March descending

On the last day of March, the sun makes a slow descent behind the dark hedgerow and April emerges under a blue sky. On the downs, ravens and buzzards are mobbed by nesting carrion crows. Chiffchaffs, finches and buntings are calling from the trees. Bumblebees work the willow catkins in the evening sun and appear…

Dexters on the Down

Dexter cattle are either tan or black with elegant curved horns and small with short legs, so perfectly formed for grazing the steep downlands. At Fackenden, they are put out over winter and early spring to keep the chalk grassland sward in check and perhaps halt the spread of tor-grass which occurs in distinctive, light…

The carnival of the insects

The weather has been grey-clouded with storms threatening but not fulfilling their promise, providing a steel backdrop to the downland. Fackenden Down is bone dry after a long dry summer and the flowers are going over fast; the butterflies are are no longer thick on the ground, just a single marbled white and a handful…

Old friends…

On a warm day with strong sunshine and few periods of persistent cloud, we took the sunken footpath up from Shoreham station. The ancient byway was flanked by veteran beech trees with smooth, silver grey trunks above exposed roots that twisted out of the ground. On White Hill, the fragrant, man, pryamidal and common spotted…

Adders on the down

A black and white male adder sunbathes on the upper slope of an old pile of fence posts and the chocolate brown female does the same on the lower slope. On another day, a darker male is on the fence pile tightly coiled as the cloud is over; he tastes the air then slides silently…

Red kite mobbed by a carrion crow

Red kites are renowned nest predators especially of rooks and crows. In mid April, most carrion crows pairs have a nest on the go, probably with with four blue speckled eggs in a stick nest lined with wool, and if a kite approaches then the male will climb vertically out of the woods to harry…

Chalk grasslands cleared and ready for Spring

6th March Fackenden Down is spring cleaned; a herd of red Dexter cattle has been in over winter. This native breed from south west Ireland is often used to manage chalk grasslands, especially to clear invading tor grass. Being small with short legs that give a comical appearance, they tend not to poach the turf….

Devil’s bit

The early September colours across the downland slope are golden brown. The devil’s bit scabious is out in brilliant blue; the small pincushion flowers on slender stalks light the dying sward. A spider hides beneath a flower head and waits; a solitary bee lands and busily works the florets; the spider climbs up and then…

Kent Life

In mid-May, the early purple orchids are up at Fackenden Down. The sward is short and so the orchids stand proud at the top of the ridge. Dingy and grizzled skippers flit low over the ground. The chalk grassland is just coming alive after a long winter of grazing the dull, unassuming turf. At the…