FCG Bluebell Walk 22nd May

Members of Ferring Conservation Group met in French Lane, Patching, to look for Bluebells and other wildlife on the beautiful Angmering Park Estate in the heart of the South Downs National Park. Led by Tricia Hall, the Group’s wildlife expert, we headed off across a public footpath in the direction of the woods. As our walk was later in the year than usual we were not expecting to see vast carpets of Bluebells but were delighted to find small shady areas where they still stood proud. As we stopped to admire a large Horse Chestnut in bloom Tricia pointed out the pinnate leaves of a young Ash Tree and we also noticed Hazel and Sweet Chestnut trees and several white butterflies. Our walk was made even more enjoyable by a background chorus of bird song which we could identify as Blackbirds, Robins, Chaffinches and Chiffchaffs.

As we headed towards Long Furlong, Red Campion, related to Sea Campion, made an attractive covering along the edge of the footpaths. Woodland Sedge, Ferns, Yellow Archangel nettles and the delicate white flowers of the Sanicle (a member of the carrot family) were also evident. Two Goldilocks Buttercups were found along with White Dead Nettles and the Oxide Daisies were almost in bloom. We were pleased to see Swallows, Skylarks, two Blackcaps, a Green Woodpecker, several Kestrels and also a Buzzard testing the thermals, this time undisturbed by Crows.

Walking alongside a field of Oilseed Rape a Red Kite could be seen high above us and as we took in the view, a glimpse of the sea could be seen in the distance. The pretty, delicate, white flowers of the Hawthorn were at their best; this deciduous tree is native in the UK and made an attractive contrast against the vivid blue sky. Near a patch of the delicate white flowers and fern-like foliage of Cow Parsley we were pleased to see a Holly Blue butterfly and further along the path a Speckled Wood butterfly.

Approaching the end of the path we were brought back to reality as we once again heard the traffic from the main road through Long Furlong, but we were grateful for the opportunity to remind ourselves how fortunate we are to have such glorious countryside on our doorstep.

FCG Beach Clean

Clear skies and warm sunshine greeted over forty members of Ferring Conservation Group when they met at Ferring Beach for the second beach clean of the year. Once kitted out with hi-vis jackets, black sacks and litter pickers the group was addressed by Thomas Kearns, at nine years old one of the youngest members of the Group. As this was Thomas’ first beach clean he asked members if they would be willing to fill in questionnaires at the end of the session as he wanted to conduct his own small survey to better understand the degree of the problem we face in tackling litter on the beach.

As the members worked across the beach from the Bluebird Café to Sea Lane, including Patterson’s Walk and the area around the beach huts, they were thanked for their efforts by some of the beach users.

The conclusion was that generally the amount of litter collected was less than in previous years but revealed that single-use plastic is still a big problem. After studying the survey questionnaires Thomas said ‘I was surprised at the variety of items found and I will make sure that when my friends visit the beach they take their litter home with them’. The common cause of seabird deaths is marine plastic and leatherback turtles have been found in UK waters with throats tangled with plastic bags that they mistook for jellyfish.

 Unfortunately discarded bagged dog faeces were still evident and people seem not to appreciate that this is still regarded in law as litter. In April this year the Government introduced Fixed Penalty Notices for all forms of littering in the UK.

Latest News From FCG

Members of Ferring Conservation Group have been busy recently with more practical work carried out in the village, as well as taking part in a local guided bird walk.

A group of volunteers descended on the Village Green, as part of their series of regular monthly work parties, to re-plant the existing herb bed near to the children’s’ playground. This was planted with a variety of herbs including Borage, Hyssop and Chives among others, which were specifically chosen as being beneficial to pollinators. Following this, the group moved on to the nearby Little Twitten recreation ground, where in agreement with Ferring Cricket Club and Arun District Council, they planted a number of mainly native trees including Silver Birch and Sweet Chestnut near to the path that leads through the park.

Wheatear

Two days later, a decent sized group of members met on the Goring Greensward for guided walk by local bird expert and member, Clive Hope around the Goring Gap. Although the sea and beach were strangely quiet for birds, it wasn’t long before up to four Wheatears were seen on or around fence posts surrounding part of the Gap itself, while four or five recently arrived Swallows were seen swooping low over the crops feeding on the insects there. It reminded us just how important the Gap is for all sorts of wildlife, and that any possible development of even part of it must be strongly resisted.

The walk continued into the woodland of The Plantation where a wide variety of woodland birds were seen and heard. These included Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Song Thrush, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Blackcap, Great Tit and Blue Tit among others.

FCG’s Visit to Warnham Nature Reserve

With a fine day on our side members of Ferring Conservation Group met at Warnham Nature Reserve to take advantage of the chance to explore this gem of a wildlife haven tucked away near the town of Horsham. This 92 acres of land was designated as a nature reserve in 1988 and includes a 17 acre millpond, marshes, grassland, reed beds, hedges and woodland. This creates the perfect environment for 400 species of plants, over 100 species of bird, a heronry, wildfowl and the three species of Woodpecker have also been identified here along with 21 species of dragonfly.

Jacob Everitt, Ecology and Reserve Manager, welcomed us and as he led us towards the millpond we were treated to the sight of a solitary Buzzard testing the thermals high above us. As we settled ourselves into the hide we could see Tufted Ducks, Pochard Ducks, Teal, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Mandarin Ducks, numerous Herring Gulls, Blackheaded Gulls, one Common Gull and a large Heron. Whilst admiring five Cormorants sitting in a distant tree on the far side we were delighted to catch a glimpse of a resident Kingfisher as it flashed past us.

As we left the millpond we spotted a Green Woodpecker and noticed the dipping pond, a purpose built pond with a wooden platform on one side used by visiting children for pond dipping sessions. Making our way to the second hide we were surprised to see a male and a female Siskin feeding from the bird feeders along with Coal Tits, and a Nuthatch. A Wren and Blackbird were seen on nearby shrubs and a Moorhen and male Pheasant came foraging for dropped seed on the ground.

Jacob then suggested we make our way along the boardwalk and as we walked along we remarked on the catkins and primroses and were surprised to see a Bee fly past us; all signs that Spring is on its way. To make a very enjoyable visit even more memorable one of our keen eyed members noticed a Tree Creeper on the trunk of a tall tree. These birds are difficult to spot as their plumage is the perfect camouflage against a tree trunk. At first sight these small birds look very much like mice as they hop up tree trunks but unlike the similar Nuthatch, Tree Creepers cannot climb down again, instead they must leap off and fly to the base of the next tree to continue their endless search for beetles, earwigs and woodlice to pull out of the bark.

As we made our way back to the car park we agreed that this wonderful reserve is definitely worth a second visit.

FCG’s March Working Party

Ferring Conservation Group’s monthly Working Party met at the Village Green and was attended by 10 members. This month they concentrated on cutting back the Dogwood and Buddleia shrubs. Also the herb bed was dug over ready for planting more herbs later in the spring.

 

 

FCG’s visit to Chestnut Tree House Children’s Hospice

Chairman of the Group, David Bettiss, and Tricia Hall visited the local Chestnut Tree House Children’s Hospice to present their fund raiser Caroline Roberts-Quigley with a cheque for well over £700 – this being the proceeds for the seventh year running of the sale of Christmas cards produced by the Group. Over these years, thousands of pounds have been raised for this excellent cause.

FCG Southdowns Bird Walk 31st October 2017

With ideal weather conditions on our side members of Ferring Conservation Group met at Michelgrove Lane on the Angmering Park Estate, in the hope of seeing a variety of bird life.  We were not disappointed. This private estate extends to over 6,750 acres and is owned by the Trustees of the late Bernard, 16th Duke of Norfolk with its origins going back to the Norman Conquest.

As we made our way along the lane towards Harrow Hill, pausing to hear the distinctive call of Pheasants, we sighted both male and females foraging in fields along with Jackdaws and Ravens. As a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew past we noticed Hazel catkins, Blackthorn berries, commonly known as Sloe, wild Rose-hips, Field Maple, Dogwood and Ash lining the edges of the lane. Walking further up the Downs a Buzzard could be heard calling and then appeared on the horizon pursued by two Crows. A shrill call alerted us to a Skylark perched on telephone wires, a Corn Bunting, several Meadow Pipits, a Chaffinch and a Song Thrush were also seen in the vicinity.

After negotiating two stiles and a particularly slippery footpath, Black Patch Hill came into view and Common Gulls, Partridge, including Red-legged Partridge, Stock Doves and Woodpigeon were seen in distant fields, and silhouetted against the skyline three Buzzards were seen perched in a tree. As we turned to make our way back we were rewarded with the sight of two Red Kite circling high above us pursued by Crows, and a Kestrel hovering over a field searching for prey. Having once again found our way back to the lane a Chiff Chaff and three Goldcrest were spotted in the bushes. As we neared our starting point a Stoat crossed the lane directly in front of us and quickly disappeared into the undergrowth, adding yet another interesting sighting to our morning.

Together with the more common birds we noted some 25 species as well as several Red Admiral butterflies along the way. We thanked our guide, Clive Hope, for an enjoyable and informative walk and we all agreed this was a worthwhile exercise.

A Walk around Horsham

On a blustery October morning around 20 members of Ferring Conservation Group met at Horsham Museum for a guided tour to discover some of the hidden secrets of this historic town with our guide for the day, Patricia Hall. This walk followed the trail in the book written and beautifully illustrated by Patricia about Horsham, entitled ‘Armchair Walks in Sussex’.

Patricia began by explaining that the name Horsham comes from ‘Horse Meadow’; a place where horses, cattle and sheep could graze in clearings in the forest.

The impressive Town Hall was our first stop and Patricia captured our imaginations as she described a scene from Elizabethan times when the ground floor was an open arcade and various stalls selling poultry, butter and such like produce was known as the ‘Market House’. The upper floor was where the County Court sat. The ten small ‘holding’ cells in the basement still exist although their windows are now bricked up. The Market House was rebuilt in 1812 by the Duke of Norfolk and his coat of arms can be seen on the front wall.

As we turned into the entrance of Pump Alley, one of several narrow alleyways, we noticed the hinged, wooden letter box on the wall at the site of Horsham’s first Post Office. It was here that letters could be handed directly to the postmaster who sat behind.

We retraced our steps and turned into a pretty road called ‘Causeway’, Patricia pointed out a wall plaque on number 8 Causeway which commemorates the War Hospital Supply Depot. This was established in 1915, during the First World War, to collect materials for hospital use to send to war zones in Europe.

Jane Hayman from the Group said “As we strode along Patricia encouraged us to turn our attention to the skyline and note the many diverse styles of architecture which makes this lovely town so special. We were also made aware of the many houses in the Causeway that employ large slabs of sandstone in their roofs extracted locally and known as Horsham Stone or Slates’.

 The Museum is not only a beautiful medieval timber-framed building but also houses many fascinating artefacts. The Blazing Saddles room at the rear displayed a variety of bicycles, an old fire engine and also the unique ‘Pentacycle’, invented by a Horsham business man but unfortunately it was not a success. Crime and Punishment is the theme to another of the exhibitions, displaying keys, handcuffs and truncheons from the County Gaol which was demolished in 1845. As we turned into Morth Gardens we noticed the pretty cottages and then turned right into Denne Road and pass Drill Hall and the Lychgate to Denne Road Cemetery on our way to St Mary’s Church. The tall church spire is 156 feet high (nearly 48 metres) and has over 50,000 shingles (wooden tiles) as these are lighter than traditional tiles.

Once again we retraced our steps and headed along the Causeway back to the Museum and completed our walk at our starting point. As we thanked Patricia for a very enjoyable and informative walk, we all agreed that Horsham is indeed a lovely town with considerable historic interest.

FCG Members and Beavers Group – Beach Walk June 2017

In June, 3 members of the Ferring Conservation Group met up with the Beavers associated with the 2nd Worthing Scouts on the beach at Sea Lane.

Beavers are the youngest members of the Scout movement, and are aged between 6 and 8 years.  They are given the chance to take part in a wide range of activities, including working on Badge and Challenge awards, to gain recognition of their achievements. Our meetings were intended to support them in this goal.

At our first meeting, on a very windy day, there were 14 Beavers. Working in pairs, they were set on a Treasure Hunt to find a variety of natural objects on the beach. This was taken on with great enthusiasm, and led to demonstrations of their knowledge of a shoreline environment. Each pair then turned their shells, seaweed, cuttlefish bones and egg cases into ‘portraits’ with some amusing results.

Our second meeting, with much better weather, saw the Beavers kitted out with hi-viz jackets, rubber gloves, litter pickers and sacks. They worked in teams of 2 and made their way along the beach picking up litter. They then sorted the litter into different materials. They talked about what they had found, the materials the litter was made up of, and the danger that this presented for our environment.

These events were good fun, enhanced by the keen interest shown by the Beavers, and the reassurance that young people know and care about their environment. Ferring Conservation Group were pleased to help out and enjoyed themselves as much as the Beavers!.