Online Talk ‘Pressing the Pause Button’ by Dr Tony Whitbread

Due to Government restrictions Ferring Conservation Group had to move their usual April monthly Group meeting online.

Chairman, David Bettiss opened the meeting and welcomed Dr Tony Whitbread, President of the Sussex Wildlife Trust (SWT) who gave a thought provoking and informative talk challenging the issues faced by nature in the 21st century. Dr Whitbread who retired as Chief Executive of SWT has recently returned to take a leading role as the Trust’s President.

To an attendance of over 30 members Dr Whitbread noted that while the human race was locked up in their rooms like naughty teenagers because of the pandemic, the natural world had flourished; the birds seemed to be singing louder, butterflies were plentiful and the sky seemed bluer with less air pollution. As towns and cities around the world lay in lockdown some animals took advantage of the situation. There were for example reports of goats in the gardens of Wales to penguins in the streets of South Africa. Therefore should we be asking ‘Has nature really blossomed or is it that humans have had the opportunity to observe it in all its wonder’?

Whilst it is generally true that human activity is damaging the environment this negative view is not always the case. Conservation Management, sensitive farming, sustainable forestry as well as gardening and looking after community green spaces are all positive interactions. Dr Whitbread posed the question that if nature is left alone aren’t we just rewilding? Apparently the rebuilding of natural systems and then encouraging it to lookj after itself is not the same as abandonment.

The major worry is that we should not have to wait for a pandemic to allow nature to recover.

David Attenborough gave us the alarming fact that currently 96% of mammals are either human or our livestock – only 4% make up all other mammals.

It is estimated that between 2 and 4 new viruses appear every year as nature has been pushed into its last corners. Whether it is in industrial farms, our destruction of ecosystems or in animal markets these diseases are increasingly crossing the species barriers and infecting humans. Unfortunately pandemics are a repercussion of our destruction of nature and they may now become a long-term feature of our lives unless we change our ways.

Dr Whitbread gave the warning that after we come out of Lockdown our new normal must be different and this is the main challenge to humanity for the foreseeable future. For this to happen we must firstly change our values. We must move away from consumerism and all that it encompasses and adopt higher values where society, empathy, helping and sharing become intrinsic, and our natural assets are cared for. We will need a carbon neutral, zero waste society and this will mean a significant growth in localism, becoming closer to our local place and to our local wildlife.

Having had the time and space to think about our environmental bad behaviour over the last decades we must now turn our full attention to leaving the ‘spoilt brat’ economy behind us. Dr Whitbread empathised that we go back to the old normal at our peril and one of the fundamental ways to make a difference is in the empowerment of women.!Ao7-AMX6cu_Xg5IRFFE7lJoNBTsSwQ

The Rife Trees – March 2018

If you’ve walked along either of the banks of the Ferring Rife recently, in an area that was previously largely devoid of trees, you’ll have noticed the emergence of some young native trees which are providing a very valuable and varied wildlife corridor in the stretch from the road bridge leading into the Ferring Country Centre down to the area known as the North Lagoon. The area bordering both the North and South Lagoons heading down towards the sea already had a much needed belt of native trees, which were planted by members of the Shoreham and District Ornithological Society back in the 1980s.

The new trees have been planted by members of the Conservation Group over the last 6 or so Winters, with many of them being provided as small “whips” free by the Woodland Trust as part of their national programme to replace the many trees and hedgerows lost over the years for various reasons such as the intensification of agriculture.

We have planted on the land here under the control of the Environment Agency (EA) a whole range of trees, including amongst others – Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Silver Birch, Rowan, Hazel and Oak. We’ve even planted two of the quite rare Black Poplar trees which have added to one already growing nearby. With these and other species, they have provided (and will continue to provide) a rich mix of species and habitats, and we have already seen different animals, insects and birds making use of them as a home, shelter, a roost or even a singing post.

There have been some challenges, and we have undoubtedly had some losses of these small and quite vulnerable trees. The extremes of weather – be it drought, flood, frosts and heat – have all taken their toll, as well as the competing nettles, grasses and other vegetation. Much credit must go here to our members who regularly cut back around the trees during our work parties, which must help. We’ve also had some problems with snails (which like the plastic protective tubes to live in!), as well as some over enthusiastic mowing by the EA, sadly some vandalism and even hungry sheep.

Just last Autumn, we carried out a full survey of those trees that have survived and I’m glad to say that very nearly 500 of various types are still in situ.

In general, the trees have made a massive difference both to the look of the area as well as its value to our local wildlife, and over the coming years and indeed decades, things can only improve with such a diverse range of habitats. One would really hope that future generations will thank us for what we’ve achieved, but the work continues and we hope to see some of you at our future work parties, a number of which will be on the Rife.

by David Bettiss

Waste cooking oil, greener energy and blocked drains?

How many of us would make a connection between used cooking oil as a source for cleaner energy and fewer pounds spent on cleaning and repairing drains and sewage treatment plants? The connection might not be that obvious but there is a connection and a very costly one.

It is estimated that each year in the UK 129 kilotonnes of used household cooking oil is disposed of and most of it goes down the drain. Cooking oil can and is being used to provide green, carbon neutral electricity. A litre of oil can generate sufficient energy for 240 cups of tea, or 5 hours of microwave use, or 160 hours of laptop use.

When cooking oil is improperly disposed of it is harmful for the environment and water companies have to clear blockages. 115 tons of waste was removed from the treatment plants of East Worthing and Shoreham between April and November in 2014. Money is spent unblocking, cleaning and removing waste oil and other items such as ‘flushable’ wet wipes from drains and sewage treatment plants. Southern Water cleans and unblocks drains and sewage plants because householders put oil, fats and other inappropriate items down drains and toilets.

Recycling used cooking oil for renewable electricity will, in the long run, save us all money. Recycling even a small amount of waste oil including vegetable oil from sun-dried tomato jars, fry-ups and tinned tuna oil, can be used for producing biofuels, help to lower carbon emissions and help keep the drains and sewers unblocked.

The Household Recycling Waste Centres in Worthing, Shoreham and Littlehampton provide residents with opportunities for the recycling of almost all disposable items, including waste cooking oil. For each visit to these Recycling Centre residents may recycle up to 5 litres of used cooking oil in the disposal tanks provided. The bulk of the oil safely disposed of is used to generate a sustainable energy source.

There are many examples of good and emerging reduce, reuse and recycle schemes.

Surrey Council invites catering outlets to donate used cooking oil for the production of biodiesel and in Kingston on Thames the Council offers a free cooking oil collection service as well as an offer to buy large quantities of cooking oil for reuse as biofuels. In Milton Keynes there are commercial collection points for waste oil to be reused for cleaner electricity. Huntingdon District Council provide a collection of all food and garden waste which is then reused for compost. West Sussex uses the bulk of recycled oil from its Recycling Centres for the production of greener electricity. Householders can contribute to this free of charge but catering outlets have to pay for safe disposal of waste cooking oil.

There could be opportunities for the water authority and councils to negotiate more effective processes for the reuse of waste cooking oil and other reusable substances. Savings could be used to offset council costs and reduce treatment and sewer maintenance costs. Communities can work alongside councils and other providers to improve the effectiveness and reduce the cost of the services available.

The message of reduce, reuse, recycle is still valid. By acting responsibly with what is put down the drains and what is recycled local residents can support the generation of cleaner energy and save money on drain cleaning operations.


1. Article on drains and ‘sewer – blockers’ (the public’s help in maintaining effective drainage systems). Worthing Herald 29th Jan 2015

2. West Sussex Gazette 14th January 2015. “Waste oil helps to generate energy”. Various eco/ biofuel websites and council sites.

3. Various eco/ biofuel websites and Council sites

4. London Oils ~ free collection of oil in Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk

By Lesley James