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.

ProGaps -Protecting our Gaps and Green spaces

We have teamed up with conservation and amenity groups and residents’ associations all along the coast from Rustington to Worthing to resist, together, all attacks on our Gaps and other green spaces by housing developers and commercial enterprises. Every planning application in these areas will be opposed, and objection e mails and letters sent, to make it clear to the Councils, and to the Inspector in any appeal, that we all value the individual character of our villages and townships that is guaranteed by the Gaps between settlements, and the landscape, recreation and wild life habitat that these Gaps give us.

We all objected to Persimmon and their 475-house estate on Chatsmore Farm, to Redrow’s 74-house estate at Roundstone Farm (refused by Arun DC but allowed on appeal) and the 193-house estate at Rustington Golf Centre (refused by Arun DC but an appeal is in progress). We have all objected to the application for 70 houses at Lansdowne Nursery and we shall certainly all object if Rego Properties go ahead with their proposals for over 100 houses on Highdown Vineyard.

This is not an anti-Council campaign. We believe Arun DC and Worthing BC have the right policies and want to protect the Gaps as much as we do. Our campaign is there to support them by showing how overwhelming is the opposition to filling our green spaces with development.

For up-to-date information on the latest threats to our Gaps and green spaces, join Ferring Conservation Group and get regular newsletters with ProGaps news.


Great Tits

Parish Magazine Article September 2022

Great Tit by Michael Blencowe of the Sussex Wildlife Trust

 Just for the record; I’ve never trusted them. Unlike all the other familiar, friendly faces on my back garden bird table there’s just something about the Great Tit that’s always made me suspicious. Perhaps it’s my mistrust of uniforms. The Great Tit’s smart plumage with a collar, black tie and a glossy black cap makes them look too official, too authoritative. And that bright yellow chest? Far too garish for the garden.

Their behaviour isn’t exactly endearing either. Great Tits are the bullies on the bird table. They’ll aggressively assert their authority and violently peck at other birds as they plunder the peanuts. When a house-hunting Great Tit can’t find a suitable hole to nest in, it’ll simply evict a Blue Tit and move in.

Their dominance is also heard in spring when their two-note song, “Tea-cher! Tea-cher! Tea-cher!” rings out through our woodlands. It was this “Tea-cher!” that taught me my first lesson in bird song identification; an easily recognisable two-note war cry used to proclaim the tit’s territory. But I was soon to learn that not everything was how it seemed. Each male actually has an average of four different songs, which can be sung at three different tempos. This varied repertoire is a sly Beau Geste trick employed to trick other Great Tits into thinking that a woodland is more crowded than it really is. The birds who know the most tunes secure larger territories and breed more successfully. And it’s a trick that fools me each year too; if I don’t recognise a bird call in the woods it’s always a Great Tit.


Through aggression and deceit, these birds have successfully established an empire that spreads from England to China. And it’s from the far-flung corners of this empire that we’ve recently received reports of some rather worrying behaviour. From Finland came news of a group of Great Tits changing their vegan diet of seeds and nuts to something much more meaty: other birds. In Hungary, scientists made the chilling discovery of a population of Great Tits which have developed a taste for the brains of hibernating bats. Sure, these are isolated incidents at the moment but with human society plunging rapidly towards the abyss and an army of Great Tits acquiring a taste for blood and brains, is it unreasonable to hypothesise a post-apocalyptic future where humans are at the mercy of plagues of zombie Great Tits? Close your windows people – they’re coming 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. Please consider supporting our work. As a member you will be invited to join Michael Blencowe on 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

Bad News on the Northern Gap

We were shocked to discover today that the Inspector who conducted the Planning Inquiry into Persimmon’s Appeal on the Chatsmore Farm site has upheld that appeal and so, unless something extraordinary happens, the 475-house estate will be built.

It is a bitter blow to all of us – Ed Miller

Persimmon tries again

Persimmon’s Persistence

We learned this morning that Persimmon have lodged an appeal against Worthing Borough Council’s refusal of their 475-home estate on the North Goring Gap. This was quite a surprise because they told the planning officers that they would not appeal but try to get the land designated for housing  in the Planning Inspector’s review of the new Local Plan.
We do not yet know the grounds for their appeal but presumably it is the same argument that they used in their planning application – that Worthing was a long way short of the Government’s housing targets and that the benefit of getting nearer to that target outweighed all the objections about landscape, wildlife, gaps between settlements, traffic paralysis and all the other good reasons why it was refused. We, and the other local organisations, may need to make further statements to the Inspector but he or she will read all the case papers and see our arguments that were endorsed by over 1250 residents, Ferring Parish Council and all the residents’  and amenity groups in Goring and Worthing, were backed by the Worthing planning officers and unanimously  accepted by Worthing’s Planning Committee. I think the appeal has very little chance of success. Sir Peter Bottomley, Our Member of Parliament  (who is a member of our Group) has issued this statement:
The Secretary of State for Housing Robert Jenrick has to stand firm on government policy that rejects inappropriate developments. 
He knows Worthing is squeezed between the sea and the National Park.
He knows the major development at West Durrington.
He knows the intentions for significant new housing at Teville Gate, on Union Place and on the gas works site.
Let us call for everyone in Arun and in Worthing to call on Persimmon to be less grasping, to support Worthing Borough Council in arguing for the developer’s appeal to fail and to maintain the rare fields between the District and Borough’

We know we can count on his support, and that of all our members.

– Ed Miller 4 September 

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.

Covid and Lockdown

We seem to be moving out of lockdown into ‘alertness’, which means more freedom to go out – keeping the 2 metres ‘social distance’, or wearing masks where we cannot do that, and that more shops will be opening soon, beginning with Garden Centres. I know that many Conservation Group members have been helping their friends and neighbours with shopping and other essentials, and it may be necessary to keep this up for a few more weeks at least. As before, if you know of anyone who needs help but not getting it please let me know – EdMiller43@msn.com