Who would be a rabbit? It never fails to amaze me how herbivores can graze so readily on gorse Ulex europaeus with those fearsome spines, maintaining the bushes as tightly grazed mounds like the one in the photo (on Dungeness RSPB reserve yesterday). It must be nutritious! It takes an outbreak of a disease such as myxomatosis to allow these tightly grazed bushes to reach for the sky.
Gorse is a fairly localised species on Dungeness compared to broom Cytisus scoparius, which is much more abundant. It is thought by Ferry, Lodge and Waters (1989)* to be an indication of disturbance to the shingle vegetation, allowing gorse to colonise. Possible causes of the disturbance were postulated as wartime use of explosives, creating concentrated disturbance and associated chemical pollution which destroyed the original vegetation. This may be the case on some areas of Denge Beach where there are numerous impact craters, but are there other areas where gorse could be a natural part of the succession. It is frequently found around the margins of the shingle beach, on the RSPB Reserve and Lydd Ranges for instance. I wonder if its presence here is down to the presence of more fine material, such as sand and alluvium, mixed with the gravel?
* Focus on Nature Conservation no 26 Dungeness : a vegetation survey of a shingle beach. pub Nature Conservancy council, 1990.