Meeting Reports

 

Group Meeting – October 2017

 

We welcomed David Johnston to open our October Meeting. With an audience of over 70 members and visitors David enchanted us with his fascinating collection of photographs from his delightful book entitled ‘A Sussex Wayfarer’s Nature Notes’. This collection of photographs commenced from 1987 when David and his wife Sue would walk in the Sussex countryside and David would note everything they came across, including old farm buildings and machinery, animals, birds and flowers. This very soon built into an impressive archive of over 6,000 35mm slides and photographs – and these are now in possession of the West Sussex Records Office.

David would always make a point of entering into conversation with country folk he encountered along the way and these chats were recorded and made into a collection of country diaries that added yet another dimension to his observations. Many photographs were taken during 1987 both before and after the great storm of that year with David highlighting the contrast of these ‘before and after’ scenes as evidence of the sheer devastation this storm caused.

Tricia Hall delivered her Nature Notes by informing us that both she and Peter Dale had completed a count of the many trees that were planted along the banks of the Rife in 2011. Out of a total of 1,000 trees it was estimated that almost 50 per cent had survived. Kathryn Stillman had photographed 24 Little Egrets on a tree along the west bank of the Rife and a Kingfisher had been spotted at the southern end. Also in the area, a fairly common but very secretive Water Rail had been seen, a Stone Chat, Snipe, a Grey Wagtail and Ring Plover had been sighted on the ploughed area of the Goring Gap. Tricia commented that few butterflies had been seen in late summer especially the Small Tortoiseshell, although they were abundant in the spring. Unusually the honeysuckle along the Rife was experiencing a second flowering.

Ed Miller brought us up to speed with planning news by advising us that planning permission for a ninth residence at the former Beehive Cottage site had been refused. Also WSCC Highways were soon to take action on the road layout to make it safer for vehicles entering Sea Lane from the southern exit of Sea Lane Gardens.

 

 

Group Meeting – September 2017

At our September meeting James Sainsbury came along to give us an illustrated talk regarding the History of Cissbury Ring. James, an archaeologist from Worthing Museum and Art Gallery, began by explaining that Cissbury Ring, just north of Worthing, is the largest historic hill fort in Sussex dating back over 5,000 years. From the top views stretch from Brighton to the Isle of Wight.

A wonderful habitat for butterflies and flowers has been created here by centuries of continuous grazing. During the Neolithic period settlements were established and an extensive flint mining operation was carved out on the southern side of the hill and this is still evident today. In the early Bronze Age there is evidence of a ritual burial ground as two round barrows have been identified here.

Around 400BC the Iron Age Hill Fort was built and stood firm as a means of defence for the next 300 years, it encloses 26 hectares and originally had only two entrances, one at the eastern end and the other at the south-western end. After 100BC the interior of the fort was used for agriculture with rectangular fields being marked out with earthwork banks and terraces.There is also archaeological evidence of a settlement during the later Roman period where ramparts were heightened, possibly in fear of an attack by Danish hoards.

Although Cissbury Ring was recognised as having defensive qualities since these times no actual military activity took place until the Second World War. A large anti-tank ditch was excavated around the entire hill in 1940, and anti-aircraft guns were positioned across the highest part of the ridge within the hill fort. James demonstrated the military activity by showing us a photograph of scorch marks made by tank practice, left on the grassland.

Thankfully today Cissbury Ring is a peaceful place and ideal for walking and appreciating the countryside.

After a break for tea Tricia Hall delivered her popular Nature Notes by advising us that around 100 meadow pipits were seen on the Goring Gap and around 1,000 starlings on an electricity pylon. Tricia reported that the plastic collected during the September Beach Clean had been recorded and the results submitted to the Marine Conservation Society’s annual survey. Unusually two storks had been spotted firstly on the roof of ASDA and later on the Goring Gap, they have now moved further along the coast towards Pagham. At least one of the storks is from the Knepp Castle Estate and there is a program to reintroduce them nationally.

To conclude the meeting Ed Miller updated us with news that the planning application for a ninth residence at the former beehive cottage site is awaiting a decision by Arun DC. The four chalet bungalows proposed at 44, Ferringham Lane have issues with access yet to be resolved. The Arun Local Plan for the building of 1,000 homes per year over the next 15 years is currently with the Inspector awaiting approval.

 

 

Group Meeting – 28th July 2017

At our July meeting, and due to popular demand, we welcomed back David Plummer, an expert international wildlife photographer. David continued to share with us his fascinating accounts of photographing animals and birds in their natural environment. David explained that many of his photographs are the result of many hours and sometimes days of patience, often in uncomfortable situations. Also the photographs that appear to be endearing are frequently quite the opposite. As an example David showed us a photograph of two lion cubs that looked as if they were snuggled up together but in reality they were licking the blood from each other after sharing a kill.

David spends around six months of the year travelling worldwide acting as a guide to novice wildlife photographers, and conducting bespoke private tours in India, the Galapagos Islands, Kenya, including the Maasai Mara and Rwanda to film target species with particular expertise in the Pantanal region of Brazil and Hungary. These trips spare no expense in securing the very best wildlife experience and time is spent studying and understanding the animals to obtain the best possible shots.

When David is not travelling he works at the Sussex Wildlife Trust, Knepp Castle Estate and the BN5 Owl Project, a community based project in Small Dole near Henfield. He also runs non-photographic wildlife safaris and guided birding on the North Kent and Welsh coasts.

It was not until recently that David chose to disclose the fact that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2009, aged 40 years old. This event has not deterred David but instead spurred him on to make the very best of life and he has achieved some of his greatest work since his diagnosis.

Following a break for tea and biscuits Tricia Hall delivered her Nature Notes and advised us that fringed lilies were evident on the Rife and that the ‘Big Butterfly Count’ would take place between Friday 14th July and Sunday 6th August. This is a nationwide survey aimed at helping to assess the health of our environment. It was launched in 2010 and is now the world’s largest survey of butterflies. In 2016 over 36,000 people took part counting almost 400,000 individual butterflies and day-flying moths across the UK. Tricia gave us a list of butterflies that we may spot in our area of West Sussex; meadow brown, gate keeper, common blue, holy blue, comma, speckled wood, small tortoiseshell, peacock, red admiral, brimstone, painted lady, clouded yellow, green-veined white, small white and large white. To take part in this count and for further information visit: www.bigbutterflycount.org

Ed Miller concluded the meeting with news that there were no new planning applications for Ferring and that the revised parking space plan for Sea Drive Flats was to be decided by Arun DC later this month. Ed also advised us that over 700 houses were planned to be built either side of Water Lane in Angmering.

Group Meeting – 30th June 2017

The Group heard from Yvonne Fenter, who is one of the charity’s volunteer speakers, but is also a trustee and wife of the founder of the hospital. It had been set up originally in the village of Eartham, but moved to its current site in 1985 where it continues to this day. There is work going on currently to improve the facilities, which are so well used for wildlife in need, and in fact our local WADARS organisation transports many rescued birds and animals there if necessary for their treatment and recuperation.

 The hospital treats some 3000 patients a year, of which approximately 2500 are birds of all species. Many of these are of course baby birds, which have to be fed constantly, and staff make use of liquidised dog and cat food fed on the end of a paint brush for this purpose. It should be noted that members of the Group on the night stepped up to the mark and answered the hospital’s request to bring along meat based dog and cat food with them as a donation. Scores of cans and packets were passed on for their use, as well as some generous cash donations. All of these were gratefully received by Yvonne.

 The principle of the hospital is that if any animal or bird is in need, then they will treat it. To complete the talk, Yvonne gave members useful advice on what to do if they found an animal requiring help, and she outlined the particular problem of discarded fishing hooks and line which can easily be ingested by sea birds. Continuing the sea theme, she told the Group that oiled birds were not the problem they used to be with the practice of ships illegally flushing out their tanks in the channel having virtually stopped.

 We are very lucky to have such a facility near to us in the county, and it deserves our support. They do have their own charity shop in the Guildbourne Centre in Worthing, where they will happily receive items to sell, as well as items such as towels, newspapers etc to use in the care of their patients.

Group Meeting – 26th May 2017

Jacob Everitt opened our May meeting with a talk on his search for as many different species of dragonfly that he could identify during 2015. Jacob is a Senior Countryside Warden at Horsham District Council and began by describing to us the difference between dragonflies and damselflies. Dragonflies have joined eyes with no split segment and two pairs of flat wings whereas damselflies have large eyes either side of their head split into coloured segments and much thinner wings that are held against their body.

There are 41 species that are native to Britain and they can be found from Land’s End to John O’Groats, but not in Ireland. Jacob said that 29 of the species can be found here in Sussex.

With a list of Britain’s Dragonflies, an AA Road Atlas, a book entitled ‘Watching British Dragonflies’ and a camera, Jacob began his voyage of discovery. His first visit was to Dungeness in Kent where the many coastal lagoons were an ideal location and here he spotted a Hairy Dragonfly, this large, hardy dragonfly is blue, green and yellow and Jacob found it easy to photograph as this species is happy to sit for periods of time. A Vagrant Emperor was also seen passing through the area, these dragonflies tuck their legs in during flight and use them to catch insects to eat.

Jacob’s hunt continued in the Ashdown Forest where he discovered a Small Red damselfly, a Black Darter dragonfly and the largest of the species at five inches long, the Golden-Ringed dragonfly which is found on heathland.

In late May Jacob visited Norfolk and was fortunate enough to see and photograph a Norfolk Hawker.  This is one of two brown Hawker dragonflies found in Britain.

A return journey time of 18 hours and 1036 miles took Jacob to Abernethy Forest in Scotland on a hunt for three target species, the Northern and the Northern Emerald damselflies and the Azure Hawker dragonfly found around boggy pools in moorland.

With over 5,000 miles on the clock and 290 hours driving, including visits to Loch Maree Scotland, the Isle of Sheppey, the New Forest, Hadleigh Castle in Essex and the Isles of Scilly Jacob spotted 45 species of Odonata (the collective name for dragonflies and damselflies) including all of the 41 species native to Britain.

After a break for refreshments Tricia Hall delivered her popular Nature Notes with news of a Great Spotted Woodpecker nesting in a hole in the same tree as last year in the Plantation. Blue tits are very busy in some of the nesting boxes in the village and five fox cubs were seen playing in Clover Lane. Early marsh Orchids are alongside the Rife along with Comfrey, which has medicinal qualities and can be cut, rotted down and used as fertilizer and is also a good food source for Bumble Bees. Ed Miller concluded the meeting by advising us that the draft version of the Arun Local Plan has been modified to reflect the increase of the new housing quota to 1,000 properties per year for the next 15 years.  So far this draft plan protects the Goring Gaps.

Group Meeting – 28th April 2017

At our April meeting we welcomed Tim McPherson, a Director of the Angling Trust, publisher, angler, naturalist, ornithologist and conservationist. Tim came to talk to us about the work of the Angling Trust, and explained that the biggest threat to sea-angling is the lack of fish brought about by decades of over-fishing and failed management by the UK government and the EU, through the Common Fisheries Policy. The Angling Trust’s ultimate goal is to allow recreational sea fishing to have a greater say in how fish stocks are managed through lobbying and campaigning, and to allow the promotion and development of this sport for future generations.

The Angling Trust members support the campaigns they carry out to protect fish stocks and together with Fish Legal, the legal arm of the Angling Trust, they use the law to fight pollution and other damage to the water environment – both freshwater and marine – and protect the rights of anglers and angling. The Angling Trust are continually campaigning against poaching, the quality of waters, inshore netting, reform of rod licences and other important issues.

Tim also told us about a popular recreational fishing area called the Kingmere Marine Conservation Zone, this lies between 5 to 10 km offshore of the West Sussex coast between Littlehampton and Worthing and has the ideal topography to attract marine life. This area is one of the largest breeding sites of black bream in the country and is popular with chartered fishing boats. These fish build their nests on hard bedrock overlain with thin sand and gravel. The male fish will make a nest in the substrate and when the female has laid her eggs he will guard the nest until the eggs hatch. Black bream are ‘protogynous’ which means the females turn into males when they reach about 35 cms. Further Marine Conservation Zones will be considered in future.

A short AGM followed a break for refreshments where Ed Miller was appointed as Secretary to replace Debbie Dilks, and Graham Tuppen voted onto the Committee. Other existing committee members were re-elected unopposed.

David Bettiss delivered April’s Nature Notes with news that many migrant birds had been seen around the area including wheatears, male redstart, black cap, chiff chaff, whitethroats, swallows, and great crested grebe. Butterflies seemed more plentiful than last year with peacock, small tortoiseshell, brimstone, speckle wood and an orange tip being spotted in gardens.

Ed Miller concluded the meeting and although there were no new planning applications, there is great concern that the proposed new housing estates in Angmering will cause an additional burden on the already congested local highways.

 

 

Group Meeting – 31st March 2017

Penny Green, an Ecologist from the Knepp Estate near Horsham, opened our March meeting with a talk entitled ‘Knepp Wildland – A Naturalistic Grazing System’. Penny explained that the Knepp Castle Estate has been privately owned by the Burrell family for over 200 years. The current owner, Sir Charles Burrell, was devoted to traditional arable and dairy farming but with heavy clay soil and small fields the land was not ideally suited for intensive agriculture. In 2001 Sir Charles shifted his focus to regeneration and restoration projects aimed at nature conservation. Sir Charles introduced various herbivores, cows, deer, horses and pigs on to the 3,500 acres of land. Over time this affected the vegetation to create mosaics of habitats including open grassland, regenerating scrub, bare ground and forested groves. Longhorn cattle create paths through scrub, spread seeds and create a distinct browse line, while the Tamworth Pigs rootle up the ground looking for food. Exmoor ponies and deer browse the sallow and other tree species also stripping bark especially when food is scarce in winter. The animals live outside all year without supplementary feeding and are allowed to roam freely with little intervention. The aim is to improve the biodiversity of the land by encouraging the return of wild flowers and grasses, trees and shrubs, insects and butterflies, birds and small mammals. It is hoped that eventually the ecosystem that once prevailed in the area will return and although grazing animals are used elsewhere in the UK as a conservation management tool it is unusual for a mixture of animals to be used in this way. This project may well encourage other areas of marginal land in the UK to become ‘rewilded’ linking up diversity hotspots to create a ‘Living Landscape’.

Following a break for refreshments Julie Toben from Wadars provided an update on the future of this respected animal charity. Julie explained that although their initial plans for a ‘state of the art’ rehoming centre were still in the running, realistically this would take the charity much longer to achieve than first thought. Therefore after much consideration, and to utilize the existing facilities as soon as possible, a more practical plan had been agreed. Some of the existing stable blocks are to be renovated and converted to kennels while a prefabricated UPVC cattery would be constructed with sympathetic planting and fencing to help the buildings blend into the landscape. The charity hopes to be fully operational by March 2018.

Ed Miller followed with an update on planning news. Ed told us that the second planning application for 23 Yurts on the land north of the A259 had been refused. Globe Estates (Southern) Ltd have submitted plans, at detailed design stage, for 8 apartments on the site of the former Beehive Cottage. A new planning application for 8 apartments at the corner of Sea Lane and Sea Close is soon to be advertised, this time to include an underground car park. There is also an application for the former Village Interiors showroom in South Ferring to be converted to flats.

Michael Brown concluded the meeting with the latest news regarding the Rampion Windfarm. Michael advised us that the offshore foundations were now complete and there would be no further piling, and that E.on are now busy installing the turbines to the towers and to date have completed 4. They are on schedule to complete this part of the project by autumn of this year along with 50% of the cabling.

Group Meeting – 24th February 2017

Neil Hulme, a Project Officer from Butterfly Conservation, gave an informative and interesting, illustrated talk regarding a three year conservation project launched in April 2015 by the wildlife charity, to halt the drastic decline in numbers of two of the rarest woodland butterflies in Sussex.

In the 1970’s both the Pearl-bordered and small Pearl-bordered Fritillary were common in woods, along with the Cuckoo and the Nightingale. In fact last year no Small-bordered Fritillaries were seen at the only remaining colony site in the county. Both butterflies are similarly marked on the upper side of their wings, with striking orange-brown colour, overlain with black spots. The underside of the rear wings is intricately patterned resembling a stained glass window. The range of blocks of colour and the arrangement of numerous silvery-white studs – the butterfly’s ‘pearls’, helps to distinguish between the two species.

With funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund the project plans to restore a healthy population by re-introducing captive-bred butterflies to suitable areas, by improving habitats and offering advice to landowners in how to manage areas of woodland for the benefit of these endangered species.

A return to traditional methods and practices will hopefully encourage clearings and glades for flowering plants such as Bluebell, Bugle, Wood Anemone, Lesser Celandine and Wild Garlic to thrive where sunlight can again penetrate through the trees to reach the woodland floor. The caterpillars of both species feed on violets which flourish shortly after an area of woodland has been coppiced or cleared. Community engagement is encouraged by the project and children in particular are able to help by growing and planting out violets for hungry caterpillars to eat.

After a break for refreshments Tricia Hall delivered her popular Nature Notes with news of a three year Nest Box project. Tricia asked if members would be willing to sign up and volunteer to monitor the nest boxes that had been sited throughout the village and record their findings. Tricia also commented that crocuses, daffodils, snowdrops, primroses and catkins were all evident in gardens, verges and the banks of the Rife.

Ed Miller followed with an update on planning issues and gave us news that the planning application for 8 flats on the site of the old Beehive Cottage had been approved and the developer had immediately put up two very large advertising hoardings at the building plot. The planning application for 23 ‘eco’ yurts on land north of Littlehampton Road has still to be decided. Ed commented that as far as the Goring Gap is concerned there is still no sign of a planning application from Persimmon Homes.

David Bettiss concluded the meeting by informing us that a cheque for £570 from the sale of Christmas cards, calendars and painted pebbles, was recently presented to the Chestnut Tree House Children’s Hospice by himself and Tricia Hall. David also reminded members that any contributions for our 2017 magazine would be gratefully received and must be sent to Tricia Hall by Thursday 16th March.

Group Meeting – 27th January 2017

At their first member’s meeting of 2017, Ferring Conservation Group had the pleasure of welcoming horticulturist and apple expert Peter May from the Brighton Permaculture Trust to talk to them on the subject of – The History of Apple Growing in Sussex, and Sussex Apples. This was particularly relevant to the Group as they were just approaching the first anniversary of the planting of their Community Orchard at the Glebelands recreation ground in the village, and all the apple trees in the Orchard had been propagated by the Trust.

Peter firstly ran through details of some of the 30 or so varieties of Sussex Heritage apples, including First and Last, Saltcote Pippin and Golden Pippin which make up part of the Ferring orchard.

He then informed the Group that the Sussex apple story started far away in the remote mountains of Kazakhstan in Central Asia, as all of today’s orchard apples are direct descendants of the apples that still grow in the natural forests there. There were then references to apples in Saxon times with local place names such as Apuldram, Crabtree and Appledore, followed by details of tithe and tax returns from the C14th including from Ferring when cider was mentioned.

The 1950s was the peak time for Sussex apple growing with many thousands of trees being planted after the war across the County. Locally the East Preston area was a hot spot for growing, as well as in North Ferring, but the most important area was the East Sussex border with Kent, and this is still the case today, although the majority of orchards have sadly been lost in Sussex. This is why the initiative of Community Orchards is so important in maintaining our history of apple growing.

 Later in the meeting, Tricia Hall in her Nature Notes section reported amongst other things tens of Lapwings being seen in the fields just west of Ferring Rife near Kingston – quite a rare but welcome sight these days. Vice Chairman Ed Miller reported on a planning application just off Sea Lane in Sea Drive to demolish a house and replace it with a block of 8 flats – something to which the Group would be objecting. He also reported that Arun District Council in their emerging Local Plan would now have to find a total of 1000 new properties every year in their area, as well as the likelihood of Persimmon Homes soon submitting plans to build 475 new homes in the Worthing part of the north Goring Gap near to Goring railway station. This disastrous move for the local area especially in relation to the inevitable traffic problems will be fiercely resisted by the Group in partnership with fellow Goring groups and others.

Group Meeting – 25th November 2016

As November can often prove to be a gloomy month, what better tonic for our Group than to welcome Michael Blencowe into our midst. Michael, in his usual jovial and entertaining manner, introduced us to the world of the nocturnal wildlife of Sussex and beyond. Michael explained that we need to use our ears as much as our eyes to understand what is happening around us during the night. Many birds migrate under cover of darkness and navigate by the stars, they feed by day and fly by night. As it is difficult to spot birds in flight in dark skies we can gain much information by listening. We may hear owls and sedge warblers among others, these birds sing extensively during the night. Michael showed us some fascinating video footage of fox cubs playing, badgers, deer, and hedgehogs that had been taken from a camera placed in local woodland. Even when we are tucked up in our beds, other creatures in our houses are wide awake; spiders and silverfish are crawling and scurrying around going about their business during the night hours. Many domestic cats are also on the prowl at night, hunting and defending their territory, and as there are 7 to 8 million now in the UK our gardens could well be a hive of activity. Michael also delighted us with photographs of his holiday to the Somiedo National Park where, in this forgotten corner of Spain, he was fortunate enough see Cantabrian bears in the wild. These animals are crepuscular and feed on grasses during twilight and dawn.

After a break for tea and mince pies Tricia Hall began her Nature Notes by advising us that the Marine Conservation Society has announced that the number of plastic bags found on beaches has almost halved in a year. Unfortunately there is still a vast amount of other rubbish found, including a significant rise in balloon litter! Tricia said that Storm Angus had dislodged red seaweed that was now laying in a 2ft layer along the beach, also green sea lettuce, sea slugs and crab shells had also been found. Stonechats were seen sitting, two by two, on the trees that were planted by the group along the Rife. Kingfishers, wagtails, egrets, teals, snipe and a water vole had been spotted in this area.

Ed Miller followed with planning news and advised us that indications are that Globe Estates (Southern) Limited are likely to submit a new planning application for a large block of 8 apartments on the site of Beehive Cottage on the corner of Beehive Lane. David Bettiss concluded the meeting with a reminder of events on Saturday 10th December. The day starts with the Tree Dressing on the village green in the morning, the Christmas Market in the village hall at 4.30pm and the official switching on of the lights at 5.30pm.

 

Group Meeting – 28th October 2016

Just a couple of weeks after the momentous occasion of the presentation of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service by the Lord Lieutenant of West Sussex to Ferring Conservation  Group, things returned to relative normality for them with the latest in their series of monthly meetings.

This time around, they welcomed Ivan Lang as their guest speaker, and as one of the two wardens at the RSPB Medmerry and Pagham reserves, his presentation mainly featured the development of the new Medmerry reserve over recent years.

He outlined that the reserve came about in conjunction with the Environment Agency, where a more long term sustainable option was required to protect the area from sea flooding, and the coastline was to be realigned to allow the sea to naturally flood some of the land under the control of new sea defences further inland. A 3 to 4 year major building programme followed to the point when in 2013, the old coastline was breached in a controlled way, and it is hoped that with sea level rises expected, the new defences will maintain their integrity for about 100 years.

The Group heard that since 2013, the reserve has developed positively much faster than expected, with important bird species numbers such as Dunlin, Grey Plover and Avocets increasing, and also reptiles such as Slow Worms, Lizards, Grass Snakes and Adders, plus fish such as Mullet, Bass and Pipe Fish being seen on a regular basis within its confines. There have in addition been visits over the last 3 years by rarer species – a successful fledgling by a pair of Black Winged Stilts, Spoonbills, Ospreys, and even a mass sighting of Smoothhound sharks.

The reserve is now reaching the point when it could be considered for a much higher level of designation as a Special Protection Area under EU law, and the Group hope to organise a visit there in the not too distant future to experience it for themselves.

Group Meeting – 30th September 2016

For our September meeting we welcomed Clare Blencowe, who came to talk to us regarding the work of the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre (SxBRC). Clare has recently taken up the post of Record Centre Manager and gave us an enthusiastic insight into the importance of the data collected and its diverse uses. One of many local record centres around the UK they collect, manage and disseminate wildlife data, providing an information service for the whole of Sussex. The SxBRC is also part of the Association of Local Environment Record Centres and the National Biodiversity Network.

SxBRC works closely with many partners, including local planning authorities, government agencies, conservation bodies, water companies and other organisations. Through these relationships high quality environmental information can be made available to decision-makers in planning, land management and conservation across Sussex. To provide this valuable information the SxBRC is reliant on the local recording community in Sussex. Driven mostly by volunteers and enthusiasts who have taken the time to observe and identify the variety of species and habitat around us and then to enter this information into the SxBRC database via their on-line recording system. Some individuals find the time to record thousands of sightings and it is this tide of recorders that the SxBRC relies heavily on and is always keen to attract additional volunteers.

After a break for refreshments Tricia Hall delivered her Nature Notes and opened by informing us that the new boat in Sea Lane had been planted up with a variety of plants suited to coastal conditions. Swallows, House Martins, Brent Geese, Wagtails, Teals and Herons had all been sighted in and around Ferring. A Kingfisher and a Water Vole had been seen on the Rife near the Country Centre. Tricia concluded her talk by showing us some interesting photographs from her recent holiday on the Isles of Scilly.

Planning news followed with Ed Miller advising us that the planning application for a 4-bedroom detached house in Hangleton Lane had been refused by Arun DC although permission had been given for the caravan, gazebo etc. to remain. There has been no further news regarding the Goring Gap and Worthing BC are still opposed to any building on this site.

Michael Brown concluded the meeting with news of the Rampion Windfarm. The laying of cables in the East Worthing area should be complete by spring 2017. To minimise any damage to the chalk grassland Eon are to use a re-turfing machine. All 116 turbines should be installed by spring 2017 and the blades should all be attached by spring 2018.

 

Group Meeting – 29th July 2016

For our July Group meeting Dr Geoffrey Mead from the University of Sussex talked to us about the ‘Quiet Corners of the Sussex Coast’. Dr Mead explained that Sussex has a varied coastline and in West Sussex the coast is low lying but in East Sussex there are bold cliffs of chalk and sandstone separated by sedimentary lowlands. The present coastline is very recent in origin and continues to evolve. In the past, coastal geomorphology linked to weather, seasons, coastal processes and tides, and the hand of man, have all contributed to dramatic changes in the position and configuration of the coast.

A few undisturbed sand dune and shingle habitats remain. Most of the surviving examples are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) such as West Wittering beach, Climping and Shoreham beach in West Sussex. East Sussex also has SSSI areas including Rye Bay, Rye Harbour, Camber Sands and Pett Level.

Many holiday homes were established along the Sussex coastline during the first half of the 20th century and although many were demolished during World War Two some have still survived. Many of the homes have been constructed from decommissioned railway carriages.

Dr Mead showed us photographs, taken in July and August, of some deserted beaches in East and West Sussex, proving that if you know where to look there are many ‘Quiet Corners of the Sussex Coast’.

In the second half of our meeting Tricia Hall delivered her Nature Notes and told us that the Rife is looking particularly attractive at the moment with Hog Weed, Great Willow Herb and Fleabane all in bloom. Tricia was pleased to say that Little Egrets, Herons, White Throat, Willow Warblers and a Kingfisher had been sighted. Also there have been 3 separate sightings of Water Voles.

News of planning issues followed with Ed Miller advising us that Peugeot had submitted a further planning application for an additional facility at their premises along the A259. A fresh planning application has been submitted for the Newview building in Ferring Street, similar in content to the original application but this time taking advantage of new Government guidelines.

 

Group Meeting – 24th June 2016

Our Chairman, David Bettiss, opened the meeting with details of our Group winning ‘The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service’, the MBE for volunteer groups. David then went on to welcome Dr Dawn Scott, Assistant Head at Brighton University, and on her second visit to us, this time to talk, in her usual enthusiastic and informative way, about her work on The Urban Fox Project. Dr Scott began by informing us that by the year 2020 over 80% of people will live in an urban area and with population growth dictating greater land use change, wildlife faced new risks but also new opportunities. Few species can adapt but foxes, badgers and hedgehogs can compete and share habitat. In recent years press reports regarding attacks on humans in towns and cities by foxes have suggested that urban foxes have increased in number. It is possible that we are seeing more of them as urban foxes are becoming more accustomed to humans and getting braver, but there is no data to suggest an increase in population. The only major change that has occurred in urban fox populations over the past 30 years has been down to an outbreak of sarcoptic mange, a common disease of mammals, which severely reduced fox numbers in some areas. In 2012 Channel 4 launched ‘Foxes Live: Wild in the City’, an interactive natural history event which encouraged viewers to submit photographs via their smartphones and to contribute to natural history research by taking part in the largest ever urban fox survey.

After a break for refreshments Tricia Hall advised us that Salsify had appeared in her garden, probably from seeds spread by the wind. The boat of flowers situated at the end of Sea Lane had been demolished by a road traffic accident but there is a possible replacement offered by Lancing Parish Council. Tricia showed us photographs of a Painted Lady Butterfly sitting on the Thrift and Birds’-foot-trefoil and a bumble bee with full pollen sacs on a Sea Daisy along the Patterson’s Walk shingle beds. Also there is good shingle flora there including Mallow and Yellow Horn Poppies, which have the largest seed pods in Britain. Deadly Nightshade is growing along the west side of the Rife as well as the Common Spotted Orchid, Early Marsh Orchids but no Bee Orchids this year, also absent were dragon flies in the area.

To conclude the meeting Ed Miller advised us that the public toilets on Ferring Village Green and in the Bluebird Café car park may well be closed by Arun District Council. David Bettiss has written a letter of objection to Councillor Roger Elkins regarding this situation.

Group Meeting – 27th May 2016

Our Member’s Meeting commenced this year with a talk from Clive Hope on ‘Birds at Goring Gap’. Clive began by telling us that already this year skylarks had been seen hovering overhead and were hopefully nesting among the crops. The numbers of these birds are in decline due to modern farming practices so it is reassuring to have them in the vicinity. Last October a short eared owl flew over the beach and was eventually chased off by a crow. Little Egrets, many types of gull and sandwich terns fishing for sand eels, were regular visitors. Brent Geese were sighted from October to March as well as many wading birds such as dunlin, grey plovers and oyster catchers, also Redshank had been seen in pools on the greensward.  In August and September large numbers of Ring Plovers were spotted on the beach, well camouflaged against the shingle. Also sanderlings, small plump wading birds, have been seen rushing along the shoreline. Clive told us that according to a ‘Wetlands Bird Survey’ the Goring Gap area is of national significance for the many different bird species it attracts.

Sue Palmer followed with news that 30 members attended the last beach clean on 7th May. This time the weather was kind to the volunteers and altogether 15 bags of rubbish were collected. The beach clean scheduled for Saturday, 17th September will contribute to the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) Nationwide Beach Clean and a comprehensive list of litter found will be submitted to their national survey statistics. The results from the 2015 survey showed that litter had increased and that wet wipes litter was up by 31% and balloons by 11%. The MCS are pushing for deposit return bottles and wet wipes to be flushable. Sue, together with Paula Curran, inspect the local footpaths in Ferring at 15 month intervals. They report any footpaths that have become overgrown to West Sussex County Council who then arrange to carry out the clearance of overhanging branches and brambles etc. Also broken stiles and steps are reported as well as very muddy areas. If some footpaths are impassable, fast track funding can be found for speedy repairs and for hard-core to be laid to improve the path surface.

Gregg Plenty gave a talk entitled ‘Every Cloud has a Silver Lining’ and attempted to cheer us by saying that although conservationists were always ready to depress us with news of everything being in crisis, there were many areas where climate change was beneficial to humans and the animal world. Greg highlighted a newspaper report in March of this year where the RSPB had stated that Climate Change had assisted more UK bird species than it had harmed. The dartford warbler, wren, robin and long tailed tit had all increased in number and most immigrant birds were staying longer. The growing season is now 29 days longer and bee orchids were more abundant. Greg pointed out that as a result of warmer air our energy usage goes down and although the hottest day of the year is getting hotter, the annual minimum temperature has become colder at night by 2% over the last 50 years. Greg left us with the thought that since the early 1980’s little egrets from Southern Europe have been enjoying the varied habitats in Ferring so at least these birds must think it is warmer.

Tricia Hall gave us an informative and interesting talk on Fish. Tricia explained that there are 2 types of fish; bony fish and cartilaginous fish. The bony fish has bones, a swim bladder, gill covers and scales and examples are sea bass, cod and haddock. The sea bass goes a long way out to sea and is covered in scales and a thin layer of skin. Its fins are the main propulsion; the dorsal fin has little bony structures and a pair of pectoral fins and all other fins help propel the fish forward. Behind the head are 4 pairs of gills these are where oxygen is extracted from the water. It has a large mouth with no teeth and a lateral line along its body for detecting other animals in dark water. The cartilaginous fish do not have bones but they do have skeletons and a back bone. An example of this type of fish is a lesser-spotted dogfish which has the usual fins but 5 gills and its mouth is underneath its body. Tricia ended her talk with news that a 20 foot long conger eel had been caught off the coast of Plymouth in Devon.

After tea Mike Hall’s beautiful film ‘Wildlife in Ferring Gardens’ was given a very welcome second showing and Ed Miller concluded the meeting with the news that the campsite proposal for part of the Goring Gap was likely to be refused as there were over 300 objections. The TRO to stop the overnight parking of unoccupied caravans and motorhomes along Marine Drive is likely to come into force soon.

 

Group Meeting – 29th April 2016

To an audience of over 90 members David Plummer, a professional wildlife photographer, gave us an insight into his work during 2015. David’s extensive knowledge of animals and birds and their environment give him the essential ingredients for his breath-taking images, many of which feature in leading wildlife publications. David only photographs wildlife in the wild and studies the behaviour of a subject before heading off into the field. He has endless patience as he often waits for many hours in various hides or disguises awaiting the perfect shot. David showed us some beautiful images of kingfishers, small birds, foxes, badgers and waterfowl all taken from hides sited on land or in the water, and he is also passionate about a new local venture in owl conservation and protection.

Technology assists David’s job tremendously, as wherever he is in the world he can have instant communication and access to people and information. This is particularly useful as 4 to 6 months of the year David works overseas particularly in Brazil and Hungary and he also runs photographic trips to places such as Rwanda, Kenya and India to photograph the big cats such as cheetahs and leopards.

After a break for tea, a short AGM took place where the existing committee members were re-elected unopposed. The ever popular Nature Notes followed and Tricia Hall commented that the willow and blackthorn trees along the River Rife were growing well and also the willow stakes planted on the boundary of Ferring Country Centre were thriving. Tricia said the information board sited along Patterson’s Walk had been revamped and work on the board along the Rife will soon be complete. There have been sightings of stock doves, a green woodpecker, 2 great spotted woodpeckers and Tricia has enjoyed watching the antics of wood pigeons and fox cubs playing in her garden.

Ed Miller concluded the meeting with planning news and advised us that WSCC have requested a traffic study to be carried out in respect of the planning application submitted by the Kingsley Group earlier this year. The Andalucía Restaurant has submitted plans to extend its premises to accommodate an additional 30 covers. Ed was also pleased to announce that most of the motorhomes had moved from Marine Drive and the TRO was out for consultation to prevent motorhomes and towed caravans from parking between 10pm to 9am. The Bluebird café has been granted a new licence to allow the sale of alcohol unaccompanied by food (only beer and wine to be sold), although it will still remain a ‘food led’ business. The evenings will be reserved for pre-booked parties only.

 

Group Meeting – 18th March 2016

At our March meeting an audience of around 75 keen members and visitors enjoyed an illustrated talk from Paul Stevens on Amphibians and Reptiles in Sussex. As chairman of the Sussex Amphibians and Reptiles Group and with his other role as Grounds Manager at Arundel WWT, Paul came well equipped to educate us in his usual relaxed and informative manner. Paul began by concentrating on amphibians and reptiles that are found in the wet habitat of Arundel WWT, namely grass snakes, common lizards, slowworms, palmate newts, smooth newts, spotted newts, common frogs and common toads. Paul said there was evidence that the frogs had already spawned but the toads were still on the move but when they eventually breed the females will each produce 2,000 to 4,000 eggs. Paul explained that the ideal habitat for water voles and dormice can conflict with that of birds and bats so careful thought must be given to creating a good compromise. Grass snakes are easy to identify with their distinctive yellow and black collar and corrugated tin sheets laid flat on the ground provide excellent protection during the winter months. Each snake has a unique pattern on its underside and 3 snakes named ‘Terry, Pat and Bob’ are currently monitored for their breeding patterns. ‘Bob’ and ‘Terry’ travel widely around the WWT site but as Pat is the female of the trio she is sedentary. Elsewhere in the UK, heathlands are the most important area for reptiles as all 6 species can be found there (the common lizard, sand lizard, adder, grass snake, smooth snake and slowworm). Heathlands provide the perfect habitat, with open areas for reptiles to bask and an ample food source can be found due to the invertebrate populations. Amphibians also thrive (the common frog, common toad and the rare natterjack toad), using the damper areas close to water where they can lay their eggs. The common newt, palmate newt and great crested newt, favour ponds to breed in and can be quite at home in a garden pond, they may also take advantage of nearby grass and dried leaves.

After tea Tricia Hall delivered her Nature Notes with the news of tree planting by some of our members on the west side of the Rife. These small, holly, downy birch, mountain ash, hazel, crab apple and hawthorn trees will hopefully provide food and shelter for wild birds as well as acting as a good wind break. Also 150 willow stakes (all from one tree) were planted along the western boundary of Ferring Country Centre.

To follow Ed Miller updated us with news of planning issues including the newly erected ‘no overnight parking’ notices along Marine Drive to prevent motorhome owners sleeping in their vehicles in this area. The planning application at 44, Ferringham Lane for 5 properties in addition to the existing house has been withdrawn by the applicant.  The Kingsley Group have applied for planning permission for the conversion of a garage building, behind their current site, into offices to accommodate an increase in staff from 57 to 91 with no provision for additional parking. This application also includes a request for extended opening hours for the offices and café from 7am to 10pm. The Bluebird Café has applied for a full licence to serve alcohol from 10am until midnight and to permit dancing and live and recorded music to 12.30am.

David Bettiss concluded the meeting by thanking the sponsors and planters of the Community Orchard and informed us that John Coote from the Brighton Permaculture Trust, and also a local resident, has kindly offered to help us maintain the fruit trees.

Group Meeting – 26th February 2016

Our meeting opened with Ed Miller informing us that David Bettiss and Tricia Hall presented a cheque for £600 to Caroline Roberts-Quigley, head of fund-raising at Chestnut Tree House Children’s Hospice. This money was raised from the sale of Christmas cards, calendars and painted pebbles designed and painted by Tricia. Ed went on to say that the Community Orchard trees were doing well at the Glebelands recreation ground and that a tree planting session was planned on Tuesday 15th March for the banks of the river Rife for a 10am start, meeting at the footbridge. The Woodland Trust have donated 100 small trees for this project. Also our annual Rife Clean is planned for Saturday 19th March, meeting at 11am at the Bluebird Café car park. Refreshments at the Country Centre will follow both events. Ed asked if members could e-mail any articles or photographs they may have for our annual magazine to Tricia Hall by the end of February.

To follow, Tricia Hall advised us that a red kite and 7 buzzards had been spotted over Ferring and then showed us a buoy with goose barnacles attached to it that was found at the Winter Beach Clean on 7th February. These barnacles start life like small shrimps and are filter-feeding crustaceans that live attached to hard surfaces but can occasionally be found on debris that has been dislodged from the seabed and washed up on the shore.

Ed Miller commenced his planning update with the news that the Arun Local Plan is to be redrafted to meet the Planning Inspector’s requirement of 845 homes per year for the next 15 years. It will be autumn before the draft plan is ready and it is unlikely to be adopted before 2017. The Peugeot car compound application has been granted on appeal and 3 further applications have now been submitted for the same site. Also an application for 23 yurts plus ancillary buildings off McIntyre’s Lane has been submitted by Hatch Homes Ltd.

After tea Matthew Thomas an ecologist gave an interesting, illustrated talk regarding the Steyning Downland Scheme (SDS). This scheme was started when it was realised by the current owners of the Wiston Estate that much of the 160 acres of chalk grassland was not being managed. A well-attended public meeting was held in 2007 with the aim of bringing together the needs of the people and wildlife. A steering group was formed of local people where aims and objectives for the scheme were developed. An area has been designated for mountain bikers; a team of local people can survey the plant life; a website has been created; children enjoy educational days on site, and the addition of suitable fencing has allowed cattle to graze there once again. This scheme has achieved charitable status since 2009 and the Wiston Estate continues to invest in many different ways. There are over 120 volunteers involved and the scheme has blossomed into a much bigger reality than was first conceived. It has also been discovered that this area is one of the top sites for the rare Brown Hairstreak butterfly. Also the rapidly declining and threatened Duke of Burgundy butterfly has been handed a lifeline with the help of the SDS, the Southdown National Park and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Over the next 2 years, with the help of Neil Hulme, a butterfly expert, and local conservation volunteers, work to encourage the Duke of Burgundy back to the chalk grasslands of Steyning by creating the right habitat and by planting cowslips, which are their main food source, will get underway.

Group Meeting – 29th January 2016

Rachel Curruthers, Household Waste Prevention Officer from West Sussex County Council, gave an interesting and informative talk to around 70 members of Ferring Conservation Group regarding Waste Prevention in West Sussex. Rachel informed us that the UK generates 177 million tonnes of rubbish each year and that just one family uses 6 trees worth of paper per year. The good news is that at least 60% of this waste can be used again.

Rachel’s message to us all was ‘Reduce’ what we use, ‘Reuse’ what we can and ‘Recycle’ what we really cannot use again, and she warned us that as plastic is made from oil it will eventually run out.

Recycling is collected from all households in West Sussex and delivered to the ‘Viridor’ Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) at Ford via a network of transfer stations. At the transfer stations the recycling is bulked up onto bigger vehicles before being transported to the MRF to reduce the number of vehicles on the road.  The mixed recycling is mechanically sorted and separated into individual types of material, baled up, then transported to re-processors for manufacturing into new goods and products. A range of technology is employed at the MRF to sort and separate recycling and Rachel stressed the importance of householders ensuring that they only place clean, dry and loose items in their household bins.

After tea Tricia Hall delivered her ever popular Nature Notes by informing us that approximately 2,500 gulls, plus several hundred waders were seen foraging on the Goring Gap. Also around 1,000 Common Gulls had been spotted and despite their name these birds were not often seen in this area. Tricia informed us that mainly due to the recent stormy weather several small sharks (Dogfish), Sea Slugs, ‘By the Wind’ jellyfish (a relative of the ‘Portuguese Man O’ War species), plus 2 porpoises or dolphins had all been washed up on the beach and had sadly succumbed to the elements.

To conclude our meeting Ed Miller updated us with the latest planning news. He advised us that at a meeting to discuss the Arun Local Plan on 14th January, it transpired that although the Planning Inspector had set a revised target of 760 sites per year for the next 15 years, developers are seeking approval for 900 sites per year totalling 13,500 new homes in the Arun district over the next 15 years. The Peugeot garage have won their appeal for a storage facility for up to 100 cars adjacent to their current site. Globe Estates (Southern) Ltd are still awaiting the decision on their appeal for the building of a block of 10 apartments on the former site of Beehive Cottage. Ed advised us of 2 new planning applications the first at 44, Ferringham Lane for 5 bungalows in addition to the existing house and at 34, Sea Lane for 2 bungalows also in addition to the existing house.

Group Meeting – 27th November 2015

Our Chairman David Bettiss opened the November meeting with news of a proposed Community Orchard at the Glebelands recreation ground. David asked members if they would like to donate Sussex Heritage Fruit Trees available from the Ferring Country Centre.

Next on the agenda we were taken on ‘A Sussex Wildlife Safari’ by Michael Blencowe from the Sussex Wildlife Trust (SWT). This was Michael’s second visit to our Group this year and with his usual flair and enthusiasm he invited us to jump aboard and tighten our seatbelts for a whistle-stop tour of the SWT reserves in Sussex. Michael highlighted the fact that we in Sussex are fortunate to have over 1800 hectares of land, covering 30 reserves that include a natural diversity of varying landscapes providing ideal habitats for a wide range of species.

Our first pit-stop was at Amberley Wild Brooks. Michael informed us that these grazing meadows were ideal for spotting insects, mice, voles and owls, and if you were fortunate you may experience a rare glimpse of a white-tailed eagle. Also miniature wet woodlands have been formed by willow and alder trees.

Further along our route we came to Levin Down. This chalk grassland is part of only 3% that still exists on the South Downs and over 40 species of wildflowers can be found per square metre of land.

Graffham Common is the newest of SWT’s reserves and was the 8th stop on our journey. This reserve is a ‘work in progress’ as tree clearing is still ongoing although 30% of pine trees will remain as perches for birds and woodlark and nightjars are regular visitors.

With our journey through West Sussex at an end we crossed the border into East Sussex and eventually arrived at Rye Harbour where we learned that this SSSI area is ideal for spotting many wading birds, including lapwings, golden plovers, curlew, oystercatchers and many other winter visitors.

With over 200 miles on the clock we crossed back into West Sussex to reach our final destination at Wood Mills, the SWT headquarters. At this reserve we were able to finally stretch our legs and learn that with a coppice woodland, meadows and large reed-fringed pond this is an ideal area to spot kingfishers and nightjars.

‘Conserving nature’ was a new concept introduced in May 1912 by Charles Rothschild, a rich landowner. This initiative eventually became the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts which campaigned to secure Government protection for sites worthy of preservation across the UK. If only all landowners were as enlightened and sympathetic to wildlife as Charles Rothschild.

After tea Martyn Burkinshaw, a Community Parks Officer from Arun District Council, spoke to us regarding ‘Wildflower Meadows’ in the open spaces in Ferring. Martyn stressed the importance of the correct maintenance of these mini wildflower meadows by mowing only after the flowers have had a chance to reseed. He also advised the strict control of grasses and thistles but even with this plan in place this did not guarantee native species only would grow.

In news of bird sightings in and around Ferring Clive Hope advised us that the recent cold snap had increased the number of visiting wading birds to around 400, plus 150 brent geese had been spotted foraging on fields in the Gap. The short-eared owls were still present in the area, goldfinches were seen at the Country Centre and buzzards at East Preston. Clive commented on the absence of blackbirds and song thrushes in local gardens and that chiffchaffs were often seen in the tamarisk trees along Patterson’s Walk.

To conclude our meeting Ed Miller gave us an update on planning issues by informing us that Peugeot had appealed against Arun DC decision to refuse permission for a distribution centre on adjacent land to their existing garage. Ed advised us that the planning application by Foschini’s Nursery for 6 holiday lodges and conversion of a packing shed to owner’s accommodation had been supported by Ferring Conservation Group with the condition that the 6 holiday lodges were built first.

 

Group Meeting – 30th October 2015

Around 60 members of Ferring Conservation Group were taken ‘Through the Seasons in a Sussex Woodland’ with a talk and beautifully illustrated slide show by Reg Lanaway. Reg spent his working life at Plumpton Agricultural College, and is still assisting there with environmental issues.  The Plumpton estate includes ancient semi-natural woodlands, and it is in Brock’s Wood that Reg has spent much time indulging his love of natural history and especially that of birds. There Reg helped students of all levels to learn practical skills such as coppicing and hedge laying. Reg explained that periodic surveys are carried out by the College to benchmark the flora and fauna and the ancient woodland is actively managed to stimulate the regeneration of trees, plants and wildlife. For example, bluebells, primroses, sedges and marsh marigolds thrive in clearings where light can penetrate; and trees are regularly coppiced in order to generate new growth. Students are taught to lay ‘living’ hedges by slitting newly coppiced hazel stems. Birds are also keen to nest in coppiced areas and Reg showed us slides of robin, blue tit, song thrush and chiffchaff nests. The birdlife in the ancient woodland is constantly monitored. Nets are used to catch small samples of visiting birds, after which they are ringed for future identification. Amongst other birds regularly surveyed are the great spotted woodpecker, bullfinch, tree creeper, nuthatch, nightingale and jay. To conclude Reg showed us slides of the woodlands around Plumpton College throughout the four seasons.

After tea Tricia Hall opened her Nature Notes with news of large numbers of goldfinches moving west. A Short Eared Owl had also been seen on three consecutive mornings along the seafront, as well as at least 62 Little Egrets sitting in trees in the Kingston Gorse area and a Kingfisher near the road bridge at the top of the Rife.

Greg Plenty, a RHS and group member talked to us about ‘Gardening for Bees’. Greg said that although a recent scientific study by the RHS concluded that ‘native or near native’ garden plants saw the greatest abundance of pollinators there was conflicting advice where other studies recommended that a variety of plants from all over the world should be grown to create a garden with plants blooming from early May to late October.

Ed Miller followed with planning news that Beehive Cottage had finally been demolished and that Globe Estates (Southern) Ltd will probably appeal their refused planning application for a block of 10 apartments on the site. Peugeot have appealed the decision of Arun DC for the refusal of a storage/distribution facility on Hangleton Nursery land.

Group Meeting – 25th September 2015

 Laurie Jackson from the Sussex Mammal Group opened our September meeting with her fascinating, illustrated ‘Introduction to Bats’ presentation. Laurie told us there are over 1,100 species of bats in the world and they are the only true flying mammal. They play an essential part in the natural world and their presence indicate a healthy environment.

Our smallest bat is the pipistrelle weighing between 4 – 7g with a wing span of 18 – 25cms and our largest bat is the noctule which can weigh up to 40g with a wing span of 33 – 45cms.

In the UK our bat populations have declined dramatically as many of their roosting sites and feeding grounds have been destroyed to make way for other changes in land use. Also pesticides have killed many of their insect prey.

Thankfully, at last, all British bats enjoy protected status.

In the second half of our meeting we were presented with an update on the Rampion Wind Farm by Chris Tomlinson the project’s Development Manager. Chris confirmed that offshore work had commenced last week for the first foundation installation and that great effort would be made to replicate the seabed. The same care and attention will be given to the onshore project by ensuring that hedgerows, trees and chalk grassland is re-instated or replanted. This part of the project has already commenced, working from South to North from Brooklands Pleasure Park and eventually ending at Twineham in April 2016.

In her Nature Notes Tricia Hall commented that she had spotted 2 water voles at the far south end of the River Rife.

 

 Group Meeting – 31st July 2015

Stuart Card a Conservationist and Qualified Bird Ringer from Warnham Local Nature Reserve (Warnham LNR) opened our July meeting with a fascinating and informative talk about the ‘Captive Breeding and Re-introduction Programme of Harvest Mice’ at Chesworth Farm, Horsham. To our delight and to give our members the perfect photo opportunity Stuart brought along a breeding tank complete with several beautiful harvest mice.

Harvest Mice are Britain’s smallest mammal and weigh between 4 to 6 grams and are only between 50 to 70 mm long. They are the only British mammal to have a prehensile tail which enables them to be incredibly acrobatic. Harvest Mice have many predators including stoats, mink, weasels, foxes, sparrow hawks, barn owls, crows, pheasants and domestic cats.

This breeding programme was established in 2008 when it was realised that Harvest Mice were at risk due to modern farming methods, alterations in sowing practices, pesticides failing to control invasive grasses and climate change creating wet seasons. Harvest Mice cannot warm themselves once their coats are damp. Supported by Friends of Warnham LNR and Horsham DC the programme runs across 4 sites and involves 3 different Public Organisations and 1 private collector.

Harvest mice can breed before they are 1 year old and can produce 3 to 7 litters a year. Their mating season is between May and October. The gestation period is 19 days and litters can range from 1 to 8 young.

Breeding tanks are set up using sawdust, meadow hay, millet sprays for climbing and Finch Wicker baskets to offer additional nesting sites to help emulate a natural environment. Wild bird seed mix and fruit pieces are provided as food sources.

The breeding procedure always starts with 2 males and 2 females in one tank; the dominant female will conceive first. When this occurs the subordinate female is immediately removed. As soon as the subordinate male is identified he must also be removed. The successful breeding pair can be kept together for up to 7 litters. If they have any more than this, the female may die giving birth.

After a break for tea Tricia Hall updated us on the walk on Highdown Hill that took place on 2nd July.  Among other species the Yellow Rattle flower was in evidence. This annual plant thrives in grasslands and as its name suggests if you brushed past it in the height of summer you will hear the tiny seeds rattle in their pods. Some excellent photos were taken of the Marble White butterflies as they were nectaring. Tricia brought to our attention that the vegetation had been cut back along the banks of the River Rife leaving only about 10 per cent for wildlife activity.

Ed Miller updated our members with the news that the HM Planning Inspector had asked for the Arun DC Local Plan to be revised to include an extra 180 houses to be built per year over the next 15 years. If an acceptable proposal is not forthcoming then the Local Plan will be rejected and Arun DC will have to start again from scratch. This will leave the door open for developers to pursue planning applications on other sites in the area.

Ed then concluded by announcing that our Group Secretary, Carol Dyball, was stepping down from committee duties after 15 years to concentrate on her move away from Ferring. Ed thanked Carol for all her hard work over the years and wished her the very best in her forthcoming move.

Group Meeting – 26th June 2015

For this month only, Ferring Conservation Group held their June meeting at the pleasant St Andrews Church Centre in the village, and were treated to an excellent informative illustrated talk by Jacob Everitt on the topical subject for Ferring of Coastal and Estuarine Birds.

Jacob is the Head Warden at the Warnham Local Nature Reserve near Horsham, and as well being a very effective communicator, he is a very talented photographer and in his spare time  is also a bird ringer for the British Trust for Ornithology.

 He took us through a journey of many of the birds that we are likely to see on the Sussex coast, as well as our nearby estuaries. He also highlighted the best places to see these birds in the county, but did include the special RSPB reserve of Snettisham in Norfolk, where it is possible to witness the amazing sight of up to 50,000  knot flying close overhead when a high tide forces them on to the reserve lagoons.

 Back in Sussex, he described some of the more interesting birds to be seen, such as Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Brent Geese,  and Purple Sandpipers, and also why they spend at least some of their lives here. One of the more  interesting facts for the wading birds was that each square metre of estuarine mud contains up to 200,000 Kcal – the equivalent of some 77 Mars bars!

 Finally, he recommended the best sites to visit to see the birds in their natural environments, and these from east to west were –  Rye Harbour, Cuckmere Haven, Seaford Head, and Pagham Harbour, not forgetting the coast off Ferring and the nearby Rife, where we do see a decent selection of these birds on our door step.

 In the second half of the meeting, amongst other features, Tricia Hall in her regular Nature Notes, updated members with photographs on the wonderful sight of many Early Marsh Orchids in the Rife lagoon areas, as well as a crop of Flax now flowering on the East Preston Gap, giving it a light blue hue.

Group Meeting – 22nd May 2015

 

Tom Simpson from the Sussex Wildlife Trust found himself among sympathetic and like-minded people when he gave an interesting and informative presentation to Ferring Conservation Group at their May meeting on the ‘Wild about Worthing’ project. This new project aims to reconnect people with nature and to encourage the joining up of habitats to help wildlife flourish and create a Living Landscape.

The project is supported by a grant from the Lottery Fund and promotes identifying and recording wildlife that lives around Worthing. Surveys will be launched over the next  2 years and focus on 7 target species ranging from bumblebees, butterflies and stag beetles to slow worms, swifts, hedgehogs and the ‘mermaid’s purse’ egg cases of the skates, rays and cat sharks. The findings can be recorded online and will link in with the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre.

There are many environmental educational wildlife events that aim to encourage young people to enjoy being outdoors and to be inspired by nature. Whereas people of all ages can join in with ‘wildlife gardening projects’ and also learn to appreciate that our streets, parks and school grounds can offer habitats for a whole range of species.

After a break for tea Tricia Hall delivered her welcome Nature Notes and informed us that a colourful hoopoe bird had been spotted in a garden in Midhurst Close. She then showed us a photograph of a pretty whitethroat sitting in a tree near the river Rife, one of several that had been spotted in the same area. Only a few butterflies had been seen due to the cold weather in May but wildflowers such as buttercups in Sea Lane and cow parsley and the yellow flag iris on the banks of the river Rife were particularly attractive this year. Tricia then thanked the Group for their donation of a willow tree in memory of her husband, Mike Hall, which was planted in a field adjacent to her house.

Ed Miller commenced his planning update with the welcome news that no planning applications for housing had been received recently by Arun DC. Foschini Nursery have organised 2 Open Days on 29th and 30th May for the public to view their proposal for 6 mobile homes plus farm shop and café, including the conversion of an agricultural shed to accommodate the manager of the new complex. Ed also advised our Group that the legal process for the banning of overnight parking along the seafront had commenced.

Michael Brown then gave us news that permission had been granted for the onshore work for the Rampion Windfarm would begin in 2015 and the offshore work in 2016. Chris Tomlinson, Eon’s project manager, has been invited to talk to our Group at our July meeting.

Our chairman David Bettiss concluded the meeting with dates of 2 forthcoming nature walks.  Shingle beach walk at Shoreham to identify plants and fauna on Monday 22nd June meet at 2pm at Shoreham Fort car park. Highdown Hill to identify butterflies meet at 2pm in car park on Thursday 2nd July.

 Group Meeting – 24th April 2015

Our April meeting incorporated and commenced with the group AGM where the existing committee members were re-elected unopposed.The meeting then received an update of planning issues from Ed Miller. A proposal to improve Ferring Village Green and build a play area for older children was the subject of discussion between Arun District Council, Ferring Parish Council and residents, including local children, during the past 6 months. The original proposal has been modified after further discussion and now includes a small indicative football pitch with goal posts, a large basket swing and climbing wall including a net, tower, slide and fireman’s pole. There will also be a cable run approximately 30 metres wide by 3.5 metres high. This play area will be on trial for 1 year but it is unclear when the play equipment will be installed. Ed went on to report that the planning application for 1 x 4-bedroom house at Hangleton Equestrian Centre has been refused but the application for a 1 x 3-bedroom house in Ferring Lane had received  conditional approval.

News of wildlife in the area concluded our meeting with sightings of Small White, Brimstone, Peacock and Tortoiseshell butterflies. Also many of our summer visitor birds have arrived, including Swallows, Swifts, Sand Martins, Blackcap, Wheatears, Winchats and Whitethroat. An unusual sight was witnessed by 2 of our members when around 400 Brent Geese gave a flying display just above the shoreline oblivious to several children playing at the water’s edge. Many Birds of Prey have been evident recently with 8 Buzzards spotted at the Kingston Gap plus Red Kites and a pair of Kestrels.

Group Meeting – 27th March 2015

 Dr Margaret Pilkington, Emeritus, University of Sussex and author, opened our March Group meeting with an illustrated talk on Wildflower Meadows. She began by taking us all back to by-gone days when meadows were plentiful but sadly the majority have been lost in recent decades with changes in agricultural practices and the spread of built development.

By using the most common type of meadow Dr Pilkington explained how, with the help of the National Vegetation Classification (NVC), we can understand the unique collection of plants present and how we can help to ensure the survival of this special and vulnerable habitat with the Biodiversity Action Plan. The NVC is the culmination of a 15-year project to identify all the different types of vegetation in Britain. For example the most common meadow plant is the Common Knapweed Community, known as MG5 and also includes Ribwort Plantain, Cocksfoot, Red and White Clover and Bird’s Foot Trefoil.

Managing a meadow appropriately will, over time, help to increase the range and number of flowers that it supports, whereby increasing the quantity and quality of foraging habitat for bees. This will include cutting the meadow in late summer and removing the clippings and avoiding the application of chemical fertilizers. All is not lost if farmers can be given incentives to move away from intensive farming practices and allow hay meadows to play their vital role in effective land management.

After tea Tricia Hall gave us many examples of the welcome signs of spring during her Nature Notes presentation. Coltsfoot had been spotted growing beside the lagoons by the River Rife, also Celandines and Wild Cherry were evident in and around the village as well as Tortoiseshell and Peacock butterflies. Several birds of prey were seen circling overhead plus a Reed Bunting by the Rife and a Common Seal was witnessed a little out to sea off the Goring Gap together with Brent Geese flying just above the shoreline in the same area. A medieval herb bed has been established on the Village Green to commemorate 1250 years of a settlement in Ferring which includes herbs that were used for culinary, medicinal, dyeing and strewing purposes.

Ed Miller followed with an update on planning issues and advised us there were 2 new similar applications from the Peugeot Garage in respect of their previous refused submissions.

Our chairman David Bettiss concluded the meeting by thanking all of the participants that helped in the recent River Rife ‘Clear Up’ and the construction of the village green ‘Medieval Herb Garden’.

Meeting Report – 27th February 2015

 Phillip Ellis gave us an informative talk on Water, Rivers, Fish and Trees. With over 40 years’ experience in managing the green estate within MOD, Phillip now specialises in Arboriculture and Angling.

Phillip began by emphasising the importance of Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) to maintain the integrity of the tree population and how home owners can contribute by taking responsibility for trees on their land. Phillip highlighted the many benefits that trees bring to our environment but stated that the threat to our forests and woodlands has never been greater and our biosecurity practices must be upheld.

Phillip is also a trustee of the Salmon and Trout Association and emphasised the need for healthy water and explained that excessive water abstraction and diffuse pollution are two of the major reasons why three quarters of our rivers, lakes and coastal waters are classed as unhealthy. For instance local watercress growers are allowing phosphates, which are used as a fertilizer, to leak into the River Itchen and this clouds the water and in turn allows algae to thrive. There is a need for the Environment Agency to increase their monitoring, and although things are improving, there is still a long way to go.

After tea Tricia Hall gave us a taste of spring by informing us that some woodland plants, catkins and frogspawn had been spotted locally.

Planning news from Ed Miller concluded the meeting. New applications had been submitted for a 4xbedroom house at Hangleton Equestrian Centre, a 3xbedroom house in Ferring Lane and a licence for corporate events/weddings at Highdown Vineyard.

Meeting Report – 30th January 2015

For our first meeting in 2015 we welcomed Dr Robert Hutchinson, a church archaeologist, who talked to us about the work of the Churches Conservation Trust in Sussex. He explained that the CCT is a registered charity established in 1969 by Parliament and the Church of England to look after the most important historic churches no longer needed for regular worship. CCT carry out between 40 to 80 repair and maintenance projects a year and have saved over 340 churches, 7 of which are in West Sussex. St Botolph’s Church stands on a slight rise above the river Adur and although today it appears almost isolated, 700 years ago it was at the heart of a busy port. Since Tudor times the church has served a tiny farming community. The parish united with Bramber in 1526.

Members then received a presentation by Julie Toben and architect Leeza Aldis-Hobbs on proposals for the new facility for WADARS at Hangleton Lane. Julie and Leeza explained that their plans were at a very early stage but they were keen to secure the support of our Conservation Group as their plans develop.

Ed Miller updated the meeting on planning issues although there were no developments on the issue of the Northern and Southern Gaps.

Eileen Godfrey announced that South Downs Film Makers were planning to make a film this year to commemorate the 1250th anniversary of a settlement in Ferring.

The meeting was concluded by news of wildlife sightings and dates for our diaries.

  Meeting Report – November 28th

A packed hall greeted Michael Blencowe who gave an interesting and highly entertaining presentation on ‘Butterflies and Moths of Sussex’. Michael represents the Sussex branch of Butterfly Conservation which is a registered charity dedicated to the conservation of butterflies and moths. The branch holds regular outdoor events across the county and manages the Butterfly Conservation Reserve at Park Corner Heath. It advises landowners how to conserve and protect butterflies and moths and it also collects and compiles records of sightings in Sussex.

Michael explained there are some 2,480 species of butterflies and moths in the UK although some are migratory. The Privet Hawk is one of the largest moths with dark brown and cream wings, and a pink and black-banded body. The Hawk-moths are recognisable by their large, torpedo-shaped bodies. The Silver Spotted Skipper butterfly is often seen locally around Long Furlong and it is one of the few species that is increasing in numbers.

Michael has appeared on the BBC’s Springwatch programme with Chris Packham and (to his delight) Michaela Strachan, as an authority on moths and butterflies.

Ed Miller gave an update on local planning issues. The Hangleton Nursery application has been re-submitted with additional information. The proposal is to create a large car park for 100 vehicles on land currently designated as agricultural with frequent deliveries by huge transporters. There is no news on the Goring Gap issue but the Ferring Neighbourhood Plan is going to referendum on 10th December.

Tricia Hall concluded the meeting by informing us that a Peacock butterfly was seen in the village that day.

Meeting Report – October 31st

Our October meeting opened with an interesting and informative presentation by Sue Palmer and Paula Curran entitled Footpaths and Rights of Way (and how to maintain them). Both Sue and Paula are local Parish Path Inspectors that undertake periodic inspections on behalf of WSCC. Their duties include walking the footpaths etc and noting their condition with special emphasis on overhanging vegetation, animal and bird habitats, gates and fences and adequate signage to ensure the public are aware of potential dangers. The inspections take place on a 9 month cycle to ensure all paths are viewed in each season over a 3 year period. A Working Party is then established by the WSCC Access Ranger to undertake any required repairs. Ed Miller delivered an update on local planning issues. He advised us that the storage area application for Hangleton Nurseries has been withdrawn. An application for development on a limited scale at the Bluebird Café and Ferring Country Centre and also an application for a development of 2 houses in existing back gardens in Ferring Lane have all been submitted. Ed emphasised that the requirement under the Neighbourhood Plan to build 50 new dwellings in Ferring over the next 15 years was set by Arun DC. Tricia Hall concluded the meeting by giving an update on bird sightings in the area and commented on how the wildflower beds in the village are still thriving. She said that there had been sightings of Stonechats, Grey Wagtails, Little Egrets, Snipe, a Wheatear, Gold Finches and Brent Geese in the area.

Meeting Report – September 26th

At their latest meeting at Ferring Village Hall, over 50 members of Ferring Conservation Group heard from Fran Southgate of the Sussex Wildlife Trust. As well as working for the Trust, she is also the Ecological Advisor to the Arun and Rother Connections project, and this was the subject of her talk – “Building the ARC – Water and Wetlands in the Arun Valley”.

This is a Heritage Lottery funded project, and its main aim is to promote a rich and thriving river system where wildlife flourishes and where people value and enjoy the landscape, natural and cultural heritage. It covers an area of some 77,000 hectares of West Sussex roughly from Horsham across to Petersfield and down to Littlehampton, with a whole variety of habitats including acid heathland, chalk downland, plus areas of clay and shingle. Otters are one of the flagship species of the project as these are good indicators of the health of the rivers, and are starting to colonise the area, having been extinct here since the 50s and 60s. Some other vital species are Water Voles (making good progress) and the very rare Black Poplar trees, which need damp conditions.

The project includes many opportunities for people to get involved including guided walks, practical work days and training, plus there is also some funding available to local groups for practical projects.

To round off the meeting, Group Vice Chairman Ed Miller gave an update on planning matters, and highlighted the progress of the Ferring Neighbourhood Plan which will be going to referendum in the village on December 10th, and the Group is fully supporting a “yes” vote.

  Meeting Report – July 25th

Our July meeting was opened by Ed Miller confirming that there were no new planning applications and we do not expect any planning application from Persimmon until Worthing Borough Council consider their options for sites for development. Chairman, David Bettiss announced the launch of our Group’s new website, although there is still some work to do. The address is: www.ferringconservationgroup.co.uk. The highlight of the evening was an entertaining talk and flying demonstration from ‘Owls about Town’. This is a local organisation run by Andy and his wife, Zsi that aims to educate both children and adults about owls. They regularly visit Schools, Nursing and Residential Homes, Charity Events etc. It was explained that any more than one owl constitutes a parliament of owls and consequently Andy and Zsi have named many of their owls after politicians. Including Boris Johnson, Virginia Bottomley and Nigel Farage. On display was a Little Owl referred to as the original ‘Wise Owl’. This owl weighs around 6ozs and is particularly observant. In contrast the European Eagle Owl has a two metre wingspan, weighs 5lbs 8oz and in the wild feeds on pheasants and rats and has even been known to kill roe deer and foxes. Several Group members requested to hold the owls and were amazed at the calmness of the birds. After tea Michael Brown delivered the news that the Rampion Offshore Wind Farm has been approved and 175 wind turbines will be built 13kms off the coast between Newhaven and Worthing. This plan was approved despite the National Park Authority’s opposition to the visual impact and other environmental issues. The meeting concluded with Tricia Hall’s ever popular Nature Notes. Tricia informed us that four Water Voles were seen all at one time along the bank of the River Rife and this could indicate a resident family. Tricia had set an Egg Box Moth Trap and as conditions were ideal had managed to photograph a Drinker, an Elephant Hawk and a Swallow Tail moth amongst others. Tricia also commented on how well the wild flowers had grown this year in the beach and park areas.