summer plants of the upper meadows include Greater
Knapweed, Hardheads (=Lesser Knapweed),
Scabious, Meadow Cranesbill, Alexanders,
Meadow Vetchling, Yarrow,
St. John's Wort*, Great Mullein*
many others. Herb Robert is
found amongst the scrub.
(*notably on disturbed ground.)
Plants of Ancient Downland
indicators on the lower slopes include Dropwort,
Ladies Tresses (upper plateau), Hairy
of which are rarely found on pastures, restored wildlife meadows or agricultural
downland. Other downland plants that are more likely on the biodiverse
down herbland are Wild Thyme,
Thistle, Dwarf Thistle, Squinancywort,
Flax, Small Scabious,
Basil. There are other more widespread
wild plants like the Mouse-eared Hawkweed,
Rough Hawkbit, Lesser Hawkbit, Bird's Foot Trefoil, Ground
Speedwell, Field Speedwell, Sweet Violet,
and Yellow Wort.
Wild Flora and Fauna on Chalk flickr
Adur Wild Flowers 2009
A large part (724 acres) of the downs including Mill Hill were presented to the people of Shoreham in 1937.Local Nature Reserve. This is divided into about 11 acres of grassland and meadows above the ridge, about 9 acres of scrub, the copse and glades at the northern end, and about half of the prime Chalkhill Blue area of 6.4 acres of herbland remaining. 6 acres has been lost to a Sycamore woodland on the southern slopes.
This is low fertility chalkland not suitable for grazing. The top area is effectively a wild meadow and the lower slopes a rabbit warren dominated by prostrate (not the upright form) Horseshoe Vetch, Hippocrepis comosa.
Hill is nationally important because of its population of Chalkhill
Blue Butterflies. Estimates of the numbers
are notoriously inaccurate. In the 1950s
the population was estimated by R. M. Craske
be 50,000. This may be an exceptionally good year. I would estimate the
numbers at that time to be nearer 25,000 for Mill Hill only. After the
cattle grazing and thorn incursions the numbers plummeted to the most reliable
estimate in 1960
of 6,000. The new road and Sycamore woodland further denuded the Horseshoe
Vetch, Hippocrepis comosa,
and bare chalk downland to a figure I have estimated at a top figure of
3,000 Chalkhill Blue Butterflies at the turn of the millennium (counted
in 2003). Almost
all these butterflies are now to be found on the six acres of the lower
family lived at The Mill House, Mill Hill, from around 1933
until about 1967, and every July we saw the
"Butterfly Men" walking past onto the Downs. My father used to tell
us that they were interested in the blue butterflies."
Heather Clark (née Eager), Ryde, Isle of Wight
Postcode: BN43 5FH
Grid Ref: TQ 21170 07444 (upper car park)
Geographic Link OS Map
Google Earth Map
Magic Map of Mill Hill NR
Local Nature Reserve Designation
Natural England: Local Nature Reserves
Multi-Map (Bird's Eye View)
Grid Reference Finder
The butterfly lower slopes at Mill Hill are under serious threat by a natural process known as ecological succession where the woody shrubs like Privet, Brambles and Hawthorn invade the herb-rich slopes gradually turning the downs into woodland and eliminating the butterfly larval food plants especially the Horseshoe Vetch, Hippocrepis comosa, on which the Chalkhill Blue Butterflies rely. The remedy is by expert professional removal of the Privet on a regular basis. This job is now being undertaken by volunteers.
Footpaths at Mill Hill
I cycled to the upper car park on Mill Hill (as I missed out the top and gentler middle slopes on my last two visits). The upper plateau was covered in grasses and Bulbous Buttercups and the amount of Horseshoe Vetch was noticeable less than in previous years. Small Heath Butterflies were a frequent sight. An open meadow-like area north-west of the car park hosted a mixed collection of butterflies fluttering occasionally in the sunshine. The first contestants turned out to be the first of a few male Common Blues and his surprising opponent was revealed as my first Green Hairstreak of the year. A single fine condition Dingy Skipper was querulous with other butterflies as well. Hawthorn was blossoming near to the border to Erringham Hill. On close inspection most of the handful of blue butterflies in the meadow were Holly Blues although there was at least one male Adonis Blue. A Brimstone Butterfly and a Large White fluttered by and two Wall Browns landed briefly where passage had worn a path and revealed bare chalk. Another first of the year was a pretty Mother Shipton Moth.
The meadows of the middle slopes have long grasses and a different flora from the lower slopes
The rough meadow north of the car park lacked anything of interest until another Wall Brown fluttered over. I cycled up to Beeding Hill and the top part of Anchor Bottom. But this was covered in more grasses and buttercups and despite looking, I could not find anything worth a photograph.
Dogwood and longer grasses swamp out the Horseshoe Vetch on the middle slopes
21 May 2018
Lower slopes of Mill Hill
Warm (20.4 °C) and humid, so humid that there a few sports of rain, and slightly overcast conditions in the early afternoon, which might make the butterflies hide but easier to photograph. The lower slopes of Mill Hill were still covered in the glorious carpet of Horseshoe Vetch, Hippocrepis comosa, and the blue butterflies were semi-torpid but easily disturbed and many of them seen resting. I decided to count the Adonis Blues in a slightly altered one acre transect (taking 50 minutes with pauses for photography) and this slowly built up to an unprecedented* 206 males and 10 females. There was a higher density of butterflies on the richer swathes of Horseshoe Vetch at the northern end. After I completed a count I saw over a hundred more males on the steeper slopes, and the female count rose to 25+ including one mating pair. These numbers simply swamped the other species with frequent Common Blues, frequent Small Heaths, just a few Grizzled Skippers and Dingy Skippers, and one Brimstone Butterfly and one Small White. I spotted at least one Treble-bar Moth on the lower slopes. The micro-moths were not seen. (*since my records were compiled from 2003)
Common Blue, Wild Mignonette, Common Daisy
by the ridge route where I spotted a further dozen male Adonis
Adur Butterfly List 2018
18 May 2018
Cinnabar Moth, Adonis Blues
WIth the yellow carpet of Horseshoe Vetch, Hippocrepis comosa, on the lower slopes of Mill Hill, looking splendid a day or two off its peak, the butterflies were out in force, in numbers, if not variety. In the transect acre there were estimated to be in excess of a hundred butterflies fluttering around in the sunshine. At least sixty were the lively and amorous male Adonis Blues, and the rest were made up of female Adonis Blues, frequent Common Blues, frequent Small Heaths, occasional Grizzled Skippers and Dingy Skippers, and a few Brimstone Butterflies and Small Whites. I spotted at least one Cinnabar Moth on the lower slopes, and one Carpet Moth where the cattle had disturbed the flora and spoilt the habitat by the water trough. There was almost an absence of the micro-moths that are usually so common, no Pancalia and just the one pyralid: a Pyrausta purpuralis. The only surprise of the early afternoon was a very quick male Broad-bodied Chaser (dragonfly) chasing after the skippers. A few Azure Damselflies were seen around the Brambles. There was a brown butterfly over the southern steps which was either a Wall Brown or a Speckled Wood.
Vetch was dominant on the lower slopes
except for one Bramble-covered
bare patch which I put down to mismanagement.
A few diminutive, Milkwort
Germander Speedwell and Scarlet
Pimpernel, and taller
Salad Burnet interrupted the blaze of
yellow. I noted the much larger Hound's-tongue
in bud near the scrub.
When the pack of dogs had moved off the hill, the Kestrel hovered over edge of the Hawthorn-flowering scrub. A couple of adult Slow Worms were hiding under a piece of wood at the top. I was satisfied with only visiting the lower slopes.
Adur Butterfly List 2018
17 May 2018
Vetch on Mill Hill and
Hawthorn on the hedgerows of the Downs Link Cyclepath
14 May 2018
Hawthorn and Horseshoe Vetch
in blossom all over Mill Hill and most be about 60% of full flowering.
Likewise the yellow swathes of Horseshoe
more than half in flower, attracting the bees
The annual photographs show large bare patches where Horseshoe Vetch used to be prevalent in 2006.
Dingy Skipper, Common Blue, Grizzled Skipper
It was only on the lower slopes that butterflies and moths were frequent if rather patchily distributed. The first of 9+ Grizzled Skippers were immediately seen from the southern steps. But I was simultaneously distracted by two Cinnabar Moths which I may have disturbed. Small Heaths (15+) were chasing other butterflies around all over the place. They prevailed over at least two surprise clearly seen Brown Argus. All this before I spotted my first dozen or so blue butterflies, mostly quarrelling with other butterflies and skippers and not keeping still. The first recognised were the slightly more numerous (8+) male Common Blues, but at the same time there were at least five male Adonis Blues. They were causing such a commotion with each other that it was difficult to count them. Dingy Skippers were seen all the time, rarely keeping still, but the count was only five as one kept flying to and fro. An Azure Damselfly, Coenagrion puella, avoided the melee. A pale flutter was a Treble-bar Moth. A few Brimstone Butterflies patrolled the thickets/hedge and the larger brown butterfly was seen to be a Wall Brown. I did not note any of the very small moths. A few small white butterflies, on the top of the hill, were not positively identified, but were most likely Green-veined Whites.
adult Slow Worm
slithered into hiding on the top southern part of Mill Hill. More of a
surprise was the skitter of a very small Common Lizard amongst
the vegetation and green grasshopper nymphs
of the sheltered lower slopes. In the top copse, gusts of wind blew the
Mustard horizontal and flat at times.
Adur Butterfly List 2018
I haven't had a chance to get to Mill Hill for awhile so with the prospect of fading sunlight I headed there at lunchtime. What a difference a couple of weeks makes. The place was alive with Dingy Skipper, Grizzled Skipper, Small Heath. A single Green Hairstreak was seen and about 6 male Common Blue and 6 male Adonis Blue and 1 female.
7 May 2018
Wayfaring Tree was in flower next to the path down to the lower slopes
Hawthorn was starting to flower in the hedges. Butterflies were out in the baking sunshine with my first Large White of the year at the top of Chanctonbury Drive (south-east of the Mill Hill Road Bridge). On the southern part of Mill Hill, I spotted my first of the year Small Heath almost immediately followed a clear sighting of at least two Green-veined White Butterflies. Down the steps on to the lower slopes where it was shimmering warm and the first Horseshoe Vetch, Hippocrepis comosa, was flowering. The flowers attracted occasional (10+) Dingy Skippers which were not allowed to settle by frequent (20+) agonistic Small Heaths. Small moths flitted amongst the intertwined leaves including small Pyrausta moths with a definite Pyrausta nigrata and Pyrausta despicata. Two Brimstone Butterflies fluttered overhead and I disturbed two very fresh Wall Browns.
Skipper on Milkwort
Horseshoe Vetch, Cinnabar Moth
after ten minutes did the first of at least ten fresh, lively and
amorous Grizzled Skippers appear.
A brightly coloured Cinnabar Moth
fluttered around but would not stay still as usual. Crane
Flies were frequently seen on the lower
slopes. A large clump of Wayfaring Tree
was in flower next to the path down to the lower slopes. The small Milkwort
appeared but mostly blue ones were seen. But they exceeded in number
over the few remaining Dog Violets.
There were still patches of Ground Ivy
the new Germander Speedwell. A
black and yellow hoverfly Xanthogramma
flitted amongst Stinging
Nettles on the southern steps. It was so warm
that I returned by the path without completing the full transect. Cowslips
in flower on the southern top part of Mill Hill.
Adur Butterfly List 2018
After the recent sunny spell of a few days, the mud on the southern steps down to the lower slopes of Mill Hill has already dried out and the Blackthorn was in blossom everywhere. It was even too warm for diligently spotting butterflies and on the lower slops where on passage I noted a mere one Speckled Wood, 2+ Peacocks, a Brimstone or two, one Small White, and frequent small Pyrausta moths. Too warm for packs of dogs and there were only four butterfly watchers who reported Grizzled Skippers and a Green Hairstreak. It was really too warm for me as well and I did not stay long in the afternoon. Common Bee-flies visited Ground Ivy and Dog Violets. My first adult Slow Worm of the year was seen under a flat piece of wood on the southern top part. A Kestrel flew over but this regular inhabitant of Mill Hill has a tendency not to stay around when there is even one dog, however small. A Wren was making more noise than the buzz of the traffic, the drone of small aircraft and the baaing of the sheep in the field below.
Erringham and the Lower Slopes of Mill Hill
with Blackthorn in flower
Earlier in the day there was more than one hearsay report of Red Kites over Erringham Hill flying towards New Erringham.
11 April 2018
Fauna and Flora and Fungi
Zebra Spider, Salticus scenicus, Dog Violet
Unknown small larva, Thimble Morel Verpa conica
visit to the lower slopes of Mill Hill, spoilt entirely by 18 dogs and
four people all at one time on the lower slopes. The dogs were yapping
and running free and leaving their mess over the chalkhill flora. Two dogs
were barking repeatedly at me over a distance of 12 metres in separate
incidents. I wish I had not bothered as the steps and paths were muddy
and nearly treacherous caused by excessive footfall. In the middle of the
day I did spot a handful of Brimstone Butterflies
and the same number of Peacock Butterflies.
Violets had already taken over from Sweet
Violets as the dominant violet
over the lower slopes. After the rain there was a mushroom
I had not seen before on Mill Hill, and a Common
Bee-fly visiting violets.
I looked for possible Grizzled Skippers
but even the dead remnants of Carline Thistle
in which they hide were hardly present. I was so depressed by the state
of Mill Hill Nature Reserve and the dogs that
I hurried home by the ridge route. There were a few Blackthorn
south of the Reservoir but there were no sign of flowers on the main clump
next to the road.
for Mill Hill Nature Reserve
state that dogs should be on a lead (interpreted to mean under close control,
not in packs running around free).
|Three Thimble Morel, Verpa conica, mushrooms were the first I have ever seen anywhere amongst some grass below the path on the middle area of the lower slopes of Mill Hill.||
5 April 2018
Slopes (looking southwards)
Despite the rain and muddy steps, the slopes were looking dry and parched
(in contrast to the standing water on the levels below)
Still a slight chill under the cirrus blue sky as a Buzzard glided over Erringham Hill and a Kestrel hovered over the edge of the ridge on Mill Hill above the steep part of the lower slopes. They did not remain on station for long before they were disturbed by an excessive number of dog walkers.
Daffodils, Ground Ivy
Violets were commonly spread over the
lower slopes but not abundant and the flowers
were a bit bedraggled after the recent rain which left the steps and paths
muddy but passable. Ten Peacock Butterflies
flew past me and settled very briefly (not on the violets)
and seven of these were on my lower slopes
one acre transect. I spotted a pair of Small
Tortoiseshells, my first of these butterflies
of the year, near some short growths of Stinging Nettles on the
edge of the scrub on the middle slopes. Buff-tailed
Bumblebees were frequently seen and I
noted one Common Bee-fly,
major, on a path through the scrub. A
Plum was spotted in flower but there was
no sign of any Blackthorn
Lastly, a Red Admiral settled on the Chanctonbury Drive lawn at the south-eastern end of the bridge over the A27.
In the weak sunshine I spotted my first butterfly of the year; a Red Admiral over Mill Hill Road at the southern end of the bridge over the A27.
A Buzzard glided over Erringham Hill, seen in the photograph from the top meadow of Mill Hill Nature Reserve.
2 February 2018
Mill Hill Road
On a cloudy day with a chill breeze, I would have been lucky to see anything of note. The best I could manage was a one second peek of a rodent scurrying into hiding. It was not even long enough to be sure of what it was? It qualifies as my second wild mammal of the year. It was very rapid with a short white tail and I think it was a Mouse (rather than a Shrew). There was evidence of the activity of Moles on the top of the hill, with mounds of grey-brown earth. The dead remnants of Carline Thistle seemed less than usual. Birds were not showing and the sky was empty apart from a few gulls and a Crow. The thorn was bare and hosted a Robin. A young Song Thrush was seen on the top plateau.
Mill Hill Wildlife Reports 2017 (Link)
Hill Wildlife Reports 2016 (Link)
Mill Hill Wildlife Reports 2015 (Link)
Mill Hill Wildlife Reports 2014 (Link)
Mill Hill Wildlife Reports 2013 (Link)
Mill Hill Wildlife Reports 2012 (Link)
Mill Hill Wildlife Reports 2011 (Link)
of Grasses (Link)
Mill Hill Grasses
Reserve is defined in Section 15 of
the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949,
as land managed for the purpose:
of providing, under suitable conditions and control, special opportunities
for the study of, and research into, matters relating to the flora and
fauna of Great Britain and the physical conditions in which they live,
and for the study of geological and physiographical features of special
interest in the area; or
SPECIES OF BUTTERFLIES DEPENDENT ON MILL HILL
(Estimated numbers for Mill Hill Nature Reserve only are in brackets)
Blue (3000 +)
Adonis Blue (50 -100)
Dingy Skipper (75)
Wall Brown (12)
Meadow Brown (300)
|Marbled White (50)
Speckled Wood (>50)
Green-veined White (2+)
Small Blue (5)
Large Skipper (10+)
Grizzled Skipper (20)
Brown Argus (>30)
Green Hairstreak ( a few)
The other species may breed on Mill Hill, but there main breeding area will be adjoining fields or slightly further away. e.g. Small Blue (included above), Small Copper, Small Tortoiseshell,Green-veined White, Peacock, Ringlet, Small White, Large White, Comma, Holly Blue, Orange Tip. (=10). There are huge variances each year for most species.
The following are immigrants &/or hibernators: Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Clouded Yellow.
The following have not been positively identified (because of ID difficulties): Essex Skipper. This species is now included for a local field on the Adur Levels within 500 metres of Mill Hill.
following was confirmed only in 2009:
following was confirmed only in 2014: Dark
The next one is no longer
found on Mill Hill but were there in the distant (1947) past: Grayling.
The next one has been recorded near Mill Hill in the middle distance past: White-letter Hairstreak
Skipper does not appear to ever have occurred
on Mill Hill
The Silver-studded Blue has never been recorded from Mill Hill
The Short-tailed Blue was recorded as a single immigrant in 1956.
A possible (unconfirmed) Brown Hairstreak Butterfly was spotted. A confirmed one was spotted nearby.
Brown Hairstreak and Silver-spotted Skipper have been confirmed from Mill Hill. The first is notoriously difficult to spot and was probably already there. The skipper may be a new addition, but it is small and not easy to spot, and there have now been numerous sightings
History of Mill Hill
Lower Adur Levels (MultiMap) including Lancing Clump and Mill Hill
Vetch, Hippocrepis comosa
First Draft of the Article for the Shoreham Society Newsletter