FCG Southdowns Bird Walk 31st October 2017

With ideal weather conditions on our side members of Ferring Conservation Group met at Michelgrove Lane on the Angmering Park Estate, in the hope of seeing a variety of bird life.  We were not disappointed. This private estate extends to over 6,750 acres and is owned by the Trustees of the late Bernard, 16th Duke of Norfolk with its origins going back to the Norman Conquest.

As we made our way along the lane towards Harrow Hill, pausing to hear the distinctive call of Pheasants, we sighted both male and females foraging in fields along with Jackdaws and Ravens. As a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew past we noticed Hazel catkins, Blackthorn berries, commonly known as Sloe, wild Rose-hips, Field Maple, Dogwood and Ash lining the edges of the lane. Walking further up the Downs a Buzzard could be heard calling and then appeared on the horizon pursued by two Crows. A shrill call alerted us to a Skylark perched on telephone wires, a Corn Bunting, several Meadow Pipits, a chaffinch and a Song Thrush were also seen in the vicinity.

After negotiating two stiles and a particularly slippery footpath, Black Patch Hill came into view and Common Gulls, Partridge, including Red-legged Partridge, Stock Doves and Woodpigeon were seen in distant fields, and silhouetted against the skyline three Buzzards were seen perched in a tree. As we turned to make our way back we were rewarded with the sight of two Red Kite circling high above us pursued by Crows, and a Kestrel hovering over a field searching for prey. Having once again found our way back to the lane a Chiff Chaff and three Goldcrest were spotted in the bushes. As we neared our starting point a Stoat crossed the lane directly in front of us and quickly disappeared into the undergrowth, adding yet another interesting sighting to our morning.

Together with the more common birds we noted some 25 species as well as several Red Admiral butterflies along the way. We thanked our guide, Clive Hope, for an enjoyable and informative walk and we all agreed this was a worthwhile exercise.

A Walk around Horsham

On a blustery October morning around 20 members of Ferring Conservation Group met at Horsham Museum for a guided tour to discover some of the hidden secrets of this historic town with our guide for the day, Patricia Hall. This walk followed the trail in the book written and beautifully illustrated by Patricia about Horsham, entitled ‘Armchair Walks in Sussex’.

Patricia began by explaining that the name Horsham comes from ‘Horse Meadow’; a place where horses, cattle and sheep could graze in clearings in the forest.

The impressive Town Hall was our first stop and Patricia captured our imaginations as she described a scene from Elizabethan times when the ground floor was an open arcade and various stalls selling poultry, butter and such like produce was known as the ‘Market House’. The upper floor was where the County Court sat. The ten small ‘holding’ cells in the basement still exist although their windows are now bricked up. The Market House was rebuilt in 1812 by the Duke of Norfolk and his coat of arms can be seen on the front wall.

As we turned into the entrance of Pump Alley, one of several narrow alleyways, we noticed the hinged, wooden letter box on the wall at the site of Horsham’s first Post Office. It was here that letters could be handed directly to the postmaster who sat behind.

We retraced our steps and turned into a pretty road called ‘Causeway’, Patricia pointed out a wall plaque on number 8 Causeway which commemorates the War Hospital Supply Depot. This was established in 1915, during the First World War, to collect materials for hospital use to send to war zones in Europe.

Jane Hayman from the Group said “As we strode along Patricia encouraged us to turn our attention to the skyline and note the many diverse styles of architecture which makes this lovely town so special. We were also made aware of the many houses in the Causeway that employ large slabs of sandstone in their roofs extracted locally and known as Horsham Stone or Slates’.

 The Museum is not only a beautiful medieval timber-framed building but also houses many fascinating artefacts. The Blazing Saddles room at the rear displayed a variety of bicycles, an old fire engine and also the unique ‘Pentacycle’, invented by a Horsham business man but unfortunately it was not a success. Crime and Punishment is the theme to another of the exhibitions, displaying keys, handcuffs and truncheons from the County Gaol which was demolished in 1845. As we turned into Morth Gardens we noticed the pretty cottages and then turned right into Denne Road and pass Drill Hall and the Lychgate to Denne Road Cemetery on our way to St Mary’s Church. The tall church spire is 156 feet high (nearly 48 metres) and has over 50,000 shingles (wooden tiles) as these are lighter than traditional tiles.

Once again we retraced our steps and headed along the Causeway back to the Museum and completed our walk at our starting point. As we thanked Patricia for a very enjoyable and informative walk, we all agreed that Horsham is indeed a lovely town with considerable historic interest.

FCG members do their bit for the village

Members of the Group this week teamed up with volunteers organised by West Sussex County Council to improve the 3 footpaths leading from the village to the Ferring Rife – these are at the far ends of Brook Lane, Clover Lane and Ferringham Way. The paths had been overgrown by vegetation and the surfaces were extremely muddy in places despite some work having been completed by the Group early in 2016. This was the latest in a series of practical projects around the village.

Around 20 volunteers from both organisations cut back brambles, nettles and overhanging branches among other things, using hand and power tools, and between them laid a total of 5 large builder’s bags of the MOT hard-core material to give the paths a firm and more stable surface. The material was supplied by local builders merchants, Benton Weatherstone, who were very helpful in the arrangements, and it was paid for by Ferring Parish Council, with whom the Group works very closely to enhance the village.

At the end of a hard morning’s work (but which included a welcome coffee break organised by the WSCC volunteer co-ordinator), all three paths’ borders had been cut back and the surfaces were left in a good state due to the addition of the hard-core, which will allow residents and visitors to reach the river in comfort even after adverse weather. Thank you to all those who helped out on the day.

On the previous weekend, nearly 30 FCG members carried out the last Beach Clean of the year on Ferring beach. The whole stretch between the bottom of Sea Lane and the Bluebird Cafe and beyond was thoroughly cleaned, with potentially damaging litter being removed. Results of the clean were forwarded to the Marine Conservation Society as this was part of their Big Beachwatch weekend and will help form a picture of the problem nationally.

One of the most rewarding parts of the clean was finding under a breakwater a lost smartphone, wallet, credit cards and cash. After members of the team made a number of enquiries locally to trace the owner, we were able to find her on the beach when she saw the litter pickers in their high vis-jackets, and the phone and other items were safely re-united with a very grateful lady.

 

FCG Members and Beavers Group – Beach Walk June 2017

In June, 3 members of the Ferring Conservation Group met up with the Beavers associated with the 2nd Worthing Scouts on the beach at Sea Lane.

Beavers are the youngest members of the Scout movement, and are aged between 6 and 8 years.  They are given the chance to take part in a wide range of activities, including working on Badge and Challenge awards, to gain recognition of their achievements. Our meetings were intended to support them in this goal.

At our first meeting, on a very windy day, there were 14 Beavers. Working in pairs, they were set on a Treasure Hunt to find a variety of natural objects on the beach. This was taken on with great enthusiasm, and led to demonstrations of their knowledge of a shoreline environment. Each pair then turned their shells, seaweed, cuttlefish bones and egg cases into ‘portraits’ with some amusing results.

Our second meeting, with much better weather, saw the Beavers kitted out with hi-viz jackets, rubber gloves, litter pickers and sacks. They worked in teams of 2 and made their way along the beach picking up litter. They then sorted the litter into different materials. They talked about what they had found, the materials the litter was made up of, and the danger that this presented for our environment.

These events were good fun, enhanced by the keen interest shown by the Beavers, and the reassurance that young people know and care about their environment. Ferring Conservation Group were pleased to help out and enjoyed themselves as much as the Beavers!.

Visit to Warnham Nature Reserve July 2017

On 11th July, 10 members of Ferring Conservation Group met at Warnham Nature Reserve near Horsham. It was pouring with rain, but, undeterred, our guide Jacob Everitt, ecologist and reserve warden for Horsham D.C., netted a Common Blue Damselfly roosting by a pond and gave us a lively demonstration of its anatomy. He showed us how to handle damselflies and dragonflies, their differences and life cycles. We now know the difference between pterostigma and antehumeral stripes!

Fortunately the weather improved and we set out across the meadow to identify the many wild flowers and Jacob netted a Black-tailed Skimmer so we all had an in-hand view of a dragonfly. Few butterflies were about, but a perfect Small Copper was found. The star plant was a Broad-leaved Helleborine, a large member of the orchid family. Little was seen in and around the dipping ponds apart from an accommodating pike. We completed our visit with snacks in the cafe and a brief look for birds from the hides. A brand new hide is closed because a pair of Reed Warblers  built a nest right in front of the viewing area. When the babies have fledged the hide will be opened to the public.

Patricia Hall

Highdown Nature Walk July 2017

Around 15 members turned up on a rather hot day to look at birds, flowers and butterflies.We met at the Highdown car park and set off round the top of the gardens, with Tricia Hall in charge of identifying wildlife. 

The grass meadow was alive with grasshoppers and many meadow brown butterflies, plus a few burnet moths. Assorted wildflowers were present, and as we reached the western edge, the number of pyramidal orchids semi-hidden in the grass rose, with a good patch behind the commemorative bench at the western edge. We proceeded through a gap to the hill above the covered reservoir, which last year had been a magnificent sight due to thousands of pyramidal orchids, but this year, unfortunately, Southern Waters’ contractors have regularly mown it, and all have been cut. (Next year Graham plans to contact them in advance to remind them of their undertaking to leave the majority of it uncut between May and September).

There were still a number of the orchids around the outer edge of the reservoir, and also clovers, birds’ foot trefoil, eyebright and meadow vetchling within the grasses.

Around the lower edge of the reservoir the plants included agrimony, hemp agrimony, St John’s wort, selfheal, red campion and vervain. Some gatekeeper butterflies were seen as well as meadow browns, common blues and also more 6 spot burnet moths. Chiff chaffs and whitethroats could be heard.

The party split into 2 groups, one going down the track, the other through the rough meadow (the one which has been threatened with eco-yurts) in the hope of seeing some late bee orchids still in flower, but only seed heads could be found. Some pyramidal orchids were visible, and a few seed heads of marsh orchids. Several marbled white butterflies were seen, and some cinnabar moth caterpillars.

The party reunited to go through onto the public meadow above the sports field, and common mallow, meadow cranesbill and scabious were noted. A kestrel, sparrow hawk and red kite were spotted.

The trip was rounded off with a visit to Highdown cafe for refreshments.

 

Summer Social

The Group’s annual Summer Social takes place at Ferring Village Hall on Sat 26 August, starting at 6.30pm.

As usual, this will include a hot buffet style meal and a dessert, as well as a your first drink. The menu this year will be as follows:

Choice of Chicken breast in cream and mushroom sauce, or Beef bourgignon, or Goats cheese and mediterranean veg tarts, plus selection of seasonal salads (apple coleslaw, tomato and mozzarella, green mixed salad) and French bread and butter

Followed by choice of gateaux selection and cream, fresh fruit salad and cream, or Banoffee pie and cream.

There will also be a good quality prize raffle, a variety of interesting prize quizzes for your entertainment, and of course good company and conversation.

Tickets priced at £10 per person will be available at our next members’ meeting on Friday 28 July also at Ferring Village Hall, starting at 7.30pm, and also from our treasurer, Gloria Moffatt on 502139. Tickets are limited, so please get in quick!

Ferring Conservation Group Orchid and Bird Walk 13th June 2017

A group of 20 members from Ferring Conservation Group, and Shoreham District Ornithological Society turned out on Tues 13th June in glorious sunshine to walk along the Rife from the Bluebird Cafe up to the Ferring Country Centre with the aim of enjoying the varied wildlife, expertly led by Tricia Hall.

Notable trees and shrubs, some in flower, included Elder, Hazel, Sea Buckthorn, Blackthorn, Hawthorn, Wild and Guelder Rose, and a sizeable patch of the shrubby herb Deadly Nightshade.

Flowers along the Rife itself included Comfrey, Cow Parsley, Willow herb, Meadowsweet and Horsetail.

In the lagoons, the show of orchids was not at its best, but good numbers of Marsh Orchid, both Incarnata and Pulchella, were seen, with some Common Spotted, but no sign of any Bee Orchids. However, there were numerous other flowers of interest, from the brilliant yellow Flag Irises to the dainty Water Plantain, and Tufted Vetch, Meadow Vetchling, Fleabane, Yellow Loosestrife, Coltsfoot, Self-Heal and Everlasting Sweet Pea. Grasses, Sedges and Rushes were in abundance.

Birds included Buzzard, Whitethroat, Reed Bunting, Swallow, Reed Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap, but the stars of the show were a group of 4 little Egrets and a Grey Heron all perching in the trees just north of the upper lagoon.

Wildlife in the ponds included Newts (either common or palmate), Froglets, Water Boatmen, Pond Skaters, Whirligig Beetles, tiny Flatworms and a Leech, and several Black-tailed Skimmer dragonflies put on an aerial display over the water.

The butterflies spotted were Small Tortoiseshell, Common Blue and Speckled Wood and the moths were Five-spot Burnet and Burnet Companion.

The walk was rounded off with refreshments at Ferring Country Centre.