The Vanguard Way Blog has been started to complement the Vanguard Way official website: The Vanguard Way is a 66 mile, long distance footpath between East Croydon (South London) and the South Coast port of Newhaven.
Primarily we hope to record interesting sightings along the Vanguard Way with an emphasis on flora and fauna and other 'natural' phenomena. To offer a contribution, please email We will be interested to receive details of what has been sighted, where and when, together with a photo if available.

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Weird and Wonderful!

We have received some interesting photos from Colin Saunders (author of many a route description).  All of these photos are 'copyright C Saunders' and any of them can be enlarged by 'clicking' (ESC key to get back). Colin's captions are in brown.



Mushrooms or toadstools?  Seen on the Vanguard Way link with Lingfield Station, beside part of a keep-fit course in woodland belonging to the National Centre for Young People with Epilepsy.
Having done a bit of enlarging here, these toadstools could be of the Russula emitica family.  Common name 'sickener' because, although not poisonous it does cause vomiting.  Said to be common in coniferous woods in late summer and autumn.  Now a couple of weeks on from Colin's photos, toadstools are popping up everywhere!  Our neighbour has some fine examples of fly agaric with its characteristic red cap with white spots.
Identified by my school friend Dr Alan Harrington of the Natural History Museum as immature female catkins of Alnus glutinosa (common alder).  Seen on the Vanguard Way link with Lingfield Station at Scarborough Farm.
Sycamore moth caterpillar (Acronicta aceris).  Seen on the drive to Starborough Farm on the Vanguard Way link with Lingfield Station.  According to the caterpillar identification chart on  the internet  ‘These striking caterpillars are mildly poisonous, they don’t have sharp spines and can be handled, but repeated handling increases the poison dose and can eventually cause mild effects.’

Further information from
Fishheads deposited at the foot of a tree in woodland near Greybury Lane on the Vanguard Way link with the Wheatsheaf pub at Marsh Green.  One assumes that they have been put there for the benefit of foxes etc.

These are cyclamen.  Perhaps escapees from a garden though, although in general these plants are from Central and Southern Europe, 'sowbread' (named because pigs like to eat the bulbs) Cyclamen hederifolium is possibly native in woods in S E England.  The RHS has further information on 
I think this duplicates photos already submitted by Michael Hartley (‘young monkey clinging to its mother’).

Earlier in the year Colin also sent in the following photos of 'unusual' fauna.

Alpaca Graywood:

This herd (flock?) of alpaca was grazing a field at Graywood on 7 February 2013.

Dr Dolittle’s pushmi-pullyu was supposed to be a sort of llama, but these horses (in a field south of Blackboys) are doing a good impression

For those out of touch with Dr Dolittle stories/films, Wikipedia has this to say about a PushmiPullyu:

The Pushmi-pullyu

"The pushmi-pullyu (pronounced "push-me—pull-you") is a "gazelle-unicorn cross" which has two heads (one of each) at opposite ends of its body. When it tries to move, both heads try to go in opposite directions. Dr. Dolittle meets it on his voyage to Africa to save monkeys (See: The Story of Doctor Dolittle). The pushmi-pullyu usually only uses one of its heads to talk, reserving the other for eating (thus allowing the pushmi-pullyu to eat while speaking without being rude) and claims to be related to almost all kinds of deer - its great-grandfather was supposedly the last unicorn. In the 1967 film, the pushmi-pullyu was instead portrayed as a double-headed llama. The Eddie Murphy film has a brief scene where it is walking in the background while Dr. Dolittle talks to the tiger in the cage. This is in keeping with the fact that Murphy's movie version was only loosely based on the books.[4]"

We are well into the autumn season now.  Hopefully you will soon be sending in typical autumnal photos and information on autumn colours, spiders webs, various fungi and the ever increasing likelihood of mud...

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Weever fish alert!

We have heard from one of our correspondents in the south of the route.  Weever fish have been found in the Tidemills stretch of shore recently.  Lesser Weever fish hide in the sand in the shallows waiting to ambush their prey of smaller creatures.  The problem for us is that they have venomous spines and a triangular black dorsal fin which will inject poison into a foot that might step on it unawares.(Or other part of the body, perhaps into a hand that picks it up or detaches it from a fishing line.) The advice is to wear something on your feet when paddling or swimming in the Tidemills area.

I have found a very informative section on the British Sea Fishing website, if you would like further information. 

The lesser weever fish appears to be widespread in sandy beaches around the British coastline, as are jelly fish - some of which can also give a painful sting of course.

Do let us have information of other wildlife sightings along the sea shore!

Tuesday 3 September 2013

Mid August, mid Vanguard Way

We went on a route description checking ramble of links and main route between Buxted station and East Hoathly bus stop.  A Vanguard's work is never done!  Currently the most up-to-date revision of the route description for the main website is being checked before it is put up onto the website in a few months time. 

Weather-wise 2013 has been an unusual year: exceptionally cold winter, late spring, heat wave in July and beginning of August, warmest summer since 2006.  Plant life has responded now with a lot of greenness and growth, there has mostly been enough rainfall to provide optimum growing conditions in the warm weather.  The soft fruit harvest in the southeast of England has been prolific this year and it looks as though the autumn harvest of grains, fruits, berries and nuts will also be good.

Some highlights of our walk which might be of interest:

Purple and mauve are still dominant colours in the countryside.

Rosebay willowherb

Rosebay willowherb

Great willowherb

Spear thistle with thistledown
We found both types of tall willowherb (Rosebay and Great)and many thistles.  Both willowherbs and thistles produce huge numbers of white seeds which have downy parts to be caught in the wind to disperse them.

There are plenty of bindweed flowers in the hedges and verges but these garden Morning Glory flowers caught my eye at the Blackboys Inn.  These flowers only stay open for a very short time and these had already faded by the time we had finished our lunch.

Guelder Rose


Rowan/Mountain Ash

The hedgerows are beginning to show promise of fruits to come, though the brambles/ blackberries are still far from ripe.  I was interested to see a Guelder Rose, this is a native species in the viburnam family, which has stunning white sprays of flowers followed by red berries and later the leaves turn red before falling.
Cereal crops such as the wheat below, are ripening well and the harvest is well under way.

Although most farms with animals make silage these days, there are still plenty of fields being used for hay and, in this one, the tractor is using a baler which makes the now old fashioned rectangular bales.

We saw a few different types of butterfly.  Below is a gatekeeper butterfly on a ragwort plant and a small tortoiseshell resting on a bramble.  Small tortoiseshell butterflies' caterpillars' food plants are stinging nettles. It may be coincidence that this butterfly is beside a stinging nettle or perhaps it's been laying eggs or even just emerged from its pupa.  

The video below was taken from the Vanguard Way as it winds through Blackboys village allotments.  This allotment was a wonderful herb and lavender garden and the bumble bees and cabbage white butterflies were making the most of it.   Click on the arrow unless you have already done so at the end of the slide show at the beginning of this post. 

Some oddments from along the way
Bracket fungus - appearing to give this tree trunk a face?

Meandering stream where the water appeared to be reddish brown - iron in the soil?

A strange white thistle

Scentless mayweed - as opposed to pineapple scented mayweed, keep you nose alert to find that.

Yellow water-lily, we called the seed heads of these 'brandy bottles' as children
We enjoyed a lovely walk and I hope this post gives you a flavour of the things we saw.  Click on any of the photos to see a larger version.  You may need to press your esc button to get back to the blog post.
Should you wish to see the whole slide show, it's right at the top of this post.
Do let me have any comments and/or contributions to the blog from your own walks along the Vanguard Way.


Friday 16 August 2013

Summer in the south

Copyright Michael Kohn

We have received an amazing portfolio of beautiful photographs from Micky.  I have dipped into the collection and have chosen summer photos taken between May and the end of July.  These have been taken right down at the southern end of the Vanguard Way.

You will see that Micky's photos mirror the changes we have already been shown in other parts of the route. The landscape here is quite unique on the Vanguard Way and, judging from Micky's photos, so are the skies.

For this post I have assembled some collages where photos are roughly grouped together according to month or location. You can click on them to enlarge them (press your 'esc' button to come back to the blog post). Please take a look and if you would like to see all of this selection of Micky's photos, please click on the final smaller square which is a web album cover.  This will take you to the web album and you can select 'slide show' to view them all, along with their captions.

 Copyright Michael Kohn

Copyright Michael Kohn

Copyright Michael Kohn
Copyright Michael Kohn

Copyright Michael Kohn
Seven sisters
Copyright Michael Kohn
Copyright Michael Kohn

Below is the Picasa web album, if you would like to look at the photos and their captions one by one, click on the photo and then click on 'slide show'. Should you arrive in Google + photos, click on the label saying 'go back to Picasa' so that you can run the slide show.

Picasa Web Album
Micky's photos, May, June July 2013


Monday 12 August 2013

Mid Summer

Our heat wave has ended, at least for now, and people have been out on the Vanguard Way, and its links, enjoying the flora, fauna and some misty views.

It is interesting to note a repeat mention of the Cinnabar moth/caterpillar.  Ragwort, though a bright and beautiful yellow daisy flower, is a 'notifiable' weed ;  this is because eating it causes liver damage and it is a particular problem for horses and cloven hoof animals farmed for meat. Strictly speaking landowners should ensure that Ragwort is removed from their ground, especially if horses or cattle graze nearby.

For more information you might like to consult the RHS  website:

Alan and Veronica have been out on the Oxted and Westerham sections and have sent in the following report: 

Wildlife sightings
1         At GR 385542 on the western link from Oxted Station saw a cinnabar caterpillar on ragwort.  This is a caterpillar contains poison as its yellow and black bands warns. The cinnabar moth is red and gray.
I took a picture of the caterpillar but it is very small so may not be clear. (You can click on the photo to see an enlargement)

© Alan Smith

2          From the field in 2.11 c), we saw a buzzard.
3         In the field with the missing waymark posts in b) and c) of the link to The Grasshopper Inn we saw      another large raptor.  It was dark blue/black in colour.  We couldn’t immediately identify.  It was similar in size to the buzzard (length of body and wingspan) but it was slimmer and sleek (no ragged edges on the wingspan).  On consulting my bird guides it seems that it was a Peregrine Falcon (in fact a drawing in one of my guides looks exactly like it).  The bird was calling as it flew and the sound of a peregrine on my CD of birdsong was, as far as I can recall, the same.  We only saw the bird for a short time before it flew out of site behind some woods and, unfortunately, I didn’t have my binoculars handy. 

I am particularly excited by the presence of buzzards and peregrine falcons in my area! 

Angela and Brian have been out further south on the Poundgate to Buxted section. 

Teasels seem to be having a good year in 2013.  From a wildlife point of view they are definitely desirable. We have lots of them in our Oxted garden and the bumble bees are loving them at the moment whilst they are in flower.  If you look closely at the upright stalk of a teasel plant, you will find the side stalks join it with a wraparound feature that collects water when it rains.  These little reservoirs provide water for small birds and other creatures.  During the winter the familiar dry seed heads of teasels attract birds, especially bullfinches.

July’s Mists And Mellow Fruitfulness

Well not what you’d expect in late July, but it certainly felt autumnal when we set out to check the VGW between Poundgate and Buxted (including a long but well-signed diversion brought about by a bank collapse – see for details).

It wasn’t a day for spotting fauna as the clouds were sitting low on the hills and the surrounding countryside. The birds, butterflies and other animals were in hiding.  We could just see the length of one field as we set off from the Crow and Gate PH at Poundgate.  Very atmospheric.

However, there was an abundance of Flora.  The hazelnuts, beech nuts and sycamore seeds reminded us that autumn is not too far off, as did the bramble flowers which will hopefully turn into luscious blackberries.  Spotted in the hedgerows were angelica and honeysuckle.  Quite widely spread was Himalayan balsam, an invasive species, which usually grows along streams.  However this was growing in the hedgerow along the road to Hurstwood without any apparent water source and in various farmyards and woods along the way.  Looking over a hedge we spotted a small vineyard. 

One of the fields along the route was planted with flax, with its pretty blue flowers, but past their best.  Also along the edge of this field were various thistles, mallow,  vetch and burdock.  Getting nearer to Buxted we passed near a pond with large patches of teasels and ragwort growing nearby.  Luckily there were no horses or cows in this field as ragwort is poisonous to both of them.  Just as we emerged on to the road to Buxted I spotted a lovely specimen of bracket fungus growing on someone’s wooden steps.

Not wild but looking very pretty were daylilies and waterlilies in a pond along Church Lane in Buxted when we were checking one of the links from the VGW to Buxted Station.

As the clouds lifted in the afternoon we did spot a white butterfly and a little orange moth.  The white butterfly was hanging on for dear life as the wind was trying to blow it off its perch.  The little orange moth was on a yellow daisy.  There were cows and sheep in the fields and, if only the sun had been out, the long grass in some of the fields would have been multi-coloured.  And we did see fallow deer from the train when we were on our way home.

Photos are indicated by words in bold italics, please click on the video below to see a slide show of our photos.

I'm sorry, I'm having technical problems with this video!  It should open from the blog post but isn't cooperating 100% of the time yet.  Instead, click on the purple one and click again when it opens in the web album.  I need one of those roadworks icons, hope to get it working properly soon!


Angela and Brian's VG way photos July Video

Many thanks to our contributors for this post.  Do check back shortly as I have also received a lot of photos for the most southern section thanks to Micky.


Sunday 21 July 2013

Early July - preheatwave

Speckled Wood butterfly - photo from the Butterfly Conservation website

While I have been travelling round northern Europe, members of the Vanguard Rambling Club have been out checking the route description to make sure the is up-to-date.  I heard my first cuckoo in Holland, no mention of cuckoos on the Vanguard Way yet this year! 

Report from Sue and Dave:

"The only fauna sighting we experienced was the settling of a brown butterfly with creamy yellow spots on Sue's sleeve at Brighton Station on its concourse for a full 2 minutes (2 mins. is a very long time in the life of a butterfly, so we guess Sue must consider herself privileged), and, of course, a plentiful supply of bunnies on the South Downs, not to forget
the  sighting  of  several  skylarks over the South Downs.  Incidentally, some years ago when we were on a week's walking holiday of the South Downs, whilst at Alfriston, we saw nightingales at dusk.
 In terms of flora, there were the usual suspects for late June/early July (geranium, possibly cranesbill, daisies, buttercups, ox-eye daisies, dog roses, periwinkle, red and white campion)."

Many thanks to Sue and Dave!  We have consulted the Butterfly Conservation website,  which has a very useful butterfly identifier, and are fairly confident Sue's butterfly was a Speckled Wood.  If you would like to identify a butterfly here's the link This charity also has a Big Butterfly Count in July and August which is helping to keep track of our butterfly population, rather like the RSPB one in January for garden birds.  Do take part if you can!

Michael and Jenice have also been out on the Vanguard Way and its links around Edenbridge.  Michael has submitted some rather fine photographs too.

© Michael Hartley

"The following are notes of wildlife found on our walk between Edenbridge and Marsh Green on 6 July 2013.

Speckled Wood butterflies were in evidence during most of our journey.  I was intrigued by a small, translucent, bright red butterfly that came towards me along the bank of the River Eden.  Tantalisingly, it sat on some long grass beside the river. Just as I prepared the camera, it flitted off. In fact, having done some Internet research, I believe that it was not a butterfly, but a Cinnabar moth.

Beside the river when crossing the wooden footbridge by the brick pill box (point k in the VGW description) there were damsel flies, one large dragon fly and bees.

Plants included, clover, buttercups, large daisies.  There were some red flowers that I think may have been Scarlet Pimpernels.

© Michael Hartley


 Close to the junction with Greybury Lane, stood two trees, the slimmer one apparently hugging the other."

© Michael Hartley

Many thanks to Michael and Jenice!  It's interesting that both reports refer to the same type of butterfly - though, having looked up butterfly details I was reminded that there are typical times for adults to be flying for different species.

The Scarlet Pimpernel always had a story attached to it when we were children - it is/was a weather forecaster in that open flowers indicate sunny weather and closed flowers indicate rain.  The Scarlet Pimpernel flowers will have been working overtime in the past few weeks of the UK heatwave!

So far as the 'hugging trees' go, I think your slimmer tree is in fact a well established ivy plant.

Michael's unidentified white flower has given me cause to scratch my head!  Which would be entirely appropriate if it is Hogweed as that can cause skin irritation, especially in sunshine and/or to susceptible people.  Otherwise, perhaps it is Wild Angelica or even Ground Elder?  To provide a proper identification we would need to see a leaf and/or the size of the plant.  However, it is a very fine photo!  Do any of our readers have an idea?

© Michael Hartley
Please send us a comment or email, enjoy your walking!

By the way, to get a better look at the photos, click on them and they will open up in a bigger window.



Sunday 23 June 2013

Flaming June

Although initially delayed by a hard winter and late spring, vegetation has been making up for lost time this month with a major growth spurt in all things green.  It seems that all the trees came out in flower at the same time and hay fever has been a big problem for lots of people this year, even those who don't normally suffer.

We await contributions of a more current nature but we have received some beautiful photos of deer taken by Catherine in March 2012.  She writes:

"Images numbers 1 and 3 are spotted fallow deer near Buxted on my way to Blackboys on March 22 of last year. Very close to the village, I was just beginning my walking day, it was still quite early in the morning when I was lucky enough to see the herd in an open field.  I was in the trees by the road and was able to observe them un-noticed for some time.  Of course curiosity brought me closer and closer to them, until they finally decided to move on.

Images numbers 20 and 21 are near Oxted, looks like a roe deer on May 29, 2012.  I was walking up a hill, watching a pretty old red tractor go back and forth through a green barley field.  Suddenly a little head popped out of the field and was watching me watch it.  He too, finally decided he’d had enough of me and scampered away with great leaps and bounds above the barley, allowing me to catch him mid-air."

© Catherine Ames Fallow Deer near Buxted
© Catherine Ames Fallow Deer near Buxted
© Catherine Ames Roe Deer near Oxted
© Catherine Ames Roe Deer near Oxted
Catherine has compiled a photo book using her pictures taken on her walk along the Vanguard way.  If you would like to take a look at her photos, click on the link below:
We are looking forward to receiving comments on this post and further contributions from users of our long distance footpath route or its link routes.  Please use our blog email address for new contributions.

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Spring is Sprung

Because of the severe winter of 2012/2013,  it is generally thought amongst gardeners, that plant development is about one month late.  To begin the blog, I made a quick trip to the Vanguard Way up at Limpsfield Chart.  I say 'up' and anyone walking there along the Vanguard Way in either direction will know that this is one of the higher sections of the route.  The wildflowers there were more typical of a normal April instead of May but  the altitude may be contributing to this retardation.

Date: 31.05.2013
Place: Limpsfield Chart, Surrey 
Time: Afternoon
Weather: Sunny and warm
Contributed by: Pam

Bluebells, which are very common in the Titsey, Oxted, Limpsfield and Limpsfield Chart areas, are looking good - by no means over.


The blue view is interspersed with white.  This year's must have flower of Chelsea Flower Show - the humble Cow Parsley is making a good show, as is the much shorter Stitchwort.



Hawthorn, common name  'May', is only just coming out into bloom here - on the last day of its month.  The Artist David Hockney loves working with May blossom as those who visited his exhibition last year will remember. 

 Rather a lot of flora I hear you say.  My final entry was to have been of fronds of bracken which are just uncurling but an interesting bright yellow spider came into the view too

 I have never seen one of these before - a quick internet search suggests it is a Flower Crab spider which is a species, common in southern England, that doesn't use webs to hunt its prey. It can also change colour according to whether it is on a yellow, green or white flower!

News from the south of the route
Fiona has sent in a brief summary of  May/early June sightings between Alfriston and Newhaven:
Yes, indeed, spring has been about one month late, as Pam comments. Lots of cowslips and cow parsley on the Downs now, the latter alongside the VGW between the Golden Galleon and Cuckmere Haven.  And there have been a lot of common spotted orchids.  There is sometimes another type of orchid (forget which) along the route of the VGW between the Coastguard Cottages and Hope Gap - will let Pam know if/when I spot it.
Other flowers: Cuckmere valley fields full of buttercups. Also seen lots of birdsfoot trefoil and along the cliff edges from Seaford Head down to Splash Point the thrift/sea pink is in full bloom. Along the Seven Sisters Vipers Bugloss and Yellow Horned Poppies are out in flower - though I'm not sure I've seen either along the cliffs between Cuckmere Haven and Seaford (ie VGW route). Strangely, one never sees thrift along the cliffs east of Cuckmere Haven - they seem to prefer the Seaford cliffs for some reason!
Birds:  Again along the route of the VGW between the GG and Cuckmere Haven my friend pointed out a whitethroat to me the other day and often comments on chaffinches along there (which she identifies by their song/call). There's a black swan in the Cuckmere at present - I've seen it a few times.
© Fiona Barltrop - South Downs Cowslips

© Fiona Barltrop - Cuckmere whitethroat
© Fiona Barltrop - Sea Thrift

If you have further information about any of these 'sightings', please do make a comment below. 

For sharing your experiences on the Vanguard Way month by month, please send us an email.