July events

Sunday 14 July litter clean up of central part of Ferring Village. Please meet on Village Green at 11am, and equipment and high vis jackets will be provided. We plan to clean up the Green and Glebelands Rec (and surrounds), and by coincidence this is the day after the Ferring Festival so a good opportunity to remove any litter.

We will also be having stand at the Festival in conjunction with Ferring History Group on the day before (Saturday 13th), and we’ll be in a marquee at Glebelands. This will be between 11am and 4pm.

On the following Tuesday (16th), we will be carrying out our contribution to the national Big Butterfly Count organised by Butterfly Conservation, and as last year, this one will be at Cissbury Ring, where we’ll be meeting at the top car park at 11am. This site is one of the very best for butterflies (both in numbers and different species) in the whole of the South East, so a good opportunity to learn about them while counting for the survey. Feel free to bring a picnic, especially if the weather is nice.

Ferring Rife water quality testing with St Oscar Romero school

With clipboards at the ready around 30 students recently joined Ferring Conservation Group, in a morning and afternoon session, on their monthly water quality testing of the Ferring Rife.

The Group’s new Chairman Pete Coe gave an introductory talk advising the students of why the river is tested regularly and ways in which rivers can become polluted through human activity. Pete went on to give examples of possible local issues contributing to this.

A member of the Group and long-time resident Peter Dale then informed the students of the history of the Rife including the efforts made to alleviate flooding of nearby properties.

Group Secretary David Bettiss then spoke to the students regarding the testing scheme used and the levels of contaminants looked for to ensure good water quality essential for a healthy ecosystem. David then proceeded to gather water from the Rife and commenced the testing process advising the students at every stage and asking for some assistance along the way. David explained that the results of the exercise were not only manually recorded but also entered into the Angling Trust App. This nationwide project hopes to allow further understanding of how agriculture and sewage disposal are the largest contributors to poor water quality in our waterways.

Measurement of surface water flow is an important component of many water quality monitoring projects. Aquatic life support is directly influenced by streamflow and calculation of pollutants requires knowledge of water flow. Therefore, with help from several of the students, Group member Ian Foster conducted a basic water flow test.

The students carried out this exercise as part of their John Muir Award scheme and this gave them the opportunity to become ‘Citizen Scientists’ helping them to develop and learn and become conscious of the impact of their actions on others and on the environment around them.

Ferring Conservation Group look forward to working with the school on projects in the future.

Purple Emperor by Michael Blencowe for Sussex Wildlife Trust

In any book on British butterflies, you’ll find our 58 species segregated into social ranks: the common browns, the blue-collar blues, the working-class whites. But turn the page, past the lepidopteral lower-classes, and you’ll find a butterfly so unique, so magnificently majestic, so breathtakingly beautiful that for centuries British naturalists have bowed before it. Draped in resplendent robes of iridescent amethyst, obsidian, and ermine the Purple Emperor has to be one of the most impressive animals on our island. In July the purple reign begins.

Aside from an alluring appearance, Emperors also possess that combination of rarity and elusiveness which has elevated them into an almost mythological figure: a butterfly bigfoot. How a large, shiny, purple butterfly manages to exist undetected in our countryside is down to an arboreal existence. Purple Emperors spend almost all their time on lofty thrones high above our woodlands. If we’re lucky we may glimpse the glide of a wide-winged silhouette as we stare sore-necked and squinting at the Sycamore skyline. Up there, in their canopy kingdom, Emperors compete in a power struggle for territory and males gather for summer tree-top tournaments. Their wings flash as they clash in acrobatic aerial jousting, and they spar and spiral high into the Sussex skies. The Emperor’s ferocity and fearlessness in the defence of his realm are famous. Butterflies, bumblebees and other insects get a battering if they trespass and, incredibly, bemused birds (including Sparrowhawks, woodpeckers, gulls and herons) also receive a warning wing-slap.

Emperors don’t lower themselves to feast on flowers like other butterfly riffraff. The Emperor sups sugars by quaffing only the finest honeydew distilled by aphids in the treetops. Yet, in complete contrast to its aristocratic high life, the Emperor has some dirty habits which drag him down to the filthy forest floor. To get his majesty’s mojo working he requires a mid-morning meal of minerals, which he obtains by probing his proboscis into the most disgusting muck he can find. Dog poo, used nappies, dead animals, sweaty feet – nothing is too repugnant. It’s like finding the King rummaging through the bins at the back of Tesco.

The female Empress does not have the shining sheen or horrid habits of the Emperor but she too descends to lower levels searching shady Sallows for a place to lay her eggs. Camouflaged caterpillars munch from August to June before giving rise to another distinguished (but disgusting) dynasty.

Recently, the Emperor has extended his empire eastwards. Once a butterfly of north-west Sussex it can now be found all across the north of the county and has been reported around Uckfield – there have even been rumoured sightings in the very heart of Brighton – so keep your eyes to the skies.

Sussex Wildlife Trust is a conservation charity for everyone who cares about nature in Sussex. Founded in 1961, we have worked with local people for over half a century to make Sussex richer in wildlife. We rely on the support of our members. Please consider joining us. Your membership will help us challenge decisions that threaten wildlife, care for more than 30 nature reserves, and inspire the next generation about the wonders of the natural world. It’s easy to join online at sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/join

Bluebell Walks

On a warm Saturday 13th April, 12 members of the group met in Clapham Church car park. Led by Graham Tuppen,  we walked through the woods, admiring the bluebells, wood anemones, celandines, greater stitchwort and primroses. Despite searching, no early purple orchids were spotted.

A diversion from the main path took us to a magnificent beech tree, which apparently has a somewhat questionable history, and then to a delightful spot at the woods’ edge overlooking Long Furlong and Blackpatch Hill.

A lot of coppicing has been carried out recently, partially with the aim of encouraging silver-washed fritillary butterflies by improving the habitat for their caterpillars’ food plants. We finished with a look around Clapham Church.

A small group of members met on a delightfully sunny Monday 29th April morning, for a walk to see the bluebells and early purple orchids in Patching woods and part of the Norfolk Estate, again guided by Graham.

The bluebells were still lovely, and the early purple orchids were putting on a great show.

Other flowers spotted in the woods and near the village were greater stitchwort, a few late wood anemones, celandines, wood spurge, red campion, yellow archangel, herb robert, alkanet, some Californian poppies, and speedwell.

Jackie Seymour led the butterfly spotting, with large whites, brimstones, speckled wood, red admiral, peacock and orange tips. An interesting black and red froghopper insect was also spotted.

Birds included a red kite and buzzards. (Photos by Peter Dale and Lynda Monger)

Late April and May events

In addition to the main meeting this coming Friday (26th) at Ferring Village Hall at 2.30pm on the Broadwater and Worthing Cemetery, we have the following events coming up:

1. An extra Bluebell Walk – this time in Patching Woods next Monday 29th April, meeting at the usual place in France Lane just south of the main village at 1030am. We should be seeing some early Orchids there in addition to the Bluebells. Please note there are a number of stiles to cross, and it may still be muddy in places.

2. Monthly Community Project morning Thursday 2nd May – an hour’s work, meeting at the Sea Lane boat at the sea end of the road at 10am. The plan is to dig out and replant the boat with fresh soil etc, plus if time, some work at the Raised Shingle Beds further along Patterson’s Walk. Please bring a spade and trowel etc if you have them.

3. Annual Memorial Visit to Warnham Nature Reserve near Horsham (just off A24 and signposted) to remember our good friends Tricia and Mike Hall – Friday 10th May, meeting there at the opening time of 10am. Please note there is a small entrance fee (cards only) and a coffee shop plus facilities. Please lift share if at all possible.

4. A small impromptu repeat of the above Warnham visit to anybody who can’t make it on that date. This one will be the following week on Thursday 16th May, also meeting at 10am.

5. First Beach Clean of the year – Sunday 19th May, meeting at the east end of the Bluebird Cafe car park as usual at 11am. All equipment will be provided.

A lot going on for your interest then, and if weather might be an issue on the day, please check the website for any updates.


Sussex Underwater Presentation 22 March

Ferring Conservation Group were privileged to welcome Sussex Underwater (Eric Smith accompanied by his daughter Catrine Priestley) to their March meeting to enthral members with their enlightening presentation together with beautiful film footage of the results of the successful campaign to rejuvenate the local underwater kelp forest.

It was apparent right from the start what a special relationship Eric and Catrine have with the narration slipping seamlessly between them as they began to set out the chain of events that resulted in this remarkable success.

Eric’s story began in 1959 at just 11 years old, kitted out with just a diving mask and snorkel purchased for 10 shillings from Woolworths, Eric began free diving off the Sussex coastline. During his initial dives he was mesmerised by the abundance of marine life including European Sea Bass, Black Sea Bream, European Lobster and Common Cuttlefish. Sadly, by the end of the century 96% of the kelp had disappeared along with the marine life it supported.

The great storm of 1987 and intensive fishing using heavy trawl nets, which were dragged along the seabed in the area and destroyed the seabed habitats, were mostly to blame. Even before these events Eric was greatly troubled at what he saw – in his words ‘this garden of Eden’ gradually being destroyed, and had begun campaigning tirelessly highlighting the damage this was causing and was later joined by his daughter Catrine. Eric still feels emotional today when he looks back and remembers seeing the bottom of the sea devoid of life and the Sussex underwater kelp forest virtually wiped out.

It wasn’t until 2021 that a new bylaw – supported by none other than Sir David Attenborough – banned trawl fishing in more than 100 square miles of seabed off Sussex. Encouragingly this has resulted in a great improvement of a healthy kelp ecosystem, providing an ideal nursery for juvenile fish and rare sea bream breeding on the sea bed again. This local story is of great importance not only to the UK but internationally too.

A BBC One programme ‘Our Lives; Our Kelp Forest’, (narrated by Chris Packham and now available on BBC iPlayer) outlined this amazing journey – filmed over three years this shows incredible scenes of Eric diving with giant 40-pound stingrays as well as witnessing the return of the mussel beds and is definitely worth watching.

To conclude the meeting Ed Miller took to the floor to update members with planning news:

The Certificate of Lawful Entitlement along with a Premises Licence have both been refused by Worthing BC in regard of the land on the north side of Marine Drive, Goring-by-Sea. The planning application for 47 houses at Kingston Lane, East Preston has been approved by Arun DC and a new application has been submitted for a bungalow to be built in the back garden of an existing property in Sea Lane, Ferring.

Warren Pond update

We held a very well attended Community Project morning at the pond at the start of November, and carried out a good amount of bramble and vegetation clearance on The Warren side of the pond. Thank you to all those who helped out and we managed to fill up the skip as usual.

To follow on from that the Parish Council (who of course own the pond) arranged for a tree surgeon recently to carry out the heavier and more involved tree, bramble and vegetation clearance work, especially on the Florida Road side and also more on the west bank. Below are a “before” and a couple of “after” pictures so you can see the progress that has been made, and it has really opened up the views of the pond and the wildlife that visits, including the foxes.

The water levels are very high which meant that the tree surgeon (who has done an excellent job) couldn’t access all the weeping willow and brambles, some of which was under the water surface, even though he did some of the work from his canoe. He intends returning to complete the work in the Spring when hopefully the water will have dropped, and the whole pond project is in fact an ongoing one to be continued over a number of years. We hope to construct a Hibernaculum soon there to benefit reptiles and amphibians, including the resident Great Crested Newts, as well as carrying out some small scale tree planting plus wild flowers on the banks and margins. We are also reinstating some birds nest boxes.

The main principle though is to maintain the pond and its surrounds as a wildlife sanctuary. As I’ve said many times this is one of the very few truly wild places in the village and desperately needs to be preserved as such for the benefit of the varied wildlife that call it home or frequent it.

Worthing Buildings Lost and Saved

Ferring Conservation Group welcomed the Worthing Society to its November meeting, for a talk given by its Chairman, Sue Belton and Committee member David Clark. The Society much in common with our Conservation Group, is striving to preserve and conserve all that is best in our environment, and is a valuable member of the Protect our Gaps Alliance. It also reflects what we do in our History Group, in researching and presenting the town’s history but its main focus is on Worthing’s buildings – past, present and future – and the talk was entitled ‘Worthing’s Buildings, Lost and Saved.’

Sue said far too many historic buildings were demolished in the1960s and were replaced by extremely unattractive buildings and multi-storey car parks. This trend continued into the 1970s but was challenged by a redoubtable character, Mrs Pat Baring, who campaigned to save what was left, and founded the Worthing Civic Society in 1973. Among the fine buildings that were lost was the old Town Hall (built in 1836), the Theatre Royal in Ann Street (18th Century), Grafton House, the Esplanade Hotel (where Oscar Wilde wrote ‘The Importance of being Earnest’), and the 17th Century ‘Selden’s Cottage’ but the biggest planning disaster of all was the demolition of half the High Street leaving only two or three of the old town houses.

But although much had been lost a lot more had been saved.  There were 212 buildings on the Statutory List and another 750 on Worthing Council’s local list. The Worthing Society was involved in saving much of this built heritage, working closely with English Heritage and the Borough Council. Beach House was one of its successes, along with the Dome Cinema and Stanford Cottage (now a Pizza House), where Jane Austen had written the unfinished novel, ‘Sanditon’. Now the Society was much involved with preserving these and other historic buildings but was also regularly consulted by the Council on planning applications and its redevelopment schemes like Teville Gate and Montague Place.

The talk was followed by tea and hot mince pies, and the usual update on local wildlife and planning applications and appeals, including the dismissal of the appeal on Lansdowne Nursery, one of the cases which the Protect our Gaps Alliance had taken up and won.

FCG 2023 Charity Christmas Cards

Our 2023 charity Christmas cards are now on sale. The image on the card this year is an excellent and atmospheric photograph of a Winter Sunset on Ferring Beach, taken by Mary Coe. The cards come in a pack of 10, and once again cost £5 per pack, with all proceeds going direct to Chestnut Tree House Children’s Hospice.

They will be available at our next Group meeting at Ferring Village Hall on Friday 24/11, and then at the Village Christmas Fair also at the Village Hall on the afternoon of Saturday 2/12. In addition they’ll also be on sale at Pinkerton’s Newsagents in Ocean Parade.

Work parties from September

In order to assist members with planning ahead and hopefully to come along to some of our monthly work parties, we have returned to the previous system of holding them on the same day each month.

From September, they will normally be held on the first Thursday of the month at 10am (and most of them only last for around an hour or so). The first one therefore will be on 7 Sept, meeting at the Community Orchard on Glebelands Recreation ground off Rife Way, and the task here will be to rake off the grass and vegetation around the fruit trees which should have been cut by Arun DC. If any of the apples there are ripe, some of these can be picked as well as a reward for turning up. If you’re able to help for an hour, it would be good to see you and please bring a grass rake or similar if you have one, and wear suitable clothing/ footwear for the job in hand.

As always with any of our outside events, if there is any doubt about the weather conditions on the day, please check our website

Looking ahead, the work parties will move around the various locations across the village that we look after, and the exact location and task will be publicised in advance each month. We’re also looking at individual members possibly take a particular interest in one of our locations and developing a simple plan of what needs doing and when, but more of that to follow later. We’re also grateful to new committee member Pete Coe who is coordinating the work parties alongside me.

David Bettiss – Chairman