Friends of Beacon Hill

Friends of Beacon Hill Logo

We are an informal group of people who value and appreciate the local Beacon Hill Nature Reserve and give a little time and practical help to maintain and develop it. Anyone can join us.

We meet once a month for a couple of hours and work with Ranger Charlie Yates.  As a newly constituted group we plan to apply for funds for exciting projects – watch this space!

Beacon Hill Report 2015.16

Visit our Facebook page CLICK HEREfacebook

North Wood coppicing

Please be aware – we are currently coppicing the North Wood on the east side of Beacon Hill. This is traditionl method of woodland management.

Autumn light in the north wood

Jason Fisher

Chairman - Friends of Beacon Hill Nature Reserve

Bernadette Skinner

Secretary - Friends of Beacon Hill Nature Reserve

Beacon Hill Nature Reserve Map

History of Beacon Hill Nature Reserve

Beacon Hill covers approximately 45 acres and is mostly unimproved chalk grassland – not ploughed nor subject to agriculture in modern history. For many centuries this hill has been grazed by flocks of sheep in the same manner as elsewhere on the South Downs.

It is due to this constant grazing, that the Downs have become flora rich chalk grassland, much of which, during the last 40 years, has been lost to farming. Grazing was continued on this site till just after the Second World War.

In 2004, Beacon Hill was designated a Local Nature Reserve (LNR), by the Brighton & Hove City Council, and in company with Rottingdean Parish Council, the Beacon Hill Nature Reserve Working Group was formed, in order to have the hill returned to the typical flora rich Chalk Grassland that it once was. It is maintained for the benefit of wildlife and the enjoyment of the many people who walk on the hill throughout the year. Grazing by sheep assists in this management.

Work session


Beacon Hill Nature Reserve is home to numerous bird species which vary from season to season.

Residents – which you may expect to see all year round, include a small but stable population of Skylarks, which are a species of high conservation concern. They can be seen and heard as they climb and sing high over the hill.
These ground nesting birds are particularly vulnerable to disturbance in the spring and early summer, so please keep to the mown pathways to avoid disturbance. Among the commoner birds you may see are Goldfinches & Greenfinches. In the scrub on the eastern boundary, Magpies, Jays, Wood Pigeons & Collared Doves can be seen and heard. If you are lucky, you may come across a hovering Kestrel hunting over the hill.

Seasonal visitors – include the fast flying, predominantly blue and cream Swallows, black and white House Martins and the near black Swifts, the latter joining in fast flying, screaming parties, on late summer evenings. There are also various Warblers to be seen.


There are 19 species of butterflies to be seen at varying times during the summer months. The Common Blue has two broods, the first in June and a second in August to early September.

The Meadow Brown, & Marbled White, which is also of the brown family, can both be observed flying over the areas of long grass in July and early August.

The Gatekeeper, or Hedge Brown as it used to be called, prefers the areas bordering shrubs and is therefore in greater numbers near the scrub on the East side and the Euonymus bushes on the Western boundary.
The Small Skipper, Small Copper & Brown Argus are far less common and difficult to find.
The Small Skipper is the more common of the three and may be seen in July, mostly on the eastern and western slopes of the hill.

The Small Copper & Brown Argus are more numerous in August.


Over hundreds of years Beacon Hill was part of a nibbled landscape. When sheep grazing died out rabbits helped to keep the grass short. The dry conditions and thin, poor soil suit many species of wild flowering plants.

The flowering cycle begins in March/April with Common Dog Violets, quickly followed by nodding Cowslips. When early summer arrives, the hill comes into flower. Of the many common wild flowers of old pasture, you are likely to see here, there is Yellow Rattle, Yarrow, Lady’s Bedstraw & Bird’s Foot Trefoil , to name but a few. Some species are found exclusively on Chalk Grassland. If you look closely among the fine leaved grasses, you are sure to see the Round Headed Rampion, known as our ‘Pride of Sussex’; Small Scabious, the creamy white Dropwort & Hoary Plantain.

As the late summer season progresses, purple Knapweed comes into flower, Spear Thistle and Burdocks too. Early
in the year they form rosettes of leaves – good cover for a small spiral snail, Cochicella Acuta, that only lives on southern chalklands.

Fescue Downland grasses and plants come together on Beacon Hill to form a rich landscape to be enjoyed.

Visitors Code

Please observe the following…

  • Respect the Reserve and other users at all times.
  • Access by unauthorised vehicles is not permitted.
  • Horse riders are asked to keep to the Bridleways only, as indicated on the map.
  • Walkers are requested to keep to the mown pathways to avoid disturbing ground nesting birds and damaging the delicate Flora.
  • Dog owners are asked to clean up after their dogs and use the dog bins provided at the North & South entrances.
  • Please take your litter home with you

Whatever your reason for coming to this Reserve, we hope that you will have a very enjoyable visit!