Seasonal highlights at Black Down

Crossbill Copyright

Enjoy a walk over heath or through woods at any time of year on Black Down. Watch the landscape change throughout the seasons and take a look at our highlights.


The harbinger of spring, the cuckoo can be heard across the hill as the trees come into bud and gorse is in full bloom filling the air with a sweet coconut aroma. Adders and other reptiles awake from hibernation on warm spring mornings, sunning themselves on the western slopes where you can also find Dartford warblers, one the rarest of eight species of warbler found. The vivid green of the new beech tree leaves are a sight to see whilst serenaded by tuneful birdsong on the east side of Black Down.  A walk along the woodland rides you will find butterflies fluttering in the sun amongst the wood anemone and celandine. Later in spring the delicate pink lantern shaped flower of the bilberry will be found everywhere, closely followed by the bell heather characteristic of this heathland habitat.

Listen out for the Dartford warbler
A Dartford warbler


The hill is flushed with a purple hue as the heather comes into full bloom, the vibrant yellow of gorse and a dense green from the diverse array of plants found on Black Down is a wonderful sight to behold.  Insects are attracted from miles around to this colourful and aromatic spectacle, busy buzzing around making the most of this annual bounty. Keep an eye out for the distinctive black and yellow male dragonflies suddenly bursting into flight on the bog ponds while listening out for the ‘loo-loo-loo’ song of the woodlark on the heathlands. On a warm afternoon enjoy the fresh air and take a stroll in the woodlands or across the meadows at Valewood or Chase fields and look for the colourful varieties of waxcap fungi growing.

Golden waxcap fungi
A golden waxcap fungi


Let Lord Tennyson’s inspiration be yours. At this time of year there are clusters of red berries on the rowan trees in Cotchett valley, a place of pure tranquillity attracts flocks of redwing and fieldfare. Leaves crunch satisfyingly underfoot and golden tones saturate the woodland of oak, chestnut and beech. Take in the autumnal beauty and be inspired on a country walk this month. Wrap up warm to gaze at the stars; the clear dark skies at Black Down. The highest point in the South Downs is sure to provide amazing views.

Autumn colours
Fallen autumn leaves


Along the ridge and near ponds you may see crossbills or you catch sight of a great grey shrike on the western side of the ridge.  A spectacular view of the whole of the weald and the sea can be had on clear bright days from Temple of the winds view point. Affectionately described by Lord Tennyson as "You came, and looked and loved the view, Long-known and loved by me, Green Sussex fading into blue, With one grey glimpse of sea."

Rest at the curved stone seat to enjoy views from the Temple of the Winds
A view south looking over the rolling downland of the South Downs from behind the stone plinth, with a charming curved inscribed stone seat in memory of WE Hunter who donated Black Down to the National Trust in memory of his beloved wife.