A Boat Trip to see the Rampion Wind Farm

On a stormy looking morning a group of us made our way to Brighton Marina hoping that weather conditions would allow the planned boat trip to the Rampion Wind Farm to take place. Fortunately the wind remained low, with only a small sea swell, and the skipper welcomed us on-board Defiance.

It took about an hour to steam to the site and the skipper cruised slowly through the farm allowing us close views of the turbines and offshore substation. He then hove-to and spoke about construction, commissioning and maintenance of the farm and answered our questions. We were all very impressed with his knowledge, including details of the actions taken by the constructors to protect fauna and flora, such as suspending piling operation during the breeding season of Black Bream. Although we experienced only a small sea swell, while we were hove-to the boat started to roll rather wildly and the skipper had to reposition it, much to our relief. We also had tea and biscuits, which was very welcome, although challenging!

The Rampion project has 116 wind turbines, with the closest about 13km from the shore. Each turbine tower is 80m high with total height to blade tip of 140m. Cables from each turbine are gathered at an offshore substation, requiring 144km of buried cable in total, before coming ashore to the east of Worthing at Brooklands Pleasure Park. Cables run North across the South Downs about 28km to Bolney Wood, where a new substation connects the project to the National Grid. Cables were laid in ducts and buried throughout the route.

Construction of the project started in 2015 with completion in 2018. The installation now provides sufficient electricity for 347,000 homes and is operational for about 30% of the year. The overall operation of the turbines and offshore substation is entirely automatic, including turbine direction and feathering of the turbine blades to achieve maximum power output. Nonetheless, maintenance crews visit the site every day from their operations base in Shoreham.

As we returned to shore, the rain that had threatened all morning finally started to fall, but we enjoyed views of the Brighton seafront buildings, including the burnt out Western Pier and the new i360 tower. We all thought it had been a very enjoyable trip made particularly memorable by the skipper Paul.

by Michael Brown

A walk to discover the Flowers, Birds and Butterflies of Highdown

A perfect summer day greeted 16 enthusiastic members of Ferring Conservation Group when they met in the car park at Highdown Hill for a morning walk to enjoy the colourful blooms of summer and see birds and butterflies on the wing that frequent this stunning area of the South Downs. Even whilst waiting for the Group to assemble, members were treated to the sight of a solitary Buzzard testing the thermals who was soon joined at a distance by three Red Kites whose strikingly marked wings made them easy to identify. Also a Sparrowhawk carrying its prey put in an appearance in the clear blue sky.

With Tricia Hall leading the Group with help from several other knowledgeable members they set off up the hill along a path edged with long grasses that proved an ideal habitat for many species of wildlife. A Large Emperor Dragonfly was the first to be spotted and as a noisy Wren called out from a nearby tree, and Crickets clicked away in the long grass, the first of many Meadow Brown butterflies was seen along with a Brown Skipper and an unidentified day-flying moth. Amongst the pretty long grasses the yellow Meadow Vetchling was evident along with a few Pyramidal orchids, purple Tufted Vetch and the pinkish white flowers of the Yarrow. A Thick-kneed beetle and a Common Soldier beetle were spotted in the vicinity and a Cinnabar moth.

On reaching the top of Highdown Hill Tricia led the Group down along the north side of a meadow where Red and White Clover and Goat’s Beard (also known as ‘Jack goes to bed at noon’ so named as its flowers always close by midday) were interspersed with many more Pyramidal orchids which had attracted many Bees. Wild Thyme could be seen in a hollow at the side of the meadow and also nearby were the yellow spikes of the Wild Mignonette, while the creamy white flowers with fluffy underlying sepals of Old Man’s Beard were plentiful in the Hawthorn bushes that edged the meadow.

As the Group headed back to the top of Highdown Hill once again, Clive Hall pointed out a Yellow Hammer perched on a nearby bush which gave keen photographers an excellent opportunity for a close up photograph. The long grassland in this area is the perfect nesting site for the Skylark and the Group were soon rewarded when Graham Tuppen came across an intricately made nest containing three brownish coloured eggs laid by this pretty bird. This was duly photographed taking great care not to disturb the area where it was discovered. As several Swallows flew overhead the Group were left in no doubt that summer had indeed arrived.

Altogether 11 butterfly species were identified and Tricia commented that “it was wonderful to see hundreds of Marbled Whites and Meadow Browns and also good to see a Ringlet, the first seen in the Ferring area for a while”.

As Tricia led the Group through the meadow below Highdown Gardens, beautiful Meadow Cranesbill, pink Musk Mallow, Field Scabious and Chicory were in full bloom also the frothy yellow flowers of Lady’s Bedstraw scented the air with honey and when dried these flowers have the scent of new mown-hay. Its name is probably derived for the tradition of stuffing straw mattresses with it, particularly those of women about to give birth.

At the end of the walk as they neared Highdown Tea Rooms, looking forward to welcome refreshments, a magnificent male Stag Beetle was found displaying its impressive mandibles (these appear as large pincers used to crush prey).

The walkers thanked Tricia for imparting her considerable knowledge and opening their eyes to all the amazing wildlife that this wonderful area has to offer, and all agreed that ‘it was rather a good morning’.

Summer Social

The Group annual Summer Social will take place at Ferring Village Hall from 6.30pm on Saturday 17 August. Tickets are on sale at £10 per person, and this includes a choice of hot buffet meal, plus salads and bread, a cold dessert and a drink. There will be a number of fun prize quizzes and a raffle, and the evening is always very popular and sociable. Tickets will be available at our stand at the Ferring Village Fair on Sat 20 July, at our next members meeting on Friday 26 July or from our treasurer, Gloria Moffatt on 502139. They are selling fast though!

FCG’s First Beach Clean of 2019

Over forty willing volunteers met at the Bluebird Café car park to carry out Ferring Conservation Group’s first beach clean of the year with help from the youngest volunteer to date, Sophia, at almost three years old. The group spread along the beach as far as Sea Lane with some volunteers working along the shoreline while others concentrated on the foreshore area. The usual items were collected, mainly small pieces of plastic, fishing line, nylon rope etc., plus a small number of larger items. The small items collected are just as important to remove as these can easily be ingested by marine life as well as wading birds. The strangest item found was an arrow head in the beach hut area and it is hoped that no living thing was used as target practice. Unusually there were many cartilaginous shark skulls found entangled in seaweed along the shoreline – the skeleton of these sharks are made entirely from cartilage.

FCG’s Bluebell Walk in Clapham Woods

On a morning that was bright and clear, but a bit chilly, members of Ferring Conservation Group recently travelled the short distance to Clapham Woods (just off the Long Furlong road) for a woodland bluebell walk ably led by Group committee member, Graham Tuppen.

Setting off across the fields by the village church, the group was soon in the woods, where the display of bluebells and particularly wood anemones could be seen in all their glory. The bluebells were probably a week or so from their best, but the anemones were undoubtedly at their peak and formed a dense carpet. Plenty of other woodland plants were identified, including the delicate greater stitchwort, dog’s mercury, wild strawberries, lords-and-ladies, dog-violets and even the first flower spikes of early-purple orchids. It was a most enjoyable guided walk, and in addition to the plants some magnificent tree examples were seen including a massive beech tree, which it was estimated must be hundreds of years old.

The group was also lucky enough to hear and see a variety of woodland birds. Many of these were the usual suspects, such as blue tits, robins and pheasants, but a number of nuthatch were heard calling throughout the walk and eventually seen in the oak tree in the car park. The prize for the best sounding bird though must have been the mellifluous song of the mistle thrush.

A visit to these woods, especially at this time of year, is fully recommended as a welcome escape into our local natural environment.

FCG’s Clean Up of the Rife

Ferring Conservation Group’s annual clean-up of the banks of the Rife took place on Saturday 23rd March. Around twenty five members, including two keen junior members, met in the Bluebird Café car park and as in previous years once the usual litter pickers, hi-vis jackets and black bags had been issued the group formed two teams with each team working in parallel along the east and west banks.

Owing to the exceptionally early warm weather this year, the nettles along the banks had already grown making it more of a challenge to spot litter in the foliage but this didn’t pose a problem for Eoin Kearns, the youngest member of the Group, as his keen eyes found many items and he soon completely filled his sack. Around twenty bags of litter were collected in all, with the majority of items found on the east bank in the bushes and down the footpaths. Along with the usual types of litter a child’s cushion and a pair of shorts (probably discarded by a playful fox) were collected and signs of spring were seen along the way including a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly and a Bumblebee.

The Rife in Ferring is a haven for wildlife including Little Egrets, Moorhens and Water Voles, also many wildflowers can be found along the banks making this area an important wildlife sanctuary. Therefore it is important that all visitors respect this and take their litter home with them or place it in the bins provided in the Bluebird Café car park or at Ferring Country Centre.

FCG Visit to Pagham Harbour

At the end of March, a party of Ferring Conservation Group members made their way to the Pagham Harbour Nature Reserve for their annual spring time visit and in order to savour all that the area has to offer in terms of wildlife and tranquility. The day was led as normal by member and local bird expert, Clive Hope, whose skills allowed us to spot and identify a large variety of birds and other animals.

In total, a very impressive 40 different bird species were seen around the area of the North Wall, including some which had just arrived in the country after their migratory journey. One Chiffchaff for example was seen and heard in the top of a tree, both singing loudly and catching insects at different times.

Many of the usual suspects were found, including Curlew (a large flock of over 30 seen in an adjoining field) Black Tailed Godwit, Redshank and Little Grebe amongst others, and views of Buzzards and Kestrels as well. The strident call of a Cetti’s Warbler was heard several times, a couple of Mute Swans treated us to a low-level fly past before landing on the nearby water, and several Grey Herons were seen moving in and out of the regular Heronry nest site. We even saw a Roe Deer moving across the fields to the north.

After a couple of hours taking in the sights, we repaired to the nearby café for a spot of lunch before a brief visit to Pagham beach where some of the highlights were Great Crested Grebe and a close-up Brent Goose swimming near the water’s edge. On the way home, we noticed a large number of signs put up by local people protesting at plans to build housing estates in this precious area. What an absolute tragedy this would be for such a special place with the likely harm to the wildlife that it attracts. We do have something in common with Pagham though, as it seems that we in Ferring are also constantly under attack by predatory developers!

FCG’s Latest Activities

Beach Walk

On February 26th, a glorious sunny day, twelve members of the Conservation Group met at the south end of Sea lane in Ferring for a walk to Goring. An initial excitement was the spotting of a Merlin, our smallest raptor. David Cambell, a local expert, pointed out the bird which was sitting in a tree half way up Sea Lane. This is a very unusual sighting for the Gap and illustrates just how important this green space is for birds.

We set off towards the sea which was a long way off and the going was tricky with slippery rocks and pools of water. We stopped to examine the end of a breakwater which revealed a mini habitat of Spiral Wrack, Cladophora (a green seaweed), Common Limpets, Barnacles, Mussels and Periwinkles. We searched under rocks and collected a variety of organisms stranded on the beach. This flotsam included Ray and Shark egg cases, Cuttlefish ‘bones’, Slipper Limpets and other mollusc shells and the colonial animal Hornwrack which looks like a dried seaweed.

We eventually abandoned our efforts to reach the sea and made our way to the Sea Lane cafe for coffee along the top path. On the return trip, the sea was coming in and so we were able to observe Oystercatchers, Dunlin and Sanderling on the tide line and Turnstones camouflaged against the rocks.

 

Presentation of cheque to Chestnut Tree House Hospice

Artist  Tricia Hall  painted a Christmas card of Ferring for members to purchase at their  meetings. It featured the beach huts in the snow. Many of the cards were also sold by Margaret Metcalf at St. Andrew’s Church after Sunday services. A total of £560 was raised and the cheque presented to Chestnut Tree house Hospice by Tricia and our chairman, David Bettiss. Many thanks to everyone who bought cards and thus contributed to this worthy cause. This is the eighth year that we have supported this charity through the sale of Christmas cards.

Conservation Work

Nine members met on the Village Green for their regular 1st Tuesday of the month conservation work. This session involved the trimming and cutting back of various shrubs and weeding the herb bed. If any other members would like to join this group, they would be very welcome.

A ‘Medieval’ Herb Bed

As a contribution to St. Andrew’s Church’s 1250 anniversary, FCG have constructed a herb bed based on a cartwheel design. The bed is on the village green and is just in front of the children’s playground. The bed is for fun but we hope to provide informative labels and the herbs have been selected for their attractiveness to bees and other insects.

We have planted medicinal herbs which were made into tonics, potions, purges and salves (ointments). Feverfew, for example, was used to treat headaches and was also for joints and digestive problems. It is also a good nectar and pollen source for bees.

Dyeing plants were those from which the medieval housewife extracted dyes for colouring cloth. Woad was an important source of blue dye and was used to colour clothes and tapestries and was also a pigment for blue paint.

A thousand years ago homes, of both poor and rich people, were remarkably smelly and dirty. Strewing plants were those that were scattered on floors, with rushes or reeds, to mask smells and keep insects at bay. The rushes and reeds helped to soak up all manner of  spilt liquids (animals usually shared the homestead), but, were often only changed twice a year! Lavender was strewn on floors for this purpose and was supposed to repel moths. It was also a personal scent and was used in baths when one was lucky enough to get one!

We have planted many culinary herbs which were used in cooking and most of these are familiar to us today.  These had important other uses as well so the medieval housewife had to be very knowledgeable. It was her duty to sow, plant and tend her garden. Mint, for example, was an aid to digestion and was made into a sauce.  It was also used for cleansing wounds, as a cough mixture, and was added to vinegar to make a mouthwash. It also deterred vermin.

We are grateful to Benton Weatherstone who gave us free bricks for the construction, Ferring Nurseries for the compost and Culberry Nurseries at Angmering for their advice and providing many of the herbs at very reduced prices.

Please come along to see our herb bed and watch how it develops. When it is growing well, we may even allow you to snip a few herbs for your own use as long as you promise to pull out half a dozen weeds at the same time!

Worthing Conservation Volunteers

The above group which carries out excellent practical conservation work around the Worthing area are looking for more volunteers to help them. Their regular work parties start at 10am and end by 3.30pm on the designated day, but they welcome any help at all for however long.

The next work party is on Sunday 17 March at Cissbury Ring, where they will be working with the National Trust warden to maintain the chalk downland flora.

For further details and also to confirm venue and meeting place of each work party, please contact Jay on 01903 762064.

A Walk to identify Ferring Village trees in winter on 4th December

A cloudless blue sky greeted 14 members of Ferring Conservation Group when they met up with Tricia Hall, their guide for the morning, on the Village Green. Tricia set a challenge and distributed a list of eleven trees which she asked the group to identify during the walk. On the Village Green itself an impressive Oak was the first point of interest. These large deciduous trees grow between 20-40m tall and their smooth and silvery brown bark becomes rugged and deeply fissured with age. On the eastern edge of the Green a pretty Silver Birch tree was admired by the Group. This tree looks attractive in all seasons but its wood is of little commercial value in Britain because the trees do not grow as large as they do in other parts of Europe. A Lime tree was noted on the corner of Rife Way and the flowers of this tree are hermaphrodite, meaning both the male and female reproductive elements are contained within one flower.

As the Group walked through Little Twitten recreation ground they stopped at a small Field Maple that was recently planted in memory of Joyce Cooper, a founder member of Ferring Conservation Group. Tricia explained that these trees can grow to around 20m and live for up to 350 years. Before leaving the recreation ground the Group marvelled at a majestic Monterey Pine tree situated near to the eastern boundary. This tree is found naturally in the coastal area around Monterey in California but can be found in milder parts of the UK (where it grows faster than in its native habitat). This is the tallest tree in Ferring and can be easily spotted from Highdown Hill. Within the same copse of trees several bird and bat boxes were sighted and Tricia was pleased to inform the Group that these had been occupied during this year’s nesting season.

The group progressed south along Sea Lane where an Ash tree stood proud on the grass verge parading its many conspicuous winged fruit or keys, which fall to the ground in winter. Another feature of this common tree at this time of year are the smooth twigs that have distinctively black, velvety leaf buds arranged to face each other.  Looking eastwards from Sea Lane a Sparrow Hawk could be seen circling above the field looking for prey and as the Group proceeded southwards a Horse Chestnut and an attractive Maple stood out amongst other trees along the route. A chirpy Robin and several Magpies were making their voices heard at the edge of the field as the route continued into Beehive Lane where a large Scots Pine tree stood next to the bus stop and a row of Poplars stood erect outside of Scotch Dyke Residential Home.

Taking a short cut through to Little Paddocks the Group savoured the tranquility of this oasis in the heart of Ferring and took pleasure viewing the duck pond and surrounding area where Mallards, Moorhens, Squirrels, and a Woodpecker could all be seen in the vicinity. An elegant Weeping Willow at the water’s edge completed the picture. A resplendent Sweet Chestnut tree greeted the Group at their final destination in Ferring Grange. The bark of this tree in winter is particularly attractive as the older trees have fissures which spiral round the trunk. Chestnut blight has unfortunately arrived in the UK recently which causes cankers and can lead to die-back and death.

Thanking Tricia for a very enjoyable and informative walk, the Group made their way to Kingsley’s Coffee Shop for some well earned refreshment.