Archive for Coast

That smell….

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on May 31, 2018 by cliffdean

That springtime scent seeps in from the sea; it goes with sunshine and buttercups. Some people hate it and complain to the council, wanting Something To Be Done but I inhale deeply.

It comes from an algal bloom in the shallow waters of the bay. Sometimes the shallows are stained orange. Fishing lines are slimed and shrimp-nets fouled with it. The moorlog acquires a grey, slithery surface. The rich, fertile ferment oozes its oily perfume over the meadows and up the hill.

It’s called gullywater or Mayrot or Maybloom.

But today, after forty years of wondering, thanks to my EA informant, I discovered the organism’s scientific name:


Learn that name. You can win admiration this weekend by deploying it at BBQs or among fellow beach-goers. You can complain knowledgeably in the pub: “Yeah, it’s the ******** Phaeocystis innit?” In no time at all you’ll hear it on the Today programme.

Here’s what else I learnt:

Locally it’s believed to be cause by a combination of a few things

1.     Water reaching a critical temperature

2.     The nutrient loading caused by the Bognor weed banks breaking away and rotting down – subsequently pulled along the coast

3.     Nutrient enrichment caused by outfalls & run off.

OSPAR  did a study on it in Belgium, Holland and Germany. – below is the link to the full article.



Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on March 2, 2018 by cliffdean

In seeking shelter from the freezing wind I dropped down into the cliff-top Landslip Wood. Few passers-by notice it and nobody goes there.

In the years since I’d last visited this extraordinary site, blackthorn had closed up over its steep and obscure access tunnels but now the snow revealed the tracks of a previous visitor…


Exposed to relentless wind and salt spray, the stunted oaks that grow here crouch down into the incline but stretch out their limbs almost horizontally to grab at the seaside light. Negotiation of the tilted way requires a good deal of ducking and diving and, occasionally, some Limbo skills.

With the khaki sea pounding just below, the danger of approaching the cliff-edge is all too clear but from a distance you can recognise the skeleton tree where the Peregrine sits, while Fulmars skate past its roots exposed by previous rock-falls.

There’s nowhere else like this in the South-east nor, I suspect, in the whole of England.

New Year almost

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on January 5, 2018 by cliffdean

Tuesday January 2nd 2018: Since I’d wanted to join the Rye Harbour walk on the First (it was wet and windy but 18 people turned up, stayed the course and enjoyed watching murmurations of Golden Plovers & Lapwings as well as some scarcer birds such as Black-necked Grebe & Red-breasted Merganser) the customary RXbirdwalk was displaced till the following day when it was dark and grey but at least dry – till 11 o’clock.

This meant a change of plan to make the most of the two hours available: drive to the Pools and look out from the seawall and beach. There were plenty of birds again – the sky often full of Lapwings, Curlews, Dunlins & Starlings flushed up from the soggy pastures by unseen predators or maybe just popular panic. Sorting from these moving silhouettes the small groups of Golden Plovers & Ruffs was a stimulating challenge as was the separation of grey roosting waders into Grey Plover, Knot & Dunlin as they huddled on the shingle, thanks to the miserable weather undisturbed by strollers .

Likewise, the lines of birds roosting behind the roadside pool provided an interesting task since they comprised several species of gull & wader. Then there were the many dabbling and diving ducks with a Marsh Harrier cruising over them.

So, by the time the New Year Drizzle arrived half an hour early we had seen quite a variety of birds (40), though when I came to compile it the lack of you-see-them-every-time species such as Blackbird, Blue Tit & Robin felt strangely unbalanced. Once you get east of the Toot Rock bushes though, they just aren’t there.

Even shorter and darker

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on December 29, 2017 by cliffdean

Our wedding anniversary falls on December 21st, the Winter Solstice, which we sometimes celebrate with a walk on the inspirational Downs. Last week, however, the morning was gloomy enough at home but as we drove up towards Friston we entered the cloud-base. Two stoical dog-walkers passing at Crowlink  suggested “mistical” as an optimistic adjective.

As we headed south among fog-beaded sheep, the cliff-edge was hinted by the soft rush of waves and the scent of seashore wrack some time before it materialized from the grey.

The scant bird-list was gleaned more from cliff-face gargling of Fulmars and croak of unseen Ravens than by visible, colourless specimens (Meadow Pipit….er…)

However, with no view to detain us in admiration, we made unusually quick progress, turning our joint imaginations instead to the composition of limericks, inspired by my anniversary present: the new biography of the insufficiently celebrated Edward Lear.

“There was an old man in the fog…” was one attempt, quickly surpassed by “There was an old man in the mist…” which seemed to offer more possibilities, especially since we were aiming for the pub.

This classic, iconic landscape is usually pretty busy, not least with young visitors from SE Asia who, for some reason (there are plenty of good ones), are always present in large numbers, but once past the mistical dog-walkers I think we had made out just one indistinct figure in the gloom.

Once we’d picked our way down the slippery chalk track to the valley, selfie-taking normality was re-established among the Rock Pipits and challenging gull roosts

But, with so little to delay us, we arrived at the Cuckmere Inn with 45 minutes to spare before lunch so took one of the frequent, swaying, wi-fi equipped double-deckers back to Friston whence we aimed for the Giant’s Rest instead.

On the move

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 18, 2017 by cliffdean

On the Winchelsea Beach seawall, as we set off last Saturday, we were passed by constant flocks of Goldfinches which often fluttered down onto the roadside teasels. And if you turned your head in the other direction you could see Gannets gliding and diving on the horizon while from overhead came the trilling of Skylarks making landfall. I had made this walk a couple of times already in the last week and was surprised at how much had changed: the numbers of Chiffchaffs had decreased and House Martins, so very numerous before, were entirely absent, both species having plainly made their way south.

Among the passing Goldfinches we could often hear Siskins and Redpolls. While the former stayed in the air we were lucky to have good views of the latter as they alighted in bushes on the Beach Field. This is more than can be said for the several Goldcrests we came across, which typically hid in high canopy, showing mostly in silhouette.

The Fairy-ring Field by Castle Farm held its usual crowd of Pied Wagtails and just after one of the group asked if it were too late for Yellow Wagtails, two of them appeared – quite late in the season – both washed-out looking juveniles. Towards the Castle we found a couple of Stonechats though no Curlews or Egyptian Geese.

As we approached Castle Water, something greatly disturbed the birds upon it, which rose up in a great honking of Greylags and a range of ducks disappearing into the distance so we prepared to be disappointed but, whatever had caused the panic, things had settled down by the time we got into the hide. As usual there were hundreds of birds though not the range of waders there has been, nor the celebrated Little Gull. We did, though, have excellent views of hunting Marsh Harrier and a more distant Buzzard.

On the way back we ran into a Treecreeper on one of the big, gnarled willows in The Wood and at the southern end of The Ocean found a Great Egret feeding alongside a few Littles, providing a useful direct comparison of size, structure and stance.

As usual we saw a good range of species, numbering 67.



Posted in Uncategorized with tags on December 16, 2016 by cliffdean


I rarely venture out of RXland on account of the dangers in the wide world beyond, but the other day dared to take a Nice Walk on a level, dry, concrete path from Rottingdean back to Brighton. If only I had consulted a Rough Guide beforehand…I didn’t even think to take a First Aid kit, let alone a Space Blanket.



At almost every step a new hazard presented itself.




Historic England: Drowned Monument


Although it was clearly necessary to watch every step, I still managed to glance at a few birds: a couple of Fulmars (though I nearly toppled over backwards as they zoomed overhead), c150 Brents flying E (damage to eyes through looking into the bright sun) & a Kittiwake (looked docile enough, but you never know…)

But the most worrying species was Rock Pipit: 5 in those few miles counts as nothing less than an infestation and came unnervingly close, trying no doubt to lull me with exceptionally good views. It seems only a matter of time before Something Happens.




All in all, we felt relieved to arrive safely among the refined architecture of Brighton Marina, thence to the safety of the crowded streets and heavy traffic of the city centre.


Entrancing Bulverhythe

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 28, 2016 by cliffdean

P1280375Beneath all this there is an ancient estuary. Beneath the road, the houses and the light, back-street industry, a deep layer of prehistoric peat.



Adventures in Edgelandia: a glorious show of notifiable Common Ragwort. Horse owners get very anxious about it but in this case less so. Horses ignore Ragwort in its living state but get poisoned when it’s (unintentionally) fed to them dried in hay.



Adventures in Shedlandia #1





Dangerous rocks.


Vagabond seaside species line the chainlink railside fence: yellow-horned poppy, sea kale, viper’s bugloss, teasel, knapweed, hemp agrimony…






The golden ochre of the iron-rich cliffs


More dangerous rocks #1


#2…or it could illustrate a fly-tipper flinging bin-bags full of rubbish onto the beach.

I appreciate the thoughtful application of lower case.


I’ve passed many times without noticing this geometric platform. It looks the size & shape to be the base of a pill-box….


…though the brick superstructure looks a bit flimsy. Maybe it was a little sea-side kiosk.


But no – I was right. It doesn’t seem that long since I walked along here but I’ve not previously seen this informative interpretation panel. Spike Milligan, it records, kept watch here.


Two architectural traditions, one from the ancient Asian steppe, the other from early 20th century Europe.



Gulls were clustered below the Cafe on the Beach, apparently feeding but upon investigation I discovered they were actually drinking fresh water from a spring in the shingle. Could this be the last vestige of the steam, now wholeheartedly concretized, that originally filtered through from the eponymous Gap?


It’s clear enough and there are no others but it doesn’t show on Google maps which, however, offer a compensatory delight in the green ghost of a dismantled funfair.

Screenshot 2016-07-29 20.17.44