A Trek Along Trolliloes Stream

Lurking in the rivers and streams of England are fish so prehistoric that they are without jaws, bones or scales. They have remained unchanged for up to 450 million years, and the smallest species lives right here in Trolliloes Stream. We are of course referring to the European brook lamprey, also known as the mud lamprey, Lampetra planeri, and the month of April is the best time of the year to see them in Trolliloes!

While many lamprey species are anadromous (meaning they migrate up rivers and streams to spawn), the European brook lamprey spends all of its 6-year life in fresh water. Additionally, they are not parasitic like the sea lamprey, Petromyzon marinus. They begin as small larvae (ammocoetes) partially-submerged in the gravel and mud that line the bottom of Trolliloes Stream, and feed on organic matter for 3-5 years. They then morph into their adult form, as pictured above. They build nests, using their newly-grown teeth and suckers to move pebbles, and once complete, the female attaches herself to a stone just upstream from their nest and lay eggs to be fertilised by the male. For a lamprey, changing into an adult has some drawbacks considerably worse than paying taxes; once their eggs have been laid and fertilised, their digestive systems are broken down, and they promptly die. After roughly a month, their eggs hatch and the larvae burrow into the sediment their parents had once occupied. The European brook lamprey doesn’t grow as large as the sea lamprey, reaching a maximum length of 14cm (5.5 inches), while their marine relatives can reach up to 120cm, or 47 inches! The name ‘lamprey’ comes from the Latin ‘lampetra’, literally meaning stone-licker (lambere = lick, petra = stone), which relates to their aforementioned breeding behaviour. Indeed, the Romans were very aware of the lamprey’s existence, with lampreys being eaten across the Roman empire. But the relationship was not always one-way; from 22BC to 15BC, the high-ranking Roman Vedius Pollio is said to have owned a pool of parasitic lampreys, feeding them with slaves who had displeased him. Lampreys are also blamed for the deaths of two English kings; described as a delicacy in Medieval England, lampreys were eaten by the important and wealthy, but apparently were not all that good for you. King John I and Henry I both died as a result of their poor diet, with the latter described as having died from a “surfeit of lampreys” in 1135. Perhaps the lampreys of Trolliloes stream are to blame! Lampreys are also thought to have inspired the legend of the dangerous Lambton Worm of the River Wear in the northeast of England, so don’t wander too close to the banks of Trolliloes!

In recent years, freshwater lamprey populations have declined as a result of man-made obstructions to river and stream flow. While our European brook lamprey appears to be managing these obstructions more successfully than the other two species found in UK waterways (the sea lamprey, Petromyzon marinus, and the river lamprey, Lampetra fluviatilis), its populations have too declined. Trolliloes Stream is therefore an important habitat and we need to make sure we protect it in order to preserve these incredible and ancient, albeit ugly, local residents.

Ed Stroud & Olly Morgan

Locked down?
But not locked in
Look up at blue sky
Sailing free as a swallow
Look down – brown earth
Offers hope above and below
No judgements on life
Just a longing for loving hands
To unlock hearts.

By Julia Desch

Vicious Attack in Broad Daylight 12/2/21

On 12/2/21 a vicious attack took place in Bodle Street, in broad daylight. I was walking on my own down a little lane when I became aware of my assailant. I had no idea I was being followed, much less that I was about to become the victim of a prolonged assault on my person. First my boots, then my legs, then my coat. I stopped, turned round and came face to face with my attacker. He was small and slim of build, youthful and cocksure. I greeted him, hoping that my acknowledging his presence would be enough, but no, he spun round in front of me and continued his unprovoked attack. He became very verbal; I think he was swearing but I’m not entirely sure as he spoke a foreign language. He decided to take his assault to the next level. I had a bottle of water in my pocket and I threw the contents at him but he was not phased. I shook my gloves at him, again it had no effect. Without warning he jumped me, claws and beak to the fore and made contact with my thighs and hand. It hurt but thankfully due to the intense cold I was well wrapped up and he did not draw blood. If I turned round, he would follow, fixing me with his beady eyes, alternating his attack on my boots and legs with flying up to waist height. I tried to push him away with my feet but he just increased his intensity.         

I picked up a stick and tried to fend him off but he broke it. I was afraid that he might go for my head when I bent down to pick up a branch that had fallen off the pine tree. Then he went up the small banked verge, as if he was about to launch a high-level attack. He ran beside me, then, he seemed to think he had put me through enough and at the Trumpets Lane sign he turned round and strutted back the way he had come. How long does it normally take to walk from one end of Trumpets Lane to the other? A minute? That day it took me ten whole minutes! I have since heard on the grapevine that Mr. Pheasant is on the village security payroll, employed to keep the “riff raff of Redpale” away from the beau monde of Bodle Street, and not necessarily just during the pandemic. Apologies if anyone heard my language that day, I may have used the odd profanity when he made contact with my person. My parting shot to his rapidly disappearing back was that if he attacked me again, he would end up in the pot. Should he deny the event, I have it on video…….

Briony Allen

Historic Highways and Countryside High Streets

A recent conversation with a friend revealed that he had seen an old map belonging to a local blacksmith showing all the forges which once existed in Warbleton and surrounding parishes.  These forges all had their own blacksmiths with personal style of tools and the greatest concentration was around Cade Street. This led on to discussion about Cade Street (formerly Cattes/Carte Street) and its pivotal role in the connecting landscape of the High Weald.From Anglo-Saxon times, through the medieval period and later– up to the 19th Century – all routes and roads led to and from Cade Street. It was the veritable centre of the universe. In  Kelly’s Directory of 1867 there is mention of  5 Blacksmiths,  3 Saddlers and  2 Harness Makers,  a Vet,  and a Wheelright as well as Carriers and Livery Stables. Cade Street  also linked the King’s Highway going north and the Queen’s Highway going south.

The twice annual transhumance of animals, goods and people from the Downs to the High Weald and beyond was  begun thousands of years ago. It wound its way over fords, heathland, bottomless clay , through forests and round deer parks bringing sheep for overwintering in the High Weald, taking clay for ceramics down to Bishopstone, offering reapers employment on the Downs in summer and paid for in corn, driven by oxen back up before winter rains made the old ways impassable.  Lying between the two ridges running East /West  (now the A265 and B2096) Carte Street was linked by The Alley or Halley Road. Tottingworth Castle Mound still shows today on the left opposite Tottingworth Abattoir.  

Fairs at Old Heathfield (Heffle Fair), and Woods Corner (once Hoods Corner) were essential selling opportunities long before it was allowed to peddle your wares over the garden gate. “Drovers” and “Lookers”  were hired to move cattle and sheep along the strategic routes from as far as Romney Marsh, down to Lewes, over to Uckfield and beyond.  Pubs and Forges were set up near fairs for buying and selling stock on the way and pubs often had a field for horses overnight.  Imagine the sight of  thousands of sheep all hurdled up in different pens at Lewes  annual Sheep Fair. On their way they were swum through water upstream (hence Sheep Wash Lane) to clean their fleeces. The expression Black Gold came from the valuable dunging of the South Downs  by sheep for growing corn. Every small farm had to have access to a road  and water of some kind – so today we still have evidence of local sandstone quarries and bays along the verges, as well as wider meadow fragments, higher passing routes, former fords and long ponds where stock could be fed, watered and rested en route for their market destinations. It took 12 Drovers to walk 300 head of cattle from Wales down to Sussex with pre-planned stop-overs at Inns for grazing and water and payment for farmers.

This sense of history and transport lies behind the 5 Strategic Routes put forward to East Sussex County Council for conservation by  Wild About Warbleton  in 2020. WAW is excited by their recent  recognition  for adoption and the opportunity  to enhance and honour the history and the living landscape which this can enable. Many of these verges still belong to the County Council and it is hoped that with wide community co-operation  we can re-create the rich bio-diversity which once existed along these Routes.  North Road is perhaps the most significant rising from Pebsham Bridge through Bodle Street via Dallington and beyond with its 11 Byways and Bridleways joining it at intervals on the way and steep sided banks deeply cut out. All these provide a rich variety of habitats for all forms of wild life.

We will be contacting residents along these Routes again in the next few weeks to highlight how we can all play a part in protecting and showing our concern for their preservation, which is now under pressure by vehicle use and climate disruption as never before.

Julia Desch, Wild about Warbleton