The winter 2012/13 was the final in a succession of three severe winters for Sussex. Although they were not in the same league as the documented great frosts of the 20th Century such as 1917, 1947 or 1963 they had an impact on wildlife and habitats. The coast at St Leonards was exposed to sub zero easterly winds in the late winter of 2013 and also during March and April. Shingle vegetation at the end of March that year had scarcely begun to emerge. Alexanders had not advanced, a plant that often provides mining bees with nectar and pollen in mid March had not managed to grow, let alone flower.
Above. March 12th 2013. The coast hit by freezing easterlies and the seawater coming up against snow.
Above. Bulverhythe fields and Pebsham. March 2013.
Above. March 31st 2013. Vegetation subdued and privet bushes badly scorched by frost.
Filsham reedbeds and other wetland habitats are within the catchment of the Combe Valley drainage. When Bulverhythe was developed the canalisation of the seaward end seems to have joined the drainage with that of South Saxons. The canalled river and stream come out to the shore through the lock and the Bulverhythe sluice. It is quite a complicated arrangement and people passing along the Bexhill Road often do not realise how large the catchment area upstream really is, as the valley cannot be seen from the coast.
The pictures above show the Combe where it comes past the Bulverhythe fields and the holiday park. The bank is being raised by an artificial wall sunk into the earth and then is being landscapes over with earth. The water level is very high after the wet winter so far.
The big ditch running across the Bulverhythe fields drains water from the western area towards Pebsham and connects with the Combe Haven. In early Victorian times these fields were still saltings – the habitats would have been very attractive and undamaged. Apparently wildfowlers from London were responsible for a good part of the early demand for lodgings in parts of St Leonards.
South of Bexhill Road where the drainage from South Saxons meets the canalised Combe Haven drainage the wet winter has sent down so much water that the bank was being undercut. Here tall steel piles are being driven down to create a secure reinforcement for the bank.