Warren Pond update

We held a very well attended Community Project morning at the pond at the start of November, and carried out a good amount of bramble and vegetation clearance on The Warren side of the pond. Thank you to all those who helped out and we managed to fill up the skip as usual.

To follow on from that the Parish Council (who of course own the pond) arranged for a tree surgeon recently to carry out the heavier and more involved tree, bramble and vegetation clearance work, especially on the Florida Road side and also more on the west bank. Below are a “before” and a couple of “after” pictures so you can see the progress that has been made, and it has really opened up the views of the pond and the wildlife that visits, including the foxes.

The water levels are very high which meant that the tree surgeon (who has done an excellent job) couldn’t access all the weeping willow and brambles, some of which was under the water surface, even though he did some of the work from his canoe. He intends returning to complete the work in the Spring when hopefully the water will have dropped, and the whole pond project is in fact an ongoing one to be continued over a number of years. We hope to construct a Hibernaculum soon there to benefit reptiles and amphibians, including the resident Great Crested Newts, as well as carrying out some small scale tree planting plus wild flowers on the banks and margins. We are also reinstating some birds nest boxes.

The main principle though is to maintain the pond and its surrounds as a wildlife sanctuary. As I’ve said many times this is one of the very few truly wild places in the village and desperately needs to be preserved as such for the benefit of the varied wildlife that call it home or frequent it.

Worthing Buildings Lost and Saved

Ferring Conservation Group welcomed the Worthing Society to its November meeting, for a talk given by its Chairman, Sue Belton and Committee member David Clark. The Society much in common with our Conservation Group, is striving to preserve and conserve all that is best in our environment, and is a valuable member of the Protect our Gaps Alliance. It also reflects what we do in our History Group, in researching and presenting the town’s history but its main focus is on Worthing’s buildings – past, present and future – and the talk was entitled ‘Worthing’s Buildings, Lost and Saved.’

Sue said far too many historic buildings were demolished in the1960s and were replaced by extremely unattractive buildings and multi-storey car parks. This trend continued into the 1970s but was challenged by a redoubtable character, Mrs Pat Baring, who campaigned to save what was left, and founded the Worthing Civic Society in 1973. Among the fine buildings that were lost was the old Town Hall (built in 1836), the Theatre Royal in Ann Street (18th Century), Grafton House, the Esplanade Hotel (where Oscar Wilde wrote ‘The Importance of being Earnest’), and the 17th Century ‘Selden’s Cottage’ but the biggest planning disaster of all was the demolition of half the High Street leaving only two or three of the old town houses.

But although much had been lost a lot more had been saved.  There were 212 buildings on the Statutory List and another 750 on Worthing Council’s local list. The Worthing Society was involved in saving much of this built heritage, working closely with English Heritage and the Borough Council. Beach House was one of its successes, along with the Dome Cinema and Stanford Cottage (now a Pizza House), where Jane Austen had written the unfinished novel, ‘Sanditon’. Now the Society was much involved with preserving these and other historic buildings but was also regularly consulted by the Council on planning applications and its redevelopment schemes like Teville Gate and Montague Place.

The talk was followed by tea and hot mince pies, and the usual update on local wildlife and planning applications and appeals, including the dismissal of the appeal on Lansdowne Nursery, one of the cases which the Protect our Gaps Alliance had taken up and won.

FCG 2023 Charity Christmas Cards

Our 2023 charity Christmas cards are now on sale. The image on the card this year is an excellent and atmospheric photograph of a Winter Sunset on Ferring Beach, taken by Mary Coe. The cards come in a pack of 10, and once again cost £5 per pack, with all proceeds going direct to Chestnut Tree House Children’s Hospice.

They will be available at our next Group meeting at Ferring Village Hall on Friday 24/11, and then at the Village Christmas Fair also at the Village Hall on the afternoon of Saturday 2/12. In addition they’ll also be on sale at Pinkerton’s Newsagents in Ocean Parade.

Our October Meeting

Wilder Landscapes

Fran Southgate from the Sussex Wildlife Trust gave the Group’s October meeting an interesting presentation on Sussex landscapes and the efforts of the Trust to ‘re-wild’ them.  Much work had been done on the Trust’s own reserves (1,900 hectares/4,700 acres) but this was only 0.5 per cent of the areas of the two counties. More effort was going into persuading landowners and farmers to manage their land in more traditional ways which allowed native species to survive and create biodiversity. Trees and hedges added to the landscape, and less use of insecticides helped pollination, and of veterinary treatments like ivermectins (for worms) avoided harmful effects on wildlife.

She said nature conservation was moving away from a focus on individual species and towards a restoration of ‘ecosystems’, recognising the interdependence of plant and animals in food chains and in keeping soils fertile and farm animals healthy. The free movement of wild animals was particularly important, and the Trust was working with many agencies and landowners to create wildlife corridors across the two counties – with some success already. There is now a corridor from Climping to Horsham, including the Knepp estate where rewilding has transformed the landscape while sustaining viable agriculture.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         


Stag Rut (photo by Paul Lindley). One of many great illustrations from Fran’s talk,


  The Trust is also involved in conservation of Sussex rivers and the coastal waters. There are 145 km/90 miles of chalk streams under protection, and beavers have been reintroduced in other rivers, to help with flood control by building their dams. The underwater landscapes off-shore were hardly thought of a few decades ago but now we know that the kelp forests are under attack by trawlers, and the Trust is involved with groups like the Littlehampton Kelp Divers, to find way to protect this asset.

Responding to questions, Fran stressed the message that while food production, housing needs and public health were bound to make demands on the landscape, they could all be managed more carefully and in ways which allowed more of our natural wild landscape to survive.

Graham Tuppen gave his update on local wildlife, including the large numbers of smooth-hound sharks recently washed up on Goring and Ferring beaches, and Ed Miller reported on the three current planning appeals and the changes in Government policy which meant they would almost certainly be dismissed.


Holly, by Michael Blencowe for Sussex Wildlife Trust

I’m sure you’ll agree that these are crazy times, folks. Back in Ancient Rome they had a festival – Saturnalia – which saw their society turn upside down for a week each December. It seems Saturnalia’s traditions of chaos and mayhem are now the daily norm for us Brits but, as we career towards Christmas, we have another thing in common with Saturnalia. We will soon be paying our respects to the Holly tree.

Holly has been celebrated in many traditions over the centuries because, as a native evergreen, its vibrancy in the dead of winter could easily be mistaken for immortality. Holly was the sacred tree of Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture. In pagan tradition, the Holly King ruled over the Oak King from Midsummer to Midwinter. Holly was easily adopted by Christians, who saw many links between the tree and the life of Christ. Today, Holly remains a centrepiece of our Christmas decorations, cards and cakes.

Each Holly tree is either male or female. While both produce delicate white flowers in May, it’s only the female Holly that bears a berry as red as any blood. When these berries are produced in profusion, it’s taken to be a sign of an oncoming hard winter -although in reality it’s the outcome of a successful spring. Holly’s prickles provide protection for nesting birds, their flower buds are food for the Holly Blue butterfly’s caterpillar and their ripe berries are essential for thrushes.

If you’re after a tree filled with folklore then Holly must take a bow. So if you’re planning to deck your halls with boughs of the stuff this Christmas, here’s a quick user guide. First off, never cut down a Holly tree – that’s guaranteed bad luck, a superstition which has spared many Holly trees from the woodsman’s axe. And make sure you leave Holly trees in your hedgerows to prevent witches from running along the top. If you bring Holly into your home at Christmas, it’ll help protect you from those pesky festive faeries. Only female Holly leaves under your pillow will allow you to predict your future in your dreams. Oh, and don’t forget to get rid of your Holly decorations before Twelfth Night (but don’t burn them, that’s bad luck too). Holly trees will protect you against lightning strikes (I’m not sure if this has been scientifically proven so don’t blame me if you still get zapped). And don’t eat the berries, they’re poisonous, but if you have smallpox you can drink an infusion made from the leaves.

Stick to those rules folks and you’ll have a peaceful Christmas. Me? I’ve had enough of the state of the world today. I’m going to pour some wine, put on my toga and pretend I’m in ancient Rome. Somebody pass me my fiddle.

Sussex Wildlife Trust is a conservation charity for everyone who cares about nature in Sussex. Founded in 1961, we have worked with local people for over half a century to make Sussex richer in wildlife.

We rely on the support of our members. Please consider joining us. Your membership will help us challenge decisions that threaten wildlife, care for more than 30 nature reserves, and inspire the next generation about the wonders of the natural world. It’s easy to join online at sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/join


Slugs by Michael Blencowe for Sussex Wildlife Trust

I’ve had a strange fascination with slugs since I was a little boy. Back then I believed that they were homeless snails that had lost their shells. It turns out I was right. Sort of. The whole eviction process had started as far back as the murky Mesozoic when some land snails cast off the shackles of a shell and evolved into slugs for some truly independent living. Sure, shells are great for protection and will help you to avoid drying out but they’re clunky and require calcium to construct. Without them you can roam anywhere and (to namecheck another mollusc) the world’s your oyster.

The slug’s shell has never been completely lost — a fragment remains hidden under their skin, a tiny, shrunken souvenir of their snail ancestry. Another link to their slimy dynasty is that all slugs, like all snails, are both male and female. As hermaphrodites, they possess both sets of sexual organs and this means that, if the situation dictates, they can go it alone and simply self-fertilise to produce their offspring. A true state of independence. Self-fertilisation creates a clone – or in a slug’s case hundreds of clones – but the problem with inbreeding is a lack of genetic variability. Clones all possess the same weaknesses. An entire slug population can be wiped out by the same parasites and pathogens. To produce varied and resilient offspring, most slugs go in for the more old-fashioned approach of finding a partner for a quick rustle in the undergrowth.

But one garden slug species has turned this chore into art – a flamboyant celebration of a lack of independence. The spotted and striped Leopard Slugs start their performance by chasing each other around a tree, giving each other sonic, sensuous strokes and cheeky nibbles. Then they climb, shimmy along a branch, and descend on a rope made of their own mucous. Here, hanging in mid-air, the slugs evert their sexual organs, entwining them to create a moonlit globe. This graceful, balletic trapeze performance must be one of the most mesmerising sights on our planet. If you search hard enough, you can find beauty in the strangest places. Still, if I was strolling through the woods at night, I’d hate to walk into it face-first.

Sussex Wildlife Trust is a conservation charity for everyone who cares about nature in Sussex. Founded in 1961, we have worked with local people for over half a century to make Sussex richer in wildlife. We rely on the support of our members.

Please consider joining us. Your membership will help us challenge decisions that threaten wildlife, care for more than 30 nature reserves, and inspire the next generation about the wonders of the natural world. It’s easy to join online at sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/join

Dolphins and Porpoises off our shores

This was the subject at Ferring Conservation Group’s September meeting, very well presented by James Milton of the Sussex Dolphin Project, based at Shoreham seafront.  Their mission is to protect local dolphin species through research, awareness and education to restore and increase the population of these fascinating marine mammals. He began with some excellent video footage of Bottle-nosed dolphins following a boat from Newhaven, swimming and leaping into the air. James said dolphins and porpoises can be seen from the shore, all along the Sussex coast and often within 20 metres of the shore but the only way to see them at close quarters is from a boat, and the Trust arranges regular boat trips between May and October out to their favourite locations, including near the Rampion Windfarm.

Dolphins and porpoises belong to the same group as whales, ‘the Cetaceans’ and he told us that the Orca, or ‘Killer Whale’ is really a dolphin species. Dolphins are much more common in our waters than porpoises, and the most common dolphin species is the ‘Bottle-nosed’. They are air-breathing mammals, taking in air when on the surface, or in their leaps, hold their breath while submerged and expelling it through a blow-hole in their head, just like whales. They eat Cod, Whiting and Pollack, and sometimes squid and crustaceans, finding their prey, by echo-location and communicating with each other by ‘clicking’ signals,

The only real threat to their survival is the ‘Super-trawler’, that can be up to 130 metres long, with gigantic nets, catching fish of all sizes and throwing the unwanted species, including dolphins – dying or badly injured, over the side, or selling them to be made into pet food. The Sussex Dolphin Project joins other conservation groups in pressing the Government to regulate super-trawlers more effectively – existing regulations are easy to evade.

We learned a great deal from this talk, including the different outlines of bottle-nosed dolphins and Harbour Porpoises, the only porpoise to be found off our coast.  The Bottle-nose, and the sickle-shaped dorsal fin is very distinctive for our dolphins; our porpoises are smaller and stockier, have more rounded faces and a triangular fin, and they usually swim alone. After this talk Graham Tuppen gave an update on local wildlife sightings, Ed Miller on planning applications and appeals, and Pete Coe on the Group’s practical conservation projects.

Presentation on Ferring’s WWII defences including the Pill Box

Some pictures of the recent excellent presentation by committee member Pete Coe on Ferring’s WWII defences, and particularly the Pill Box on Patterson’s Walk. This included an update on its current joint restoration project with Ferring History Group, which is progressing well.

For information, Pete has also written a book on the subject which should be published before Christmas with all proceeds going to the restoration fund. Watch out for more details of the exact publication date and how to obtain a copy.


Hoverflies by Michael Blencowe for Sussex Wildlife Trust
Everyone loves bees, don’t they? Knowing that our bees are in decline has
prompted protests and petitions and highlighted the important service these
buzzing pollinators provide to our planet. Without them our crops and
ecosystems would collapse. Yet many other pollinators that provide the same
service don’t get the same level of public support. So today I’m waving my flag
for the hoverflies.
For some reason, they’re not as loveable as bees. Perhaps it’s because most of
the time people mistake them for wasps. This isn’t totally our fault because
that’s exactly what the hoverflies want you to think. The 283 species of hoverfly
in the UK come in many shapes, colours and sizes but most of them sport
yellow and black stripes, making them easily confused for wasps, bees, hornets
and bumblebees. It’s a strategy called Batesian mimicry and was first proposed
by Leicestershire lepidopterist Henry Bates in 1861. Hoverflies are harmless.
They don’t sting and can’t bite but they have discovered you don’t actually have
to be dangerous to deter predators – you just have to look like something that’s

Yet their devious mimicry isn’t the most incredible thing about them. Their
wings are the things. Hoverflies (like all flies) have just two wings (half as
many wings as bees and wasps). Whereas other flies keep their wings straight,
hoverflies incline theirs to create an angled downward stroke at a remarkable
rate of 120 beats per second. This allows hoverflies to fly to a most amazing
place: nowhere. Hoverflies have become the motionless masters of mid-air.
It’s not all sitting around in the sky though. During their few days of life,
hoverflies fight, fornicate and feed and while busy collecting energy-giving
nectar and protein-rich pollen they inadvertently provide that vital pollination
service to our flowers and crops. And hoverflies have earned the title of ‘The
Gardeners Friend’ because about 40% of them have a larval stage which is
basically a tiny crawling stomach that roams around your flowerbed eating
aphids. Pollination, pest control – next thing you know these beneficial little
insects will be mowing the front lawn for us too.
So why not thank these friendly flies by planting some of their favourite flowers
in your garden – parsley, fennel, borage, hebe, sedum and alliums – and consider
putting in a pond no matter how small. Do your bit for the pollinators and
they’ll keep the world working for us.

(Sussex Wildlife Trust is an independent charity caring for wildlife and habitats
throughout Sussex. Founded in 1961, we have worked with local people for over
half a century to make Sussex richer in wildlife.
We rely on the support of our members to help protect our rich natural heritage.
Please consider supporting our work. As a member you will be
invited to our regular wildlife walks and also enjoy free events, discounts on
wildlife courses, Wildlife magazine and our Sussex guide book, Discovering
Wildlife. It’s easy to join online at sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/join)

Work parties from September

In order to assist members with planning ahead and hopefully to come along to some of our monthly work parties, we have returned to the previous system of holding them on the same day each month.

From September, they will normally be held on the first Thursday of the month at 10am (and most of them only last for around an hour or so). The first one therefore will be on 7 Sept, meeting at the Community Orchard on Glebelands Recreation ground off Rife Way, and the task here will be to rake off the grass and vegetation around the fruit trees which should have been cut by Arun DC. If any of the apples there are ripe, some of these can be picked as well as a reward for turning up. If you’re able to help for an hour, it would be good to see you and please bring a grass rake or similar if you have one, and wear suitable clothing/ footwear for the job in hand.

As always with any of our outside events, if there is any doubt about the weather conditions on the day, please check our website

Looking ahead, the work parties will move around the various locations across the village that we look after, and the exact location and task will be publicised in advance each month. We’re also looking at individual members possibly take a particular interest in one of our locations and developing a simple plan of what needs doing and when, but more of that to follow later. We’re also grateful to new committee member Pete Coe who is coordinating the work parties alongside me.

David Bettiss – Chairman