The colourful Greater Knapweed can be found on the Downs.
The chalk grassland cover of the Eastbourne Downland provides one of Britain's richest wildlife habitats with up to 40 plant species growing in one square metre of turf.
The thin, poor quality soil encourages slow growing plants and the long history of sheep grazing, which continues today, has led to the development of the springy turf.
The downland supports a wide variety of plants which can only survive in chalky soils and the butterflies and other insects that these plants attract.
The remaining chalk grassland on the Eastbourne Downland is now actively conserved following the decline of chalk grassland during the middle of the 20th century. This was due to increased food production and the use of pesticides and other chemicals in arable farming. Around 25% of the chalk grassland of the South Downs was lost between 1966 and 1980.
Most of the open downland along the clifftop is grazed each winter using local tenant farmers livestock. The cattle and sheep are contained in temporary enclosures with electric fencing and gates for public access.
The rare chalk grassland of the Eastbourne Downland is home to a rich variety of plants, insects and birds. If you are interested in the wildlife of the Eastbourne Downland then join our Downland Ranger for one of his Guided Walks.
Purple Orchid on the Downs.
Flowers include hairy violet, cowslip, bulbous buttercup, milkwort, birdsfoot trefoil, kidney vetch and horshoe vetch in Spring. In Summer flowers include knapweed, yellow wort, centuary, wild carrot, squinancy wort, wild thyme, marjoram and round-headed rampion.
Downland orchid species include the Early Purple, Twayblade, Common Spotted, Bee and Pyramidal Orchids. The rarer kinds of orchids are the Early Spider, Frog and Fragrant Orchids.
Spring migrant birds include Common Scoter, Whimbrel, Sandwich, Common and Arctic Terns and Bar Tailed Godwits, all flying up the Channel to return to summer breeding grounds. Meadow Pipits, Finches, Goldcrests and Firecrests can be seen amongst the gorse.
Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers arrive in March/April with Whitethroats, Blackcaps, Redstarts, Spotted Flycatchers and Whinchats arriving later in May. Nightingales sing day and night from the undergrowth and Linnets and Yellowhammers are common.
The cliff provides an important nesting site for Herring Gulls and Fulmars as well as Jackdaws, Stock Doves and Kestrels. The Peregrine Falcon has also returned during the last decade.
Autumn migrants are also numerous thanks to a plentiful supply of elderberries and blackberries to feed upon. Lesser Whitethroats, Garden Warblers, Wheatears, Thrushes, Fieldfares and Redwings are common visitors.
The Winter is fairly quiet but the occasional Merlin or Hen Harrier can be seen swooping over the fields.
The chalk grassland provides an important habitat for butterflies.
The chalk grassland provides an important habitat for butterflies. Migrants include red admirals, painted ladies and the striking clouded yellow.
The downland also has resident colonies of butterflies, attracted by foodplants which cannot grow in any other type of soil. These include the adonis blue, the chalkhill blue and the common blue. Attracted by the coastal habitat are distinctive dark green fritillaries and marbled whites.