The Foresters of Lewes

/ in Lewes by Marek

Having walked most paths on the South Downs, from Eastbourne to Beacon Hill, over a period of years with a friend serves me well when it comes to Field walks in search of day flying moths and butterflies.

Although time restraints during these early walks prevented me from spending too much time recording moths or butterflies due to the distances involved, it did provide me with a knowledge of areas where I could return later.

Lewes was always going to be a place I would return many times to due to its stunning scenery and wealth of wildlife.

It was on one of my favourite walks from Glynde to Lewes where we encountered our first Forester which we had confirmed later by our friend as the Scarce Forester due to the shape of its antennae.

Panoramic landscape shot of the South Downs in Lewes
I am the blot on the landscape.

Further research revealed that there are in fact three Foresters in total all of which are in decline due to habitat, so we made a conscious decision there and then to see if we could record the other two.

We had no success on subsequent walks from Glynde so turned our attention to a more likely area overlooking Lewes called Malling Down.

This is another place I knew rather well and had visited on several occasions but, as with all popular sites, the best results proved to be when we walked off the beaten track a way.

It was on one of these field trips a month later in 2013 when we managed to record our first Forester at this location.

This left the Cistus Forester as the one remaining though it proved to be the most elusive and took us a further three years to locate and many visits, even though we were convinced the area we searched provided a suitable habitat with an abundance of its food plant - Rock Rose.

One of the difficulties faced was the relatively high numbers of the newly found Foresters on the wing within the same area we were searching.

It really proved to be like searching for a needle in a haystack as the main determining factor was size, so we decided to measure them first, instead of taking endless shots to limit the number of further disappointments.

Measuring a species resting on a flower by holding a ruler next to it
Size does matter.

Our efforts eventually proved successful and we were delighted when our county recorder confirmed this for us.

Although we do not need to record Foresters any more does not mean that we do not pay a keen interest at noting their numbers when we visit Lewes in search of further records.

We have visited the locations mentioned regularly and have managed some good records including the Silver-spotted Skipper which retains a stronghold here.

Two Silver-spotted skippers back to back, their abdomens connected, presumably for reproduction
Back to Basics.

Aside from the scenery and wildlife, Lewes town itself holds another attraction in the form of the Harveys Brewery where the aroma of hops as you approach the river on the way to the car park lures you into one of their hostelries for suitable refreshment after an enjoyable walk.

Dray horse pulling a cart, in the town of Lewes
A Dray to remember.