Butterfly Count 30 July cancelled but new one announced

*SEE UPDATE BELOW*

The Butterfly Count planned for this Friday 30 July on the Rife has been cancelled due to the adverse weather forecast, particularly the strong winds which are no good for butterflies.

However, there will be now be another one the following week on Highdown. This is on the Thursday –  5 August, meeting at the top car park at 10am. In case of any weather doubts for that day, please check this website for any updates.

*UPDATE – due to another poor forecast for Thursday, we’ve brought forward the Butterfly Count at Highdown this week by 24 hours. It will now be at 10am on Wednesday (4th).

Walk along Ferring Rife to look at Birds, Flowers and Trees 29th April

Twenty four enthusiastic members of Ferring Conservation Group, in 4 socially distanced teams of 6, strolled leisurely along the west bank of the Rife heading north. The early start soon paid dividends as the keen ears of the group’s leaders identified a Reed Warbler which was also briefly seen by a few members. Also Whitethroats, Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler, a Cetti’s Warbler, and Dunnocks (sometimes known as Hedge Sparrows) could all be heard in the vicinity. Further along the route Starlings were seen interestingly using the hole in a mature Aspen tree in which to build their nest.

Many wild flowers and plants were noted adjacent to the banks including Wild Garlic, White Dead Nettles, Hogweed, Ladies Smock (sometimes known as Cuckooflower) and Ground Ivy, but the yellow flowers of the Colts Foot had already gone to seed.

The white lacy flowers of the Blackthorn were in abundance but the Hawthorn trees were still in bud. It was encouraging to see that many varieties of trees including Willow, Rowan, Hazel, English Oaks and  Black Poplars that had been planted by volunteers from the Group in years gone by were largely thriving and doing their bit to act as efficient wind breaks along both sides of the Rife. However, it was alarming to see that the prolonged lack of rain had caused the water levels in the Lagoon areas to be unseasonably low, with no evidence of tadpoles. With eyes raised at the sound of a nearby Green Woodpecker it was a delight to see 2 Little Egrets resting in a tree unperturbed by people passing by. Magpies were plentiful and a nest was spotted at the top of Willow tree precariously being blown about by the cold north wind.

One of the highlights of the morning was the sight of a female Mallard duck jauntily swimming along in the water followed by her 13 (yes, 13!) tiny ducklings. As the teams neared the footbridge a solitary Heron was seen wading in the shallow water before taking flight towards the Kingston Gorse area – it amazed the teams at how large these distinctive birds are.

On a fine day, and at water levels unusually low for this time of year, the Rife appears to be calm and unproblematic, but this wasn’t always the case – prior to the 1980’s it was comparatively shallower and narrower. The construction of the West Durrington estate with the consequence of extra surface run off, and the combination of torrential rain in the autumn of 1980 together with a high tide, the Rife overflowed its banks, flooding many houses in both North and South Ferring of up to 2 feet or more. The same problem occurred 3 weeks later and this prompted Southern Water (who were responsible for maintaining the Rife at that time) to take preventative action. In 1982 a scheme was started to widen the watercourse and raise the banks on both sides. The bank on the west side was left slightly lower than the east bank to allow any excess water to flow into two lagoons that had been created for this purpose.

During the walk around 32 species of birds were either heard or observed along the way in addition to the evidence of many flourishing trees, wild flowers and plants. It was reassuring to find that this important area is still thriving and providing an important and valuable sanctuary for local wildlife. Still in their teams of 6, members enjoyed some refreshments at the outside seating area of the impressive newly built café at Ferring Country Centre.

Online Talk ‘Pressing the Pause Button’ by Dr Tony Whitbread

Due to Government restrictions Ferring Conservation Group had to move their usual April monthly Group meeting online.

Chairman, David Bettiss opened the meeting and welcomed Dr Tony Whitbread, President of the Sussex Wildlife Trust (SWT) who gave a thought provoking and informative talk challenging the issues faced by nature in the 21st century. Dr Whitbread who retired as Chief Executive of SWT has recently returned to take a leading role as the Trust’s President.

To an attendance of over 30 members Dr Whitbread noted that while the human race was locked up in their rooms like naughty teenagers because of the pandemic, the natural world had flourished; the birds seemed to be singing louder, butterflies were plentiful and the sky seemed bluer with less air pollution. As towns and cities around the world lay in lockdown some animals took advantage of the situation. There were for example reports of goats in the gardens of Wales to penguins in the streets of South Africa. Therefore should we be asking ‘Has nature really blossomed or is it that humans have had the opportunity to observe it in all its wonder’?

Whilst it is generally true that human activity is damaging the environment this negative view is not always the case. Conservation Management, sensitive farming, sustainable forestry as well as gardening and looking after community green spaces are all positive interactions. Dr Whitbread posed the question that if nature is left alone aren’t we just rewilding? Apparently the rebuilding of natural systems and then encouraging it to lookj after itself is not the same as abandonment.

The major worry is that we should not have to wait for a pandemic to allow nature to recover.

David Attenborough gave us the alarming fact that currently 96% of mammals are either human or our livestock – only 4% make up all other mammals.

It is estimated that between 2 and 4 new viruses appear every year as nature has been pushed into its last corners. Whether it is in industrial farms, our destruction of ecosystems or in animal markets these diseases are increasingly crossing the species barriers and infecting humans. Unfortunately pandemics are a repercussion of our destruction of nature and they may now become a long-term feature of our lives unless we change our ways.

Dr Whitbread gave the warning that after we come out of Lockdown our new normal must be different and this is the main challenge to humanity for the foreseeable future. For this to happen we must firstly change our values. We must move away from consumerism and all that it encompasses and adopt higher values where society, empathy, helping and sharing become intrinsic, and our natural assets are cared for. We will need a carbon neutral, zero waste society and this will mean a significant growth in localism, becoming closer to our local place and to our local wildlife.

Having had the time and space to think about our environmental bad behaviour over the last decades we must now turn our full attention to leaving the ‘spoilt brat’ economy behind us. Dr Whitbread empathised that we go back to the old normal at our peril and one of the fundamental ways to make a difference is in the empowerment of women.

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Woodland Walk at Patching 22nd April

On a beautiful sunny, but chilly, morning 18 members of Ferring Conservation Group met in France Lane at Patching for a woodland walk. With social distancing rules paramount 3 teams of six people with their knowledgeable guides Tricia Hall, Peter Dale and Graham Tuppen strode out across a newly ploughed field following the public footpath signs to discover the secrets at the heart of a typical English wood. Woods are special and remain the last refuge for many fauna and flora, and a place of seasonal wonder.

The hope was to find carpets of Bluebells and the three groups set off at a gentle pace keeping their eyes peeled and ears tuned for the sights and sounds of this wonderful sanctuary of nature. Carefully following the long established footpaths it was soon noted that although some of the Bluebells were indeed in bloom, many were still in tight bud due to the unusually cld April weather. This did not dampen the enthusiasm of the three teams and as they ventured deeper into the wood their reward was soon realised with the green leaves of Dog’s Mercury – this poisonous plant is a good indicator of an ancient woodland. Pretty Wood Anemones were inter-spaced with pale Primroses, delicate Violets and the shade loving perennial, Lords-and-Ladies Lilies. Lesser Celandines added a splash of bright yellow complementing the purple petals of Ground-ivy which is a member of the dead-nettle family and is not closely related to Ivy as its name suggests. Along with Wood Spurge, White Dead Nettle, Red Campion and a few Goldilocks Buttercups they unexpectedly came across beautiful Early Purple Orchids which were apparent in several areas. Although they are uncommon each plant consists of 50 rich purple-pink flowers which give off a strong and unpleasant smell once the flowers have been fertilised.

The clouds of snow-white flowers of the Blackthorn edged the wood and these spiny and densely branched trees can grow to the height of around 6-7m and live for up to 100 years. The favourite winter tipple of Sloe Gin is made from its rich, dark inky berries. Numerous bird sound was identified including Chiffchaffs, Great Tits, a Song Thrush and a rather enthusiastic Wren. The pitiful cry of a Buzzard could be heard on the wind although this bird remained unseen. A single Robin was spotted standing boldly at the side of the footpath and as the Groups made their way back a Comma butterfly was enjoying the warmth from the sun on the branch of a Blackthorn tree, also a Bee Fly had the same idea as it rested by the path. A Brimstone, Peacock and Orange Tip were seen at the edge of the wood. Despite the disappointment of the lack of Bluebells the members thanked their guides and considered the morning an interesting and worthwhile exercise and were grateful to once again take part in an organised Group activity.

 

Persimmon planning application refused

We’re very pleased that tonight (Weds 10/3) the Worthing Borough Council Planning Committee unanimously refused Persimmon Homes planning application to build 475 houses on the North Goring Gap.

Thank you to those who spoke so well at the meeting, those who worked hard to campaign against it and the many hundreds of people who sent in their individual objections. This is a good day for Ferring, Goring and all of our local area, and shows just how much we value our remaining green spaces.

David Bettiss – Chairman, FCG

Highdown Vineyard – the latest

The owners of Highdown Vineyard on Littlehampton Road say on their web site, ‘the Vineyard has not been sold despite some newspaper headlines suggesting otherwise. We have allowed a property company to prepare a planning application for housing but this is at a very, very early stage’.and that’ all bookings ‘will go ahead without any disruption until end of the summer 2022’.

However, any such application would be contrary to the Local Plan and Arun District Council’s  ‘Director of Place’ has told the developer that the Planning Officers would not support any application for residential development on the Vineyard site. This should be the end of the matter – but we will keep our eyes open.

Tree Planting in Ferring

As part of a ten point plan for a green industrial revolution for the UK to become carbon-neutral a new government initiative was announced at the end of 2020 to plant more trees up and down the country. A cash boost of almost £4 million will see hundreds of thousands of new trees planted in towns and cities and near to rivers to reduce flood risk. This will help meet the government’s commitment to increase planting to 30,000 hectares per year across the UK by 2025.

A budget of £2.5 million will support schemes led by DEFRA, Natural England and the Tree Council to develop five pilot schemes to be delivered by Local Authorities. To encourage innovative, cost-effective ways to plant trees outside of woodland areas over the next two and a half years.

The Environment Agency has been awarded a further £1.4 million to fund 15 projects to plant over 850,000 trees that will aim to protect around 160 km of river, to help reduce the risk of flooding.

On the back of this government initiative BBC One’s Countryfile programme has launched its very own ‘Plant Britain’ project. Over the next two years the nation will be encouraged to plant trees, plants, fruit and vegetables, with prompts to add details of their efforts to an interactive map that can be found on the BBC website:

Ferring Conservation Group thoroughly endorses this initiative and would like to encourage the residents of Ferring to plant trees in their gardens or grass verges, if they own them. This would not only help to redress the problem of many local trees being felled in recent years but also provide good wildlife habitats.

If you are buying a tree then please try to use one of the very good local nurseries or garden centres and focus on buying a native tree, remembering to check it is a suitable height and spread for the intended site. Fruit trees are a good choice too as they provide food for a variety of wildlife; including birds, mammals and insects.

Trees play a remarkable part in cleansing the air by removing excessive CO2, making a significant contribution to fighting climate change. A mature tree will capture around 48 pounds of CO2 from the atmosphere and lock it safely away. Trees can also help to absorb sound and as well as provide welcome shade during the summer months they can act as a useful wind break in an exposed garden. As they can soak up a good amount of water this can help to reduce boggy areas in a garden or grass verge. A wide variety of species can be very attractive and can make a welcome addition to the locality. Field Maples, Silver Birch, Hazel, Holly and Rowan trees are a good example of suitable native trees for a garden.

We would love to see more trees being planted in local gardens and open spaces.

For easy reference please follow the guidance below:

Happy Planting!

 

HOW TO PLANT A TREE

Equipment:  

Tree in a container

Bucket

Watering Can

Spade and Fork

Stake and Tie

Tree guard or spiral

Mulch (organic matter like chipped bark)

The best time to plant is between October and April taking care to plant your chosen tree in a suitable location taking into consideration the eventual height and spread.

  • Dig a hole three times as wide as the pot and the same depth. Loosen the soil around the hole with a fork.
  • Thoroughly soak the root ball in a bucket of water before planting.
  • Loosen the root ball to encourage roots to grow into the soil.
  • Place the root ball in the hole so that the point where the roots meet the trunk is level with the surface of the soil surface.
  • A piece of wood can be useful to check the level.
  • Refill the hole ensuring there are no air pockets around the roots. Firm the soil around the tree making sure the stem remains upright.
  • Use a tree guard or spiral if your garden has wildlife visitors who may want to nibble the bark.
  • Water well. Add a 5-8 cm (2-3in) layer of mulch but leave a 10cm (4in) mulch-free collar around the base of stem.
  • Top-heavy trees will probably need staking. Put the stake firmly at a 45 degree angle – use a hammer to make sure it’s secure.
  • Now attach a tie to your tree to support it in windy weather. Garden centres can show you how to do this when you buy it.

 

 

 

 

Ferring Beach and Goring Gap Information Boards

Those of you who walk along Patterson’s walk may have noticed that the information board has been updated with a new insert and clear covering of polycarbonate on September 23rd, and the one on Goring Gap on December 10th.
Both are much better for it, and will hopefully stay looking good for some years.
The new artwork was done by Jenny Hawkesly with input from Clive Hope, and the installation was done by Graham Tuppen. If anyone spots any problems with either, please contact him via email at grahamtuppen@hotmail.com  or tel 01903 240244. The Gap board was done as a joint project with the Goring and Ilex Preservation Group, whom we thank.

Nestbox Survey

Recently, committee member Graham Tuppen and Chairman, David Bettiss carried out our annual survey and cleaning of the various bird nest boxes around the public places in the village. These are situated at Little Twitten, the Village Green and Glebelands, as well as the Ferring Country Centre. It was really pleasing to report that all bar one of the boxes had been used by birds during the past Summer, with nests present in them.

The nests were made up of different materials, with the most common being mosses and feathers, while on the Village Green, one had a large amount of hair, with the Country Centre ones unsurprisingly having a lot of straw and hay present. In one box, there were a number of abandoned eggs (probably Blue Tits), in one a dead Great Tit, in another a couple of very young dead Blue Tits, and finally one had a large circular hole drilled into the front of the box right next to the official hole which had been protected by a metal plate. This was presumably done by a Woodpecker, and could even have been used by them as their own nest.

We hope that all the remaining boxes had raised at least one or maybe more successful broods, and even those above would have raised some chicks. Anyway all of them are now clean and ready to welcome new occupants in the Spring of 2021.