If you go down to the Rife today you will be sure to see acres of blue flax in the Ferring/East Preston Gap. Flax or Linseed produces a pretty blue flower which bees love. The seeds that follow are in little round seed boxes which are crushed to extract linseed oil. Flax used to be used to make linen but this variety is only used for its oil.
Did you follow the National Trust’s advice to ‘No mow, May’? We were asked to leave an area of our lawns to grow and to see how many wild flowers appeared. Mine is mown around the edges, with a central area left and this is attracting many birds including goldfinches and blackbirds. If you haven’t done this, it is not too late! Let it Bloom in June!
See under nature notes for many exciting sightings.
Go to Nature Notes for Tricia’s frequent posts. There are recent sightings and suggestions for things to do and look at in your garden and when walking around the village and over the Gaps and up to Highdown. Please report to her any interesting sightings of your own.
January sightings are recorded on the nature notes page. A highlight just before Christmas were 6 Brent Geese on Goring Gap.There have been poor numbers of birds this winter with fewer waders. The weather has been mild but terribly wet which has not encouraged bird watching but the general concensus is that there have not been so many birds on the Sussex coast this winter.
Whilst walking on Ferring beach today, I met a man turning over piles of seaweed in search of a rare jellyfish! He had found 2. Apparently, he had read that 1000’s had been stranded on Dorset’s Jurassic beaches in the wake of Storm Desmond.These are flotillas of Velella velella or ‘By-the-wind Sailors’ a tiny jellyfish which has a transparent sail attached to an oval base. It is really a colony of jellyfish which has a blue body with the tentacles hanging below.I did a search myself and eventually found 3. They had lost their blue, jelly bodies but I took them home and photographed the transparent sails and bases. Being transparent and only about 5-6cm long, the jellyfish are not easy to spot but it is worth having a look and you never know what you might find!
There have been many stories all around the world lately about mass strandings of jellyfish. Last year it was Barrel Jellyfish on our beaches. The phenomenon may be linked to over-fishing where there are not enough fish to eat the jellyfish eggs and larvae and therefore too many adults develop. Another example of man’s interference with nature?
On Saturday, the 5th December, at 11am, representatives from many Ferring organisations met on the Village green for a traditional Tree Dressing. Each group was assigned one of the trees around the periphery of the Green and we hung our decorations on the lower branches.It was very windy but within half an hour there were hundreds of fluttering, brightly-coloured churches, masks, flowers etc..The FCG provided butterflies, trees and birds.
The event was meticulously planned by Norma Cummings, one of our long-standing members. She designed the decorations and, over several months, invited each organisation to her house to cut out their appropriate shapes. All the designs
Later in the day, Ferring’s Christmas Lights were switched on and FCG manned a stall in the Village Green to sell Christmas cards, calendars and painted pebbles in aid of the Chestnut Tree House children’s hospice, our chosen charity.
A ‘Medieval’ Herb Bed
As a contribution to St. Andrew’s Church’s 1250 anniversary, FCG have constructed a herb bed based on a cartwheel design. The bed is on the village green and is just in front of the children’s playground. The bed is for fun but we hope to provide informative labels and the herbs have been selected for their attractiveness to bees and other insects.
We have planted medicinal herbs which were made into tonics, potions, purges and salves (ointments). Feverfew, for example, was used to treat headaches and was also for joints and digestive problems. It is also a good nectar and pollen source for bees.
Dyeing plants were those from which the medieval housewife extracted dyes for colouring cloth. Woad was an important source of blue dye and was used to colour clothes and tapestries and was also a pigment for blue paint.
A thousand years ago homes, of both poor and rich people, were remarkably smelly and dirty. Strewing plants were those that were scattered on floors, with rushes or reeds, to mask smells and keep insects at bay. The rushes and reeds helped to soak up all manner of spilt liquids (animals usually shared the homestead), but, were often only changed twice a year! Lavender was strewn on floors for this purpose and was supposed to repel moths. It was also a personal scent and was used in baths when one was lucky enough to get one!
We have planted many culinary herbs which were used in cooking and most of these are familiar to us today. These had important other uses as well so the medieval housewife had to be very knowledgeable. It was her duty to sow, plant and tend her garden. Mint, for example, was an aid to digestion and was made into a sauce. It was also used for cleansing wounds, as a cough mixture, and was added to vinegar to make a mouthwash. It also deterred vermin.
We are grateful to Benton Weatherstone who gave us free bricks for the construction, Ferring Nurseries for the compost and Culberry Nurseries at Angmering for their advice and providing many of the herbs at very reduced prices.
Please come along to see our herb bed and watch how it develops. When it is growing well, we may even allow you to snip a few herbs for your own use as long as you promise to pull out half a dozen weeds at the same time!