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.

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.