Old Roar Gill and Coronation Wood – through the lens of Sid Saunders

Photographer Sid Saunders is well known for his great photographs of the town and he has recently published a series of shots he has taken in Old Road Gill and Coronation Wood, part of Alexandra Park.

Sid says: “Little Roar Gill waterfall was my destination situated in the Old Roar Gill part of Coronation Wood to the north end of Alexandra Park. The last time I paid it a visit was last winter.

“The first photos show the Gill iced up in the winter and the others are from this week. Overhanging trees mean the sun has trouble getting down into the valley making it very dark.

“If you can try to have a walk here, it’s well worth a visit.”

Photographs from last winter.

The ancient gill woodland within Old Roar Gill is part of the secondary woodland within Coronation Wood. There are many rare and scarce liverworts, mosses and lichens occur within the gill. The regionally scarce toothwort grows here as well as in the rest of Alexandra Park.

A rare endemic cranefly, Lipsothrix nervosa, has been found living in the gill as well as the nationally scarce snail Macrogastra rolphii.

Spotted flycatchers, grey wagtails and kingfishers can also be found here either breeding or visiting from nearby breeding sites.

Old Roar is a deeply cut narrow valley running along the path of a stream that starts from the sandstone ridge to the North of Hastings and runs through Alexandra Park and eventually to the sea. The soft rock has enabled the stream to cut down for a considerable distance over the centuries.

The name Old Roar is from one of the two waterfalls at the heart of the gill where the stream plunges over harder rock. After heavy rain the falling water makes a roaring sound. The word gill is popular in Sussex, meaning steep sided valley and can also be spelt as Ghyll.

Gills in general are a haven for wildlife and plants. The continuous tree cover creates a damp and shady microclimate and coupled with the sandstone rock allows for some remarkable rare ferns, mosses and liverworts, plus the insects and creatures that thrive among them.

Old Roar Gill has a rich diversity of woodland flowering plants including bluebells, red campions, yellow archangel, lady’s smock, primroses, violets and toothwort.

One of the rarer insects of Old Roar Gill breeds in the wet dead wood is a cranefly known as Lipsothrix Nervosa. This is fast becoming a rare species in Britain and can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

The Gill is a perfect habitat for a variety of birds including the kingfisher, spotted flycatcher, grey wagtail and lesser spotted woodpecker.

On the upper slopes of the gill is a thick covering of mature woodland, some of it still in existence from ancient forest and some that has regenerated of it’s own accord after clear-felling, plus some that has been planted.

Pictures from this week

Coronation Wood is a good example of the later with its wide variety of tree species that were planted in 1937 as part of a scheme to celebrate King George VI. Further trees and replacements have been added since.

Coronation Wood is managed as amenity woodland with trees being allowed to mature fully being the feature of most importance. Many of the trees are oaks that have been grown from acorns gathered in Windsor Great Park.

Nature can take it’s toll on the trees down in there.

The lower section of Old Roar Gill and the land that is now Coronation Wood were purchased by Hastings Borough Council between1930 and 1935, and in 1995 the upper section was purchased too. The whole area was declared a local nature reserve in 2002 with support of English Nature.

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