Wildlife at Ditchling Down

A green hairstreak

Take your time to stroll around the downland while kestrels hover overhead. Spot butterflies above the grasses as you explore the variety of paths at Ditchling Down.

Ditchling Down Wildlife
 
 
If you walk a little way to the west from the car park you find Ditchling Down, where a steep slope with views all around and the springy turf of chalk grassland greet you. A visit at all times of the year is worthwhile but in summer when the flowers bloom the downland is at its best. 
View from Ditchling Down
A view of Ditchling Down
 
The old chalk pits are a good place for butterflies; the thin downland soils heat up quickly providing warmth for the scarce silver-spotted skipper to make their first flight. Green hairstreak is commonly found fluttering along the scrub.
 
The typical grassland flowers are grazed with sheep; this keeps ‘rough’ grasses in check. Grassland left un-grazed can form a thatch layer of leaf litter which blocks out other flowers. When allowed to grow in patches by our rangers these ‘rough’ grasses provide habitat for marbled white butterflies which can be seen flying nearby in July.
A Marbled white butterfly nectaring on a greater knapweed flower head
A marbled white butterfly nectaring on a greater knapweed flower head
On the bottom field, we are in the process of restoring a hedge line by planting a mixture of broad-leaved native hedge species. The small arable field is left fallow over the winter to provide farmland birds with food.
 
The scrub on Ditchling Down has a part to play as vital roosting, breeding and feeding habitat for birds and insects. Amongst the diverse flora of this hillside is a small copse of whitebeam, its leaves turning red in autumn.
 
During the winter it can seem quiet and empty of life but if you are patient a flock of linnet or a hovering kestrel will show themselves, perhaps with Redwing feeding on the grass among the sheep.
Female kestrel
A female kestrel