Dressed appropriately for predicted showers 20 keen members of Ferring Conservation Group set out on a ‘Tree Identification Walk’ led by Tricia Hall our Group’s knowledgeable wildlife expert.
Our route took us from the Bluebird Café car park in Ferring along the west bank of the River Rife and across to Kingston Village. Jane Hayman from Ferring Conservation Group said ‘Tricia challenged us to try to identify 10 trees along the way and gave us further facts to add to our knowledge as we came to each tree’.
The first tree correctly identified by the walkers was a White Poplar. This untidy looking tree has dark green-grey leaves with a white downy underside. The bark is pale grey with lines of black diamond-shaped pores called lenticels. Once fertilised female catkins develop into fluffy cotton-like seeds.
Further along the bank a graceful Crack Willow was spotted, one of 300 species of willow worldwide. It is one of Britain’s largest native trees and is named after the sound made when its branches and twigs fall to the ground. It is found growing alongside rivers and lakes and is often planted to stabilise banks. The willow tree bark is a source of salicylic acid. This substance is used to produce aspirin, one of the most popular pharmaceutical agents.
As a kestrel hovered overhead we headed west away from the river towards Kingston Village. Treading carefully along the muddy paths we successfully identified an English Elm tree and Tricia informed us that ‘Dutch Elm Disease’ actually originated in trees in the USA. The word ‘Dutch’ was applied because the disease was identified by phytopathologists in Holland. This disease is caused by a fungus invading the water conducting system of trees and has killed over 60 million British elms in two epidemics and continues to spread today.
As our Group headed back towards the west bank of the Rife we came across a majestic Perdunculate or English Oak tree. These trees grow to between 20 to 40 metres tall and have leaves that typically have little stem and grow in bunches. Its fruit, commonly known as the acorn, grow on long stalks and are a popular food for squirrels. For thousands of years Oak was the prized hardwood timber used for ship building until the mid-nineteenth century, and remains a popular wood for house building. It is commonly used today for flooring, furniture, and wine barrels.
As our walk came to an end and we made our way northwards to the Country Centre for some well-deserved refreshment we reflected on our eye-opening journey into our dependence on trees and the benefits they have to all mankind and how every tree has its own story to tell.
Crabs and Sharks
16 Conservation Group members met at 5.30pm in the Bluebird cafe car park for a warm and sunny early evening visit to the Black Rocks at West Kingston. We were taking advantage of the exceptional spring tide following the ‘supermoon’ of the day before. The moon was at its perigee, its shortest distance from the earth, appearing 14 per cent larger and 30 percent brighter than when at its furthest point. This ‘pull’ by the moon had produced a 6.5 metre high tide (or 22 feet, about the height of a house) and a corresponding very low tide which exposed the rocks.
We approached the rocks via the green sward at Kingston Gorse and then picked our way gingerly across the slippery rocks and pebbles, our goal being several hundred metres from the beach. The Black Rocks are lumps of conglomerate and appear dark because they are covered in the brown seaweed, Serrated Wrack.
Another strange animal was a tiny Coat-of-mail Shell or Chiton which is like a limpet with 8 articulated shell plates. It is a primitive mollusc, a ‘missing link’ between segmented worms and snails.
Our most exciting find, however, was a small shark apparently trapped in shallow water as the sea rapidly retreated. We identified it as a Lesser-spotted Dogfish. It was about 80 cm long and seemed a bit surprised to be the centre of attention!
At 7.0pm, the tide was on the turn and the sun was just sinking below the horizon so we retraced our steps with the background of a beautiful sunset and by the time we got back to Ferring the bats were out and a Tawny Owl was heard.
This popular outing was again led by Tricia Hall with Sue Palmer lending a hand with identification.
We’re holding 2 separate practical work days coming up soon in the village – can you help us?
Firstly, we’re working on cutting back the undergrowth around our planted trees on the Rife. This will be at 10am on Weds 14th Oct (please note this date has changed from the one announced at the last meeting). Meet at the footbridge over the Rife for an hour’s work – no more! Please wear suitable clothing including gloves, and bring your own shears (or similar) if possible.
Secondly, in conjunction with Ferring Parish Council, we’ll be carrying out the annual cutting back of undergrowth around the Warren Pond .This one is on a Saturday morning – Sat 7th Nov, also from 10am. Please meet by the pond at The Warren, and wear clothing/ bring shears as above. A skip has been hired again for all the debris, so we need to fill it!
We hope to see you there to carry out these essential tasks.