If you head south from Devil’s Dyke, with Fulking Hill to the right and Adder’s Bottom to the left you will arrive at a small hill called Mount Zion, the east side of which is a curve of sloping Downland dotted with scrubby trees. On my first visit in early November I took a direct route through the fields and climbed a fence, not entirely sure if it was open access. On my second visit there were cows and bulls in both fields so I followed the Sussex Border Path and found a proper gate into the area which was grazed by sheep. Each time, while walking I found myself with ‘By the Rivers of Babylon’ going round and round in my head. I tried, but failed, to replace it with some Bob Marley or an old hymn. Anything less annoying than the Boney M song, (it had to have zion in the lyrics!)
On my first walk across the fields Adder’s Bottom was quite mossy, covered with common Calliergonella cuspidata and Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus. Some chalk grassland flowers were just about hanging on in the cold, but I was still in well recorded TQ21K so I didn’t spend long here.
Climbing a fence into the access area the muddy ground was dotted with Phascum cuspidatum. Steep areas of grassland with bare patches of earth had Dicranella varia and Fissidens taxifolius. Zygodon conoideus was growing on Gorse in a small copse and other common epiphytes were coating small Sycamore and Hawthorn trees. Nothing very exciting but it was a nice spot and worth a return visit.
Following the footpath on my second visit, a couple of weeks later, I paused to check the bare soil in an arable field. There was much Bryum argenteum, B. klinggraeffii (with lots of tiny tubers), Barbula unguiculata and B. sardoa and a strong brassica smell.
One patch of trees on the north-west facing slope of Mount Zion was particularly green with epiphytes. Orthotrichum diaphanum and Syntrichia papillosa were dark green but gave a scruffy look to the branches, probably because of the hair points on their leaves. Cololejeunea minutissima and Metzgeria consanguinea gave a contrasting vivid lime green coating to the branches of Hawthorn, the tiny leaves and star-shaped perianths of the former and clusters of gemmae on the latter reflecting the slanting, winter sun.
This tetrad is in West Sussex but it’s good to find new, unexplored patches within walking distance of Devil’s Dyke.