A walk to see wildfowl and raptors on reclaimed saltings
AT THE TIME of the Norman conquest, the large area of wetland between Eastbourne and Bexhill-on-sea, now known as the Pevensey Levels, would have been saltmarsh and flooded by the sea at hide tide. Over the subsequent years, the shingle sea wall has been reinforced and drainage channels and ditches dug to deliver a wide open landscape for stock-grazing and arable crops. Small reedbeds and marshes can still be found beside the dykes, which support a variety of plant life, while winter rains results in floods and flashes forming in saturated fields. Hooe Level is one of the more diverse sections of Pevensey Levels and, as such, parts have SSSI and NNR status, while there is also a small Sussex Wildlife Trust reserve nearby. The foreshore, golf links, scrub and a small wood all add to the habitat variety, affording a wide range of birds on offer throughout the walk here. The rough grassland of the level is the perfect spot for any incoming Short-eared Owls or Merlins to hunt, while other raptors can include Hen Harrier and, in late afternoons, Barn Owl. Feral goose flocks sometimes attract a few White-fronts and occasionally a Pink-foot or tundra Bean Goose, while Bewick’s Swans are not unknown, and keep an eye out for a wintering Great White Egret. Parking is limited on the Hooe Level so it is advisable to park in Bexhill-on-sea and follow the planned route. The foreshore can deliver waders and seabirds and once a rare Desert Wheatear, so keep an open mind along the way.