A Tree Walk around Ferring 30th November

On a relatively mild, but damp morning nine members of Ferring Conservation Group met up on the Village Green to admire and learn more about the many beautiful trees in the village. The walk not only coincided with the wonderful display of autumnal colours at this time of year but also with National Tree Week. This is the UK’s largest annual tree celebration when people across the country are encouraged to plant thousands of trees to mark the start of the winter tree planting season.

The Group’s knowledgeable guide for the day was Tricia Hall who handed members a list of trees to identify as part of an ‘Eleven Tree Winter Challenge’. After admiring the vivid red of a nearby Dogwood shrub the group’s first stop was a Horse Chestnut tree recognised by the brown sticky buds and large palmate leaves.

At the next stop there were no acorns to give up a clue, but the distinctive shaped leaves of the Oak quickly gave the game away. When a nut-bearing tree like the Oak produces a high yield of acorns the year is referred to as a ‘mast’ year. The theory is that this behaviour is ‘predator satiation’ as squirrels, jays, mice and badgers feed on the acorns and when smaller crops are produced for a few consecutive years, they are helping to keep the populations of these animals in check. The abundant year will promote the chances of the tree surviving as the glut of acorns will ensure that at least some will survive and grow into new trees.

Moving away from the Village Green and heading down Ferring Street, the Group passed the bright green leaves scattered on the ground under a Common Lime Tree – as for many trees the leaves had been stripped from its branches by Storm Arwen.

As the Group turned into the entrance of Little Twitten they could see ahead of them the striking white bark of two mature Silver Birch with elegant drooping branches – these trees are attractive at all times of the year. By the side of the path a well-shaped young Field Maple could be seen that had been planted several years ago by the Group in memory of its founder member, Joyce Cooper. A well-formed Sweet Chestnut was thriving, more so than others planted along the Rife that suffer competition from other trees. Tricia pointed out the lichen that had grown on many trunks and branches and this is a welcome sign of clean air. A sapling Oak Tree was spotted with a few oak apples hanging from its branches. Tricia explained that although many people believe these are the fruit of the tree they are in fact formed when chemicals are injected by the larva of certain kinds of Gall Wasps. At the eastern end of Little Twitten, in the centre of a copse of trees, a magnificent Monterey Pine stands proud. It is the tallest tree in the area and believed to be around 150 years old. This remarkable tree which can also be spotted from Highdown Hill has distinctive needles in groups of three, unlike the Scots Pine which are in two.  Its bark is very attractive to unusual birds like Tree Creepers who have been seen on the Plantation in Goring.

Retracing their steps the Group had their last stop in Grange Gardens where a striking Sweet Chestnut graced the front lawn in front of Phoenix House. The spiral bark is another interesting feature of this native tree. Jane Hayman from the Group commented that ‘all the trees on Tricia’s list were located on the walk and much had been learned along the way’. Most of the members gratefully partook of a hot drink in Kingsley’s Coffee Shop to warm up after a most enjoyable morning.

Rewilding ‘A Personal View’

Neil Hulme MBE, a member of the Knepp Wildland Advisory Board, opened the last meeting of the year with a fascinating presentation on his personal view of Rewilding. This independent role gives Neil an insight into how existing and future opportunities can benefit nature to help preserve precious countryside and wildlife. Neil’s vision is to restore ecosystems, letting nature take the lead, whilst creating opportunities for new nature-based economies. Neil explained that landowners, by setting aside large areas for nature, through to the smallest wildlife-friendly city garden, can all play an important role in leaving a positive legacy for future generations. Connecting up habitats by providing wildlife bridges can help wildlife move and disperse naturally, allowing them to adapt to climate change and build resilience. Marine ecosystems are just as important to restore and Neil gave an excellent example with the Sussex Kelp Restoration Project off the South Coast. As from March this year the nearshore seabed is now protected from bottom-towed trawling gear, and there is evidence that in this short time the kelp is already showing signs of a good recovery.

Neil used the Knepp Castle Estate as a prime example of letting go and allowing nature to take over. Several species of bats plus Turtle Doves, Nightingales, Ravens and Peregrine Falcons for example are all evident within a few years of starting the project. To help finance the upkeep of the Estate eco-tourism has been embraced by conducting on site vehicle-based safaris and walking tours along with camping facilities.

After welcome cups of tea and customary mince pies, Tricia Hall gave the Group news that a Kingfisher had been spotted by the Rife, north of the bridge by Ferring Country Centre and similarly a Water Rail in the same vicinity. Also a Snow Bunting had been seen on the beach at Worthing opposite Marine Gardens and also a Grey Seal had been observed swimming unusually close to the shore.

Ed Miller took to the floor briefly to conclude the meeting, with news that the two planning applications for housing on Rustington Golf Centre and Roundstone Farm had both been refused by Arun District Council. Of the three applications north of the A259, two had been refused and one withdrawn by the applicant. The two applications to add a further storey to houses in South Ferring were both approved.

Annual Tidy Up Around Warren Pond

Ferring Conservation Group members were joined recently by a number of Councillors from Ferring Parish Council, including the Chairman Pete Coe, to carry out the annual tidy up of the surrounds of the Warren Pond in South Ferring. It was an unsettled morning and the work party was caught out by one rain shower, but this was made up for by the sight of a double rainbow to the north.

About a dozen or so members carried out the necessary work to cut back the brambles and some of the ivy and other overgrown vegetation which allowed better views of the pond especially from the Florida Road side. It was great to welcome one very young volunteer who was accompanied by his Dad, and he can be seen on the skip in the accompanying photo.

The pond which is in the ownership of the Parish Council is maintained as a nature reserve at present, and the work allows this to continue but with an element of control so that passers-by can view some of the wildlife that passes through or calls it home. This has included recent sightings of a feeding Grey Heron on the central platform.

Anybody is welcome to join our regular work parties which are publicised on the website and in Group e-mails.

Thank you to our members who support these events for the benefit of the village and its ecology.

British Alstroemeria and the UK Cut Flower Industry

To open their October meeting Ben Cross, from Crosslands Flower Nursery in Walberton near Arundel, came along to tell members and visitors about his mission to challenge the UK’s dependence on imported flowers and to promote British grown Alstroemeria. Ben began by explaining that more than 90% of the UK’s cut flowers are shipped in from overseas at considerable cost to the environment. They mostly arrive from the Netherlands although a surprisingly significant proportion originate in Kenya.

Ben is a fourth generation Alstroemeria grower and when his great-grandfather began in 1936 under the Land Settlement Association (LSA) there were many market gardens established. These small holdings were run as a cooperative but recruitment to the scheme ceased at the outbreak of World War II. Crosslands are one of the last larger growers left in the UK producing Alstroemeria in a full colour range all year-round, with over 50 varieties and sustainability remains the backbone of their operating model.  The added bonus is the British flowers last for at least two to three weeks in a vase and are sold at half the price of supermarket ones.

At Crosslands no chemicals or plastic are used on the flowers or the packaging and therefore the carbon footprint of British grown flowers is a lot less than imported ones. Ben is also spearheading a campaign to improve labelling on flowers sold in the UK.

Tricia Hall took to the floor after a break for refreshments to tell the Group all about a recent walk following the RSPB Pulborough Brooks Fungi Trail where she had lead a group of 14 FCG members. While exhibiting many fascinating photographs Tricia explained the importance of these adaptive organisms and the crucial role they play in their ability to digest material by breaking down organic matter, and recycling nutrients. Although the amount of Fungi found was a little disappointing members had enjoyed their walk at this interesting and vibrant time of year.

Ed Miller concluded the meeting by updating the audience with news on the planning front. He advised that although there had been many planning applications submitted on all fronts they were still mainly in the pipeline and remained undecided by Arun DC. Relatively few proposals had received approval although 3 properties in South Ferring were sanctioned for additional upper levels.


Rife Memorial Bench

Roy Westwater, one of FCG’s long-standing members, has donated the cost of one of our new ‘perch benches’ on the banks of the Rife in memory of his late wife Barbara. We were pleased to have a suitable plaque engraved and mounted on the bench, and to take this photograph of Roy and members of his family being among the first to use it.

Fungi Foray 2021

A dozen Ferring Conservation Group members met up recently at the RSPB

Fly Agaric

Pulborough Brooks reserve for a fungi foray, led by Group committee member Tricia Hall. The wooded area of the reserve is one of the best locally to view a wide variety of fungi at this time of year. The RSPB have marked out a “Fascinating Fungi” trail there, with information notices throughout the woods highlighting the various types to be seen in each location.

The first fungi seen by the Group was right on the boundary of the car park itself where there were a number of specimens of the iconic Fly Agaric – with the well-known red and white spotted cap. On moving down into the low lying and damp Black Wood area, a whole variety of further types were found, some of which have fascinating names including Amethyst Deceiver (a beautiful purple mushroom amongst the leaf litter), Common Earthball (quite numerous and which smell of rubber if broken open) and Turkeytail (a bracket fungus growing on tree stumps and research into this may result in its use in cancer treatment).

All of this searching was carried out to the background of birdsong from within the trees, and the visit was ended at the view point of Hail’s View overlooking the brooks, where there were distant views of various geese and swans, with two Marsh Harriers hunting over the reeds and vegetation, and a Kestrel hovering overhead.

A visit to the reserve is recommended at any time, but an Autumn trip to see the fungi is an added bonus.

‘The Great British Rake Off’

After a fallow year in 2020 due to Covid restrictions, volunteers from Ferring Conservation Group came together again with those from The Good Gym Worthing to rake up the cut vegetation at the foot of Sea Lane Ferring at the start of the month.

The Good Gym is a charity with branches across the country where groups of runners combine regular exercise with helping local communities as happened here in Ferring. The reason for the work was to remove the thatch of grass that would otherwise swamp the wild flowers on the verge, which include the attractive Salsify amongst others, and allow them to thrive in future years.

About 20 volunteers from both groups met up one tea time, but were greeted by a sudden downpour of rain at the start of the session. Luckily, this soon relented and the task was completed in a friendly way with people mixing well for a chat whilst carrying out the raking. Daylight began to fade, but by then the task was completed.

Ferring Conservation Group Chairman David Bettiss said, “We’re very grateful to our friends from The Good Gym helping us out once again alongside the regular volunteers from our own group to carry out this important work. We’ve already seen a definite improvement in the biodiversity here since the annual raking started a few years ago, and trust that next Spring and Summer we’ll all see the fruits of our work with wild flowers blooming. At this time of climate change, it’s critical that we all do our bit to improve our local environment as much as we can, whilst providing a good habitat for our wildlife.”

The White-tailed Sea Eagle Project on the Isle of Wight

After a gap of nineteen months Ferring Conservation Group were at last able to hold their monthly Group meeting.

To open the meeting project manager Steve Egerton-Read from Forestry England had journeyed over from the beautiful Isle of Wight to give a brief history of the White-tailed Sea Eagles and the latest news regarding the reintroduction of this incredible bird.

Steve began by explaining that the White-tailed Sea Eagle is the UK’s largest bird of prey, with a huge wing span of up to 2.5 metres. The wings are very broad and appear more rectangular than those of a Golden Eagle and as their name suggests they have a white tail, a hooked yellow beak, yellow legs and talons along with piercing golden eyes. They were once widespread along the South Coast of England before being driven to extinction by relentless persecution from the Middle-Ages.

Licences were granted by Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage to begin an English reintroduction, in partnership with Forestry England, based on the Isle of Wight.

Re-establishing a population on the South Coast will help link populations in Scotland and Ireland with those in the Netherlands and France.

In partnership with the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation and Forestry England, this five year programme has reintroduced six young birds that were translocated from nests in parts of Scotland. It is hoped they will eventually help facilitate dispersal of these birds along the South Coast.  Before their release the youngsters were cared for by a team of experts with dedicated volunteers spending over 500 hours preparing food etc. Once released these birds will take several years to establish themselves and begin breeding but meanwhile their movements can be tracked remotely via the small transmitters fitted to each bird.

The success of this project will be measured when this magnificent bird is accepted as part of the landscape.

After a short break Ed Miller took to the floor advising members of the many planning applications either recently submitted or awaiting decisions:

Ed advised members that there were 2 applications for a third storey to be added to existing properties; 1 demolition and to rebuild in three storeys and 1 three storey rebuild that had been withdrawn but was likely to return. Also three further partial replacement illuminated signs at Yeoman’s car showroom.

In the Angmering area an application for 191 dwellings at Rustington Golf Centre and 76 dwellings at Roundstone Farm are both awaiting approval. An application by Redrow Homes for an ‘Agricultural’ road in Roundstone Farm has been approved by Arun DC.

The Appeal on the Chatsmore Farm/North Goring Gap development by Persimmon has been registered but with no details as yet on the grounds for the appeal.  It was also reported that the Worthing Local Plan is now with HM Inspector for consideration.

Tricia Hall concluded the meeting by updating members on news of local wildlife sightings. Tricia advised members that 28 Egrets had been seen in a field at the back of Kingston Gorse. She suggested that members look in the trees on the west bank of the Rife where several Egrets often roost along with Herons.

Also a number of wading birds have returned including Turnstones, Oyster Catchers, Dunlin and Plover. Although it has been a good year for Dragonflies it has not been the case for Butterflies with only Red Admiral being plentiful and a few Speckled Woods. Tricia had found a pretty Box Tree Moth in her garden. Despite their attractive appearance the caterpillars of this moth have desecrated many Box trees and hedges in the area.

Tricia illustrated her talk with a fascinating photograph of two mating dragonflies and also photographs of her beautiful garden demonstrating how she had created two wildflower beds simply by leaving two areas of her lawn unmown and then scattering a seed mix – she said she was amazed at the number of insects that these attracted.

It was also reassuring to see the high number of wildflowers on Highdown and at Anchor Bottom near Shoreham.

Last ‘Beach Clean’ of the year and the ‘Great Big Green Week’

On a glorious late September morning around 35 members of Ferring Conservation Group met at the beach huts in Ferring to carry out the last scheduled beach clean of 2021.

As in previous years this September’s beach clean was conducted as part of the Great British Beach Clean. This national initiative is a week-long citizen science event running from 17th to 26th September, driven by the Marine Conservation Society, with many beach cleans taking place across the UK. During each clean a 100 metre section of the beach is surveyed and all items of litter recorded with the results fed into the International Coastal Clean-up (ICC) initiative. This global event was established in 1986 to encourage volunteers to act as ‘citizen scientists’ by tallying the items of litter found with a view to identifying the sources of marine debris, examining the trends of items and to increase awareness regarding the different threats to marine life. Sadly whales and dolphins have washed up on beaches either already dead or dying due to them ingesting large amounts of plastic. Tragically, in 2019, a young Cuvier beaked whale was spotted in great distress off the coast of the Philippines. It was soon washed up on a beach and shortly afterwards sadly died. To the astonishment of vets carrying out a post-mortem, 88 pounds of plastic was removed from its stomach (including 16 rice sacks on top of other types of plastic bags; plus large tangles of nylon rope). This distressing story demonstrates only too well the race against time we all face for immediate action to be taken worldwide.

Jane Hayman from the Group said “there were relatively few items of litter on Ferring beach due to the recent calm seas and the largest item found was a particularly heavy wooden pallet that became a two-man job to move it along to the collection point. Disappointingly the worst area for litter was to the rear of the beach huts and around the Bluebird café area”.

The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) is taking place in Glasgow from 31st October to 12th November 2021.  Leading up to this crucial conference a national initiative is taking place and from 18th to 26th September over 2000 communities across the country are joining together for the ‘Great Big Green Week’. Events are taking place in many towns and villages involving local groups highlighting how people can take action to tackle climate change and protect our wildlife and green spaces on a local and personal level, with a view to encouraging others to become involved too. The events will range from climate cafés, community stalls, art installations, concerts and many more all with the aim of putting pressure on the UK Government to up its game on climate change. Ferring Conservation Group have provided an interesting and thought provoking display which can be seen in Ferring Library until Friday 24th September. Please do go along and take a look at it and even put some of the suggested actions into practice.