road, Green Lane and Old Lane, as well as the Alderbrook area all feature in our recent records, and the same applies to many parts of Tunbridge Wells.

In polls, hedgehogs always feature in the top 10 of the nation’s favourite mammals and everyone loves the idea of having hedgehogs to help control the numbers of slugs they have, but sadly, because of our collective cavalier attitude to wildlife, they could very soon be just a distant memory.

Written by Dave Risley 

The Folly Wildlife Rescue Trust RCN 1091857
Broadwater Forest Wildlife Hospital, Fairview Lane, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN3 9LU
Open daily 08:00 until 20:00
Helpline 07957 949825

How Clean is The Ghyll Stream?

posted 30 Jun 2012, 15:43 by Haley Whittall   [ updated 30 Jun 2012, 15:47 ]

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For some time now I have been curious about the water quality of the stream at The Ghyll so I recently took advantage of some rare sunny weather to carry out an informal survey of the aquatic life.  This is a useful method of assessing water quality because different families of invertebrates vary in their sensitivity to organic pollution, so pollution levels can be inferred from the animals present.  Each invertebrate family is assigned a score from 0 to 10 on indices such as the BMWP (Biological Monitoring Working Party) biotic index.  For example, stonefly larvae are only found in very clean water and some families are allocated a maximum BMWP score of 10 whereas most worms are very tolerant of polluted water and score just 1.  A proper survey would employ a strict sampling methodology to calculate an overall score for the stream which could be compared to similar water bodies.  The biotic index only works for running water.

Wading upstream, I was immediately struck by the variety of habitats down in the water.  In some places the banks towered above my head, sheer walls of dark wet mud shaded by trees where nothing grows.  The stream winds through deep pools, more open gravelly stretches, undercut banks skirted with mosses and liverworts, and sparkling waterfalls where the water rushes over sandstone as flat as paving slabs.  The stream width, depth and water flow speed varies, and the substrate ranges from large boulders through gravel to silt and mud.  Tangled roots and fallen trees add to the complexity of the micro-habitats.  I didn’t notice any higher plants growing in the water.

These were the main animals found;-

Golden-Ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii)

Two of these were found in the process of emergence from the stream, proving that they breed in the Ghyll.  This species normally prefers open unshaded streams so the Ghyll habitat does not seem typical, especially considering the lack of emergent vegetation in the stream here, although they are also present in similar habitat at the Country Park.  In each case, the larvae had climbed a steep wall of mud to about 5 feet and the adults were clinging to their exuviae whilst pumping up their wings.  They had not yet achieved their adult colouration as can be seen by comparing the photographs of the emerging teneral with another adult that I found resting under a bank further upstream.

Golden-Ringed Dragonfly in emergence at The Ghyll (28th June 2012)

Golden-ringed dragonfly in emergence at The Ghyll (28th June 2012) 

Adult Golden-Ringed Dragonfly resting under an overhanging bank at The Ghyll

Adult Golden-ringed dragonfly resting under an overhanging bank at The Ghyll 

Exuvia of Golden-Ringed Dragonfly recovered from The Ghyll. This predatory larva may live buried in the gravel underwater for up to 5 years, ambushing passing prey

Exuvia of Golden-ringed dragonfly recovered from The Ghyll
This predatory larva may live buried in the gravel underwater for up to 5 years, ambushing passing prey. 

The transformation of this ferocious mud-encrusted beast crawling from the water to emerge as a beautiful adult insect is truly awe-inspiring. Golden-ringed dragonflies score a healthy 8 on the BMWP index.

Bullhead (Cottus gobio)

I was a little surprised to find a fish!  The Bullhead, otherwise known as 'Millers Thumb', is a European Protected Species that lives in fast flowing, well-oxygenated water.  It does not tolerate pollution so its presence at The Ghyll is further indication of high water quality.  I saw other fish darting amongst the rocks in the deeper pools which may also have been Bullheads.  They are well camouflaged on the gravel bottom and feed on invertebrate larvae and small crustaceans.

Bullhead found at The Ghyll 28th June 2012

Bullhead found at the Ghyll 28th June 2012 


Mayfly larvae superficially resemble damselfly larvae as they have 3 'tails' but differ in that their gills are conspicuous on the sides of their body.  Mayflies generally fall into three groups - swimmers, burrowers and crawlers - each group with body shape adapted to living in the micro-habitats created by different flow rates.  Crawlers inhabit fast flowing water where their flattened body shape enables them to cling to stones without being washed away in the current.  Swimmers inhabit medium flow and have a torpedo shaped body suited to moving through the water.  Burrowers bury themselves in the soft sediments associated with slow moving water with their gills raised over their abdomen into the current.  I found plenty of swimming mayflies of the family Baetidae (Score 4), but there were also other unidentified families represented (Score 7+)

Mayfly larva from The Ghyll.  Note the three tails and the distinctive gills at the sides of the abdomen. Damselfly larvae lack the gills and have three flattened paddle-shaped 'tails'

Mayfly larva from the Ghyll
Note the three tails and the distinctive gills at the sides of the abdomen.  Damselfly larvae lack the gills and have three flattened paddle-shaped 'tails'

Caddis Flies

Some families of Caddis fly larvae construct protective cases from pieces of vegetation or grains of sand and gravel.  Two species of cased caddis fly were found (Score 7).  Identification of cased Caddis Flies to family level is not particularly easy without removing them from their case which I wasn’t prepared to do.

A Species of cased Caddis Fly larva from The Ghyll (Probably Limnephilidae).  Legs can be seen protruding from the specimen on the left

A species of cased Caddis Fly larva from The Ghyll (Probably Limnephilidae)
Legs can be seen protruding from the specimen on the left


Stonefly larvae have two long segmented tails and appear to be quite common in the Ghyll stream. They are particularly pollution intolerant with most families scoring 10 on the BMWP biotic index, although I wasn’t able to identify the specimens found to family level.

Stonefly larva from The Ghyll stream

Stonefly larva from The Ghyll stream 

In addition, I found freshwater shrimp (Gammaridae) which score 6, a single leech (4) and Chironomid midge larvae (2), as well as a few other creatures that I couldn’t identify.  I didn’t find any damselfly larvae although I have seen adult Beautiful Demoiselles near the stream earlier this year.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised to find so many pollution intolerant animals in The Ghyll stream, especially Bullhead, Golden-ringed dragonfly, and Stonefly larvae.  I’m no ecologist but this would appear to suggest that the water quality is pretty good, at least with regard to organic pollution. However, freshwater bodies are always vulnerable to one-off pollution incidents.

All the animals were returned unharmed.

By Pete Meiners 

The Pageant of Spring

posted 4 Apr 2012, 08:40 by Haley Whittall

The fine March weather has provided a perfect backdrop to witness the unfolding of spring in the Crowborough countryside. The great naturalist Richard Jefferies recorded the coming of spring in his 1886 Crowborough essay “The Hours of Spring”, written at his home on London Road. Walking through The Ghyll on a warm sunny afternoon, I wondered if he too had once passed this way, whether he had also stopped to listen to the constant music of the brook trickling over the sandstone, just as it has done for thousands of years as the seasons change around it, as it slowly shapes the valley so typical of our local landscape.

The spring flowers are starting to appear. The lesser celandines with their flowers of yellow stars and heart shaped leaves have been around for a few weeks, and now the pale wood anemones are also beginning to show. The colour of the woodland floor has turned from brown to every shade of green as the filtered sunlight falls on the leaves of wild garlic and bluebells that have pushed through the soft damp earth. High in the bare branches, the first chiffchaff rings its two notes around the valley, great tits, robins and blackbirds sing, and a woodpecker drums in the distance. An early yellow brimstone flutters by.

Climbing up the northern side of the valley, the Ghyll hints at a heathland past with its remnants of ling, gorse and dry bracken. The yellow and green of the gorse set against the cloudless blue sky and the low hum of bumblebees recalls Ashdown Forest on a summer’s day. There is a haze over the woodland below, the leafless birches a smoky purple against the silver bark. A woodpigeon claps its wings, rises and falls above the trees, and crows call overhead.

All this already and so much more to come. In a few weeks bluebells will carpet the woodland floor before the trees burst into green. The scent of garlic will hang in the damp woods. Blackcaps, willow warblers and cuckoos will return and sing in the trees. Butterflies and dragonflies will continue the procession into summer, and flowers will come and go. Back in the Crowborough spring of 1886 Richard Jefferies put it like this:

“A thousand thousand buds and leaves and flowers and blades of grass, things to note day by day…You never know what will come to the net of the eye next – a bud, a flower, a nest, a curled fern, or whether it will be in the woodland or by the meadow path… You do not know what you may find each day; perhaps you may only pick up a fallen feather, but it is beautiful, every filament. Always beautiful! Everything beautiful!”

The Ghyll in April 2011                                         The Ghyll in November 2011
by Pete Meiners




Some Thoughts on the Common Toad

posted 22 Mar 2011, 15:01 by Haley Whittall   [ updated 22 Mar 2011, 15:42 ]

A eulogy in favour of spring published by
George Orwell in 1946:

“Before the Swallow, before the Daffodil, and not much later than the Snowdrop, the Common toad salutes the coming of spring after his own fashion, which is to emerge from a hole in the ground, where he has lain buried since the previous autumn, and crawls as rapidly as possible towards the nearest suitable patch of water. Something - some kind of shudder in the earth, or perhaps merely a rise of a few degrees in the temperature has told him that it is time to wake up.

At this period, after his long fast, the toad has a very spiritual look, like a strict Anglo-Catholic towards the end of Lent. His movements are languid but purposeful, his body is shrunken, and by contrast his eyes look abnormally large. This allows one to notice, what one might not at another time, that a toad has about the most beautiful eye of any living creature. It is like gold, or more exactly it is like the golden-coloured semi-precious stone which one sometimes sees in signet-rings, and which I think is called a chrysoberyl.

For a few days after getting into the water the toad concentrates on building up his strength by eating small insects. Presently he has swollen to his normal size again, and then he goes through a phase of intense sexiness. All he knows, at least if he is a male toad, is that he wants to get his arms round something, and if you offer him a stick, or even your finger, he will cling to it with surprising strength and take a long time to discover that it is not a female toad. Frequently one comes upon shapeless masses of ten or twenty toads rolling over and over in the water, one clinging to another without distinction of sex. By degrees, however, they sort themselves out into couples, with the male duly sitting on the female's back.

You can now distinguish males from females, because the male is smaller, darker and sits on top, with his arms tightly clasped round the female's neck. After a day or two the spawn is laid in long strings which wind themselves in and out of the reeds and soon become invisible. A few more weeks, and the water is alive with masses of tiny tadpoles which rapidly grow larger, sprout hind-legs, then forelegs, then shed their tails: and finally, about the middle of the summer, the new generation of toads, smaller than one's thumb-nail but perfect in every particular, crawl out of the water to begin the game anew.

I mention the spawning of the toads because it is one of the phenomena of spring which most deeply appeal to me, and because the toad, unlike the Skylark and the Primrose, has never had much of a boost from poets. But I am aware that many people do not like reptiles or amphibians, and I am not suggesting that in order to enjoy the spring you have to take an interest in toads. There are also the Crocus, the Mistle-thrush, the Cuckoo, the Blackthorn, etc. The point is that the pleasures of spring are available to everybody, and cost nothing.”
by Barry Kemp

Have you seen an Adder in Crowborough?

posted 3 Jan 2011, 07:59 by Haley Whittall   [ updated 3 Jan 2011, 08:45 ]

The Adder is a distinctive snake that grows to about 60 cm (2 feet) long.  Male Adders are usually silver or grey with a black zig-zag, while females are brown with a darker brown zig-zag.  Both sexes have a pronounced dark zig-zag running along the back, which ends in a dark V or X on the head.  The eyes are red with a vertical pupil.  Completely black (Melanistic) Adders are not uncommon and do occur in Crowborough.
Female Adder
Black Adder

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