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.

Bluebell Walk in Clapham Woods

On a cold but sunny morning around 30 members of Ferring Conservation Group met at St Mary the Virgin Parish Church at Clapham in search of bluebells and other wild flowers. This flint stone church has stood firm since the 13th century and made a picturesque start as we set out towards the woods.  Our route led us over several stiles, some of which proved to be a challenge but worth the effort as we entered the wood and caught a first glimpse of the abundant bluebells.

These delicate native flowers do not welcome change or disturbance and prefer ancient woods that have lain undisturbed for years. Around 300 hundred years ago Spanish bluebells were introduced into gardens but these soon spread and began to hybridise with native plants to produce tougher varieties with dominant genes. The main visual difference between the varieties is that the native bluebells are slightly smaller, have narrow leaves, a violet bell-shaped flower, drooping heads and a delicate fragrance. The Spanish bluebells are wider leaved, stand erect and have no scent. Their flowers have less of a bell and are more of a ‘hyacinth’ blue. Bluebells have not traditionally been used medicinally but researchers are now looking into their highly effective animal and insect repellent properties, and there are even possibilities that certain bluebell extracts could be used to combat HIV and cancer.

Glorious carpets of bluebells were evident as we strolled along the woodland paths and although their scent was not witnessed at the start of our walk, as the temperature gradually rose their delicate perfume filled the air. Many other wild flowers were present and we eagerly ticked them off on our list of likely sightings. These included red campion, celandines, greater stitchwort, ground ivy, wood anemones, goldilocks buttercups, primroses, early purple orchids, bugle, wild strawberries, wood sorrel and violets. Along the way we caught a glimpse of a red kite soaring high above us through a clearing in the trees, and we could plainly hear an enthusiastic woodpecker on a nearby tree and the cheerful singing of a chaffinch accompanied by the regular rhythm of the song from a chiff chaff.

As we neared the edge of the wood we had a wonderful view of the Downs towards Black Patch Hill, this area has, what is likely to be, one of the most important Stone Age settlements found so far in Southern England. The area to the north-west of Clapham is one of the largest in West Sussex without any public roads. This is mostly due to the efforts of successive Dukes of Norfolk, who owned the land. The Angmering Park Estate which was created after the death of the 16th Duke of Norfolk in 1975, will hopefully keep things this way for many years to come.

There has been a settlement at Clapham since at least the Saxon times and as we turned and headed back towards our starting point we noticed signs of the age-old skill of coppicing and other woodland industries, still practised in the area. We had almost reached the end of our walk when we had our final treat of the day when discovering a quintessential English scene of a field of horses and sheep surrounded by woodland trees with St Mary the Virgin Church to the east and a sea view in the distance. After thanking Graham Tuppen, our knowledgeable guide for the day, we headed to the local café for a well-earned lunch.