Get back to nature at Gradwell Park

Diary posted

14th July 2021

We recently launched Gradwell Park, our new community in East Sussex, and this lovely location offers the best of both worlds – with a great social hub at the heart of the community but stunning nature around the site too.

Gradwell Park offers a games lawn, BBQ and seating area and allotments which look out over the rolling hills of the South Downs and if you’re lucky enough, you can have this view from your window or balcony too. And the community has a nature walk which takes you around the fringes of the site, past the stunning South Down views but also through a stunning tree-side walk too.

Our Grounds Supervisor at Gradwell Park, Sophie Drinkwater, has been out assessing what nature we have on offer here, in anticipation of its growth as we install bird boxes, bug hotels and wild flower areas to encourage nature to thrive in and around Gradwell Park.

She has pulled together some really interesting information about what’s currently happening here, with the hope that we can report back as we see or invite more animals or flora and fauna into this area.


Sophie’s diary:

Let’s start with some of our four legged friends. Gradwell is lucky enough to have a Great Crested Newt as a neighbour. The Great Crested Newt also known as the ‘Warty Newt’ is a protected amphibian in the UK and the country’s largest and rarest of the species. These mini-looking dinosaurs breed in ponds during the spring time and spend the rest of the year feeding in hedgerows, woodland and marshes.

I’ve also been looking at some of the magnificent trees we have on the site. We have lots of trees you can spot – Field Maple, Black Alder, Sweet Cherry, English Oak, Hazel, Common Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Holly, Common Hornbeam and Beech. Read more about how you can distinguish these trees below.

Acer campestre – Field Maple
One of the best native trees for autumn colour. Watch for the dark green lobed leaves turning yellow as the season changes. This tree supports wildlife from caterpillars to their predators and is great at resisting air pollution.

Alnus glutinosa – Black Alder
The natural habitat of this native tree is moist ground such as by rivers, ponds and lakes as the bark does not become waterlogged. Dark green leaves have serrated edges and an indented tip, mature trees can reach a height of 28m and live to be 60 years old.

Prunus avium – Sweet Cherry
The beautiful blossoms of this native tree make it one of the prettiest. Look out for the shiny deep red bark covered in cream coloured horizontal markings. The bright red fruits are enjoyed by birds and mammals making the tree valuable to wildlife.

Quercus robur – English Oak
Reaching up to 40m tall the oak has earned the crown of England’s national tree. You’ll recognise this tree by its distinctive lobed leaves and its acorns.  Oak forests also support more wildlife than any other native forest.

Corylus avellana – Hazel
Identify this tree by the round double toothed leaves that are hairy to the touch, and keep an eye out for hazelnuts in winter – a snack adored by humans and wildlife! The hazel tree can live up to 80 years but if coppiced can survive for hundreds.

Crataegus monogyna – Common Hawthorn
Known for their highly scented flowers the blossom of the Hawthorn is a sign of spring turning into summer. This tree is a haven for wildlife and are normally found along our hedgerow. Identify this tree by looking out for the spiny twigs and deeply lobed leaves.

Prunus spinosa – Blackthorn
Living for up to 100 years the blackthorn is early to blossom and produces dark fruits best known for their use in sloe gin. Leaves are toothed and oval shaped with a point on the end and appear after the show of white flowers in April – May.

Ilex aquifolium – Holly
This native evergreen is recognised by its bright red berries and dark glossy leaves. Younger trees have spiky leaves and the leaf of the older plant is smoother. This festive looking native can live up to 300 years old and provides shelter for birds and hedgehogs.

Carpinus betulus – Common Hornbeam
Reaching a height of 30m and living for more than 300 years hornbeams can be identified by its pale grey bark and clusters of papery brown seeds in autumn. Leaves are oval and pointed with toothed edges, they turn yellow/orange in autumn but remain on the tree during winter.

Fagus sylvatica – Beech
Young leaves are lime green, gradually turning a darker colour as they mature. The leaves are normally retained during winter making this native plant popular as hedging. Look out for beech nuts that are encased in spiky four lobed seed cases.

Aside from our long-standing tree residents and the beginnings of some amphibian friends, I’ve also spotted a pheasant or two strutting around but now we’ve laid our grass, plants and wild flowers around the community we hope it won’t be long until we have more, so stay tuned to see what we have to report next time!