Background information series part 2:

The Burgess Hill Green Circle Network:

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Key: 1) Bedelands LNR 2) Nightingale Lane Meadows 3) Hammonds Ridge Meadows 4) Henry Burt Wood 5) Malthouse Lane Meadows 6) Pookebourne Stream & Balancing Pond 7) Rugby Club 8) Grassmere Meadow 9) Pangden Lane Meadows 10) Fairfield Recreation Ground 11) Sussex Way 21) Batchelors Farm 22) West Park Nature Reserve 25) Railway Fields 42) Roman Meadow. Map courtesy of FoBHGCN.

The Burgess Hill Green Circle Network, (BHGCN) is an ongoing project within and around Burgess Hill, with the aim of linking green sites together in such a way to be beneficial for both people, and wildlife. The sites are owned either by the Burgess Hill Town Council, or the Mid Sussex District Council, and are linked by a series of foot paths, cycle paths and bridleways. These links have enabled people to travel from one site to the next, without having to use a car or having to navigate the ever increasingly  busy traffic on the roads. They also act as wildlife corridors giving animals and even plants, a safer way of moving or colonising between the sites.

Currently the circle is still partially complete as half of the route is still in the planning stages, with the aim of completion in the next year or so. Hopes are to possibly expand the network even further in the future.

The sites cover a great range of habitats, from meadows, ancient woodland, parks and even ponds, and are managed completely by local volunteers under the Friends of Burgess Hill Green Circle Network registered charity. This hard-working community of volunteers’ love for nature and wildlife has fuelled some pretty impressive projects over the years, with the focus on improving the ecological value and aesthetics of their local neighbourhood.  These projects range from building lengths of dry wall for lizards and invertebrates, to creating 5 new ponds. These ponds were designed and created with such care and dedication that after just 4 years they have matured into such a good quality habitat that Natural England has been relocating reptiles and newts, including Great Crested Newts into the area from nearby development sites.

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Grass Vetchling (Lathyrus nissolia).

This community doesn’t just stop at management either; they also continue to monitor the sites and their increasing success with wildlife surveys throughout the year. Every event they do is open to anyone who is interested in getting stuck in, from all backgrounds and ages. They are consistently engaging other members of the public with nature, with many open air events including; guided walks and talks, and an annual children’s bug safari which has proven to be very popular! The safari entails children and their parents exploring one of the wildflower meadows with a sweep net, and an I.D. sheet to identify the more common mini-beasts they may encounter.

 

 

It’s clear from just walking around these sites that the hard work of the volunteers is most

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A Marbled White (Melanagia galathea) butterfly feeding on a thistle.

definitely paying off, as they are just teeming with wildlife; such as Marble white (Melanargia galathea) and Essex Skipper (Thymelicus lineola) butterflies, as well as many birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals. And let’s not forget the myriad of wildflowers to be found; some of the more unusual or perhaps more overlooked species include the intense, yet tiny magenta-flowered Grass Vetchling (Lathyrus nissolia), the mauve-flowered Smooth Tare (Vicia tetrasperma) or the bright yellow-flowered Greater Birds-Foot-Trefoil (Lotus uliginosus).

One of the most interesting finds I’ve had whilst exploring the BHGCN was when I came across a Violet Ground Beetle (Carabus violaceus); this not so little beetle almost looks like some sort of jewel, with it’s iridescent blue and purple colouring contrasting vividly against its matt black carapace. It also proved to be quite speedy so taking a decent photograph proved tricky.

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A newly emerged Essex Skipper (Thymelicus lineola) with part of its chrysalis still attached to it’s left eye.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being a part of this community over the past few weeks, getting involved with things such as the reptile surveys, and I’m very much looking forward to getting involved lots more soon! If you too, would like to get involved just head over to the BHGCN’s contact page.

As always, feel free to comment and enjoy the photos below:

Acknowledgements:

I would like to thank Josh Styles for identifying the more unusual plant species for me. Josh is an extremely talented, up-and-coming botanist with a true passion for his subject; if you ever need a plant identified, then he’s your guy! Feel free to send him a tweet of any plants you come across here.

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Bedelands Nature Reserve:

28/06/16

After my initial post on Sunday, I’ve had several people ask me where the survey took place. This has inspired me to write a 2 part series giving readers some in-depth background information on Bedelands and the Burgess Hill Green Circle Network (BHGCN). I feel that as I became involved with Bedelands before the BHGCN, it’s only natural that the first part be dedicated to this relatively small yet surprisingly diverse reserve; abundant in many species of plants, invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians, mammals and birds.

Map
Click the map to take you to google maps.

The reserve is situated on the northern edge of Burgess Hill and is accessible through the nearby town football club, which for those of you lucky enough to have your own car has a small but free carpark. Please keep in mind though as it is so small, it might be difficult to find space on days when the club is in use. As for those of you who, like me have to rely on public transport, the reserve is about a ten minute walk from the Wivelsfield train station; simply make a left turn upon exiting the station and follow the road signs on Leylands Rd and along Maple Drive.  The Sussex Bus company also run two services; the 40 & 40X which stop by Janes Lane; from which you just need to navigate the roundabout and head along Leylands Rd and follow the aforementioned road signs.

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Map courtesy of the Burgess Hill Green Circle Network

Bedelands  is the largest green site in Burgess hill covering an area of 33 hectares, with a variety of habitats including; ancient woodlands, ponds of various depths and sizes including a dipping pond and 7 meadows; many of which are positively teaming with wildflowers. Over the last few years Dominic Moore, in conjunction with the Mid Sussex District Council, has worked hard to restore these meadows to increase the abundance and diversity of wildflowers that grow there. His work has certainly made a difference! The first time I visited Bedelands I, along with my parents and older sister who accompanied me, were simply in awe of the quality of these meadows which, as we ventured further into the reserve became more and more impressive. The sheer diversity of the flowers and their different colours was astounding! From the bright yellows of the Buttercups (Ranunculus acris), Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor) & Bird’s-Foot-Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), whites of the Ox Eye Daises (Leucanthemum vulgare) to the purple hues of the Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) & the Common Spotted Orchids (Dactylorhiza fuchsii )– of which I have never seen so many in one place! (take look at the photos below) It was a truly magical experience… until the heavens opened; such is the infamous British summer.

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The mass of Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsia).

 It is to no surprise of mine then, that this has not gone unnoticed, as both the Millennium Seedbank and the High Weald Landscape Trust harvest seed from these meadows to help populate other areas throughout the UK. Aside from the riot of colour, there are other signs that these meadows are in healthy condition; the sheer number of grasshoppers present is such that is not unlike a mini plague when walking through the grass as they all hop on mass to avoid your footfalls, the many different species of bees to the many other invertebrate species to be found there.

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A British Glow Worm larvae (Lampyris noctiluca).

One of which was an exciting first for me, as we stumbled across a British Glow Worm larvae (Lampyris noctiluca) scuttling across one of the foot paths.

 

 

 

 

Dominic hasn’t stopped at just the meadows either, he and a team of volunteers have been working hard to remove a lot of the holly which has taken over the undergrowth in the woodlands.  This has opened up the forest floor allowing more light to reach the ground and as a consequence of such the area has seen a significant increase in the population of bluebells and other spring plants. I’ve been shown some pretty impressive photos of this year’s bluebells and I must admit I felt I had missed out as they looked spectacular which has made me vow to myself to be sure to catch them next spring for sure! This work is at the time of this writing still ongoing and this coming autumn Dominic and his team of volunteers plan on removing the holly in other areas on the reserve.  Removing the holly also presented him with the opportunity to enrich the woodland with more hazel saplings to support the reserve’s population of endangered Hazel Dormice (Muscardinus avellanarius).

Throughout the year, Dominic holds events aimed at local children’s groups and the general public such as pond dipping and bug hunts enabling people to get up close and hands on with the local plants and wildlife. For more information, or if you would like to become a volunteer, just head over to the “contact us” section of the BHGCN website.

I’ve truly enjoyed my visits thus far to Bedelands, and as yet I know I have barely even scratched the surface of what there is to see and do there .To say that I’m looking forward to my future adventures and exploration there would be an understatement. As usual I hope you enjoy the photos below, and feel free to comment.

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