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 Of the three applications north of the A259, two had been refused and one withdrawn by the applicant.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.