Warren Pond annual clear up

Our annual clear up of the Warren Pond and surrounds in partnership with Ferring Parish Council will take place on Saturday 30 October from 10am onwards. If you’re able to help with this again, it would be great to see you there, and if you have them, please bring along any loppers, shears or secateurs you might have. We suggest that you wear suitable clothing, footwear and gloves. The pond is in South Ferring at the junction of Florida Road and The Warren.

This task doesn’t take too long and should be over by 11am or so. If there is any doubt about weather conditions on the day, please check this website for any updates.

‘The Great British Rake Off’

After a fallow year in 2020 due to Covid restrictions, volunteers from Ferring Conservation Group came together again with those from The Good Gym Worthing to rake up the cut vegetation at the foot of Sea Lane Ferring at the start of the month.

The Good Gym is a charity with branches across the country where groups of runners combine regular exercise with helping local communities as happened here in Ferring. The reason for the work was to remove the thatch of grass that would otherwise swamp the wild flowers on the verge, which include the attractive Salsify amongst others, and allow them to thrive in future years.

About 20 volunteers from both groups met up one tea time, but were greeted by a sudden downpour of rain at the start of the session. Luckily, this soon relented and the task was completed in a friendly way with people mixing well for a chat whilst carrying out the raking. Daylight began to fade, but by then the task was completed.

Ferring Conservation Group Chairman David Bettiss said, “We’re very grateful to our friends from The Good Gym helping us out once again alongside the regular volunteers from our own group to carry out this important work. We’ve already seen a definite improvement in the biodiversity here since the annual raking started a few years ago, and trust that next Spring and Summer we’ll all see the fruits of our work with wild flowers blooming. At this time of climate change, it’s critical that we all do our bit to improve our local environment as much as we can, whilst providing a good habitat for our wildlife.”

Last ‘Beach Clean’ of the year and the ‘Great Big Green Week’

On a glorious late September morning around 35 members of Ferring Conservation Group met at the beach huts in Ferring to carry out the last scheduled beach clean of 2021.

As in previous years this September’s beach clean was conducted as part of the Great British Beach Clean. This national initiative is a week-long citizen science event running from 17th to 26th September, driven by the Marine Conservation Society, with many beach cleans taking place across the UK. During each clean a 100 metre section of the beach is surveyed and all items of litter recorded with the results fed into the International Coastal Clean-up (ICC) initiative. This global event was established in 1986 to encourage volunteers to act as ‘citizen scientists’ by tallying the items of litter found with a view to identifying the sources of marine debris, examining the trends of items and to increase awareness regarding the different threats to marine life. Sadly whales and dolphins have washed up on beaches either already dead or dying due to them ingesting large amounts of plastic. Tragically, in 2019, a young Cuvier beaked whale was spotted in great distress off the coast of the Philippines. It was soon washed up on a beach and shortly afterwards sadly died. To the astonishment of vets carrying out a post-mortem, 88 pounds of plastic was removed from its stomach (including 16 rice sacks on top of other types of plastic bags; plus large tangles of nylon rope). This distressing story demonstrates only too well the race against time we all face for immediate action to be taken worldwide.

Jane Hayman from the Group said “there were relatively few items of litter on Ferring beach due to the recent calm seas and the largest item found was a particularly heavy wooden pallet that became a two-man job to move it along to the collection point. Disappointingly the worst area for litter was to the rear of the beach huts and around the Bluebird café area”.

The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) is taking place in Glasgow from 31st October to 12th November 2021.  Leading up to this crucial conference a national initiative is taking place and from 18th to 26th September over 2000 communities across the country are joining together for the ‘Great Big Green Week’. Events are taking place in many towns and villages involving local groups highlighting how people can take action to tackle climate change and protect our wildlife and green spaces on a local and personal level, with a view to encouraging others to become involved too. The events will range from climate cafés, community stalls, art installations, concerts and many more all with the aim of putting pressure on the UK Government to up its game on climate change. Ferring Conservation Group have provided an interesting and thought provoking display which can be seen in Ferring Library until Friday 24th September. Please do go along and take a look at it and even put some of the suggested actions into practice.

 

 

FCG provide new benches for Ferring Rife

Ferring Conservation Group has completed the construction and installation of two rustic wooden benches on the Ferring side of the local Rife River. It’s hoped that these will provide a welcome stopping point for walkers to take a short break to appreciate this much loved and protected Local Wildlife Site.

The benches are made of solid oak and were constructed by Group committee member, Graham Tuppen, and he was assisted in the installation by fellow committee member Colin Annis and Group chairman David Bettiss. The work was carried out with the full cooperation of the Environment Agency who own the land, with the benches designed to fit seamlessly and naturally into the local environment.

They were paid for out of Conservation Group funds, and specifically by donations received from generous members during the recent 2021 membership renewal process. The work was carried out by the volunteers in their own time and expense.

David Bettiss said, ‘We’re very pleased to have been able to install these excellent and well-crafted benches for the benefit of the local community on the Rife. Whilst working on them, we were overwhelmed by many positive comments by people walking past, so I know they’re going to be well used, and will hopefully last a long time. I’m very grateful to our members who have given us donations which allowed us to complete such a project for the benefit of the whole local community, and particular thanks must go to my fellow workers, Colin Annis and especially Graham Tuppen, who did the bulk of the work.’

Persimmon tries again

Persimmon’s Persistence

We learned this morning that Persimmon have lodged an appeal against Worthing Borough Council’s refusal of their 475-home estate on the North Goring Gap. This was quite a surprise because they told the planning officers that they would not appeal but try to get the land designated for housing  in the Planning Inspector’s review of the new Local Plan.
We do not yet know the grounds for their appeal but presumably it is the same argument that they used in their planning application – that Worthing was a long way short of the Government’s housing targets and that the benefit of getting nearer to that target outweighed all the objections about landscape, wildlife, gaps between settlements, traffic paralysis and all the other good reasons why it was refused. We, and the other local organisations, may need to make further statements to the Inspector but he or she will read all the case papers and see our arguments that were endorsed by over 1250 residents, Ferring Parish Council and all the residents’  and amenity groups in Goring and Worthing, were backed by the Worthing planning officers and unanimously  accepted by Worthing’s Planning Committee. I think the appeal has very little chance of success. Sir Peter Bottomley, Our Member of Parliament  (who is a member of our Group) has issued this statement:
The Secretary of State for Housing Robert Jenrick has to stand firm on government policy that rejects inappropriate developments. 
He knows Worthing is squeezed between the sea and the National Park.
He knows the major development at West Durrington.
He knows the intentions for significant new housing at Teville Gate, on Union Place and on the gas works site.
Let us call for everyone in Arun and in Worthing to call on Persimmon to be less grasping, to support Worthing Borough Council in arguing for the developer’s appeal to fail and to maintain the rare fields between the District and Borough’

We know we can count on his support, and that of all our members.

– Ed Miller 4 September 

FCG Butterfly Count 2021

Peacock butterfly

peacock

Ferring Conservation Group carried out three surveys this year as part of The Big Butterfly Count. This is the world’s biggest survey of butterflies and last year, during lock-down, 111,628 participants submitted results with a staggering total of 1.4 million individuals counted. Sadly, 2020 was not a good year for many species and because of the hot spring and early summer followed by a wet late summer, many butterfly cycles were over before the counts began.

Small tortoiseshell

The first two counts were along the Rife. In the North Lagoon 22 individuals were counted in 15 minutes and 9 individual species. It was a dull, sunless day, not ideal for butterfly counting, but 13 Gatekeepers were found.  A beautiful, newly-emerged Peacock was seen and it was delightful to see a Small Tortoiseshell. The latter was once very common along the Rife but is now an unusual sighting.

In the South Lagoon only 5 species and 13 individuals with 9 being

Wall moth

Gatekeepers were spotted. Although no Silver-y, ones of the day-flying moths on the list were sighted, several Shaded Broad-bar and a tiny Mint moth or Small Purple and Gold were counted, and these are common visitors to garden herb beds. A sunny day should have improved the count.

The third count took place on Highdown Hill. There were 10 participants and again the weather was not ideal for this important task. A 15 minute count at the top of the Hill resulted in a few butterflies that were flying around during a search around the vegetation. This time 10 species were recorded, with a total count of 32 individuals. There were lots of Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers but not a single Marbled White. The most unusual butterfly was a Wall which none of the Group had seen in the vicinity before – this is another declining butterfly species.

Box Tree moth

One rather beautiful, silky-looking, white moth with dark-grey wing margins was seen. This, however, is the dreaded Box Tree Moth whose caterpillars have caused such havoc in gardens with formal box hedges. It is an introduced species from SE Asia, entering Britain in 2007.

Other species noted were yellow and black-striped Cinnabar moth caterpillars on ragwort and some members of the Group were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a Great Green Bush Cricket.

FCG and SDOS Nature Walk on Highdown Hill

Thirty two people met in the car park at Highdown Hill on Thursday 15th July – this was the combination of members from both Ferring Conservation Group (FCG) and Shoreham and District Ornithological Society (SDOS). With such a large attendance it was decided to split into groups of 8 with Tricia Hall, Clive Hope, Graham Tuppen and Peter and Ruth Dale as leaders.

Apart from many singing Skylarks, plus one seen carrying food to a nest very close to the path, it was good to see a number of chattering Swallows catching insects over the top of the hill. Only two raptors were spotted, a Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk, also a Swift and two Sand Martins, while a Blackcap and Common Whitethroat were in full song.

Tricia Hall handed out a printed list of downland flowers to attendees at the start of the walk and most were found and crossed off, including some additions. Interestingly a Round-headed Rampion was found which had not been seen in the vicinity before. There were large patches of Yellow (Hay) Rattle, the semi-parasite which suppresses grass, and many of the favourite Downland flowers like Small Scabious and Harebells. The rarer Vervain was seen and it was reassuring to discover the Pyramidal Orchids were still growing in small numbers on the reservoir again. Four years ago there were thousands but every year since then the grass on the top of the reservoir has been cut just before they are due to flower.

Ten butterfly species were spotted between the 4 groups and a few day-flying moths, a Maybug and many little grasshoppers. Marbled Whites were plentiful but sadly no blues were seen. The highlight of the morning were the appearance of several Silver-washed Fritillaries on Hemp Agrimony beside the wood at the top of the hill.

After thanking their guides for an interesting and enjoyable morning some members met up for refreshments at the Highdown café or the mobile coffee shop in the car park

Walk along Ferring Rife to look at Birds, Flowers and Trees 29th April

Twenty four enthusiastic members of Ferring Conservation Group, in 4 socially distanced teams of 6, strolled leisurely along the west bank of the Rife heading north. The early start soon paid dividends as the keen ears of the group’s leaders identified a Reed Warbler which was also briefly seen by a few members. Also Whitethroats, Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler, a Cetti’s Warbler, and Dunnocks (sometimes known as Hedge Sparrows) could all be heard in the vicinity. Further along the route Starlings were seen interestingly using the hole in a mature Aspen tree in which to build their nest.

Many wild flowers and plants were noted adjacent to the banks including Wild Garlic, White Dead Nettles, Hogweed, Ladies Smock (sometimes known as Cuckooflower) and Ground Ivy, but the yellow flowers of the Colts Foot had already gone to seed.

The white lacy flowers of the Blackthorn were in abundance but the Hawthorn trees were still in bud. It was encouraging to see that many varieties of trees including Willow, Rowan, Hazel, English Oaks and  Black Poplars that had been planted by volunteers from the Group in years gone by were largely thriving and doing their bit to act as efficient wind breaks along both sides of the Rife. However, it was alarming to see that the prolonged lack of rain had caused the water levels in the Lagoon areas to be unseasonably low, with no evidence of tadpoles. With eyes raised at the sound of a nearby Green Woodpecker it was a delight to see 2 Little Egrets resting in a tree unperturbed by people passing by. Magpies were plentiful and a nest was spotted at the top of Willow tree precariously being blown about by the cold north wind.

One of the highlights of the morning was the sight of a female Mallard duck jauntily swimming along in the water followed by her 13 (yes, 13!) tiny ducklings. As the teams neared the footbridge a solitary Heron was seen wading in the shallow water before taking flight towards the Kingston Gorse area – it amazed the teams at how large these distinctive birds are.

On a fine day, and at water levels unusually low for this time of year, the Rife appears to be calm and unproblematic, but this wasn’t always the case – prior to the 1980’s it was comparatively shallower and narrower. The construction of the West Durrington estate with the consequence of extra surface run off, and the combination of torrential rain in the autumn of 1980 together with a high tide, the Rife overflowed its banks, flooding many houses in both North and South Ferring of up to 2 feet or more. The same problem occurred 3 weeks later and this prompted Southern Water (who were responsible for maintaining the Rife at that time) to take preventative action. In 1982 a scheme was started to widen the watercourse and raise the banks on both sides. The bank on the west side was left slightly lower than the east bank to allow any excess water to flow into two lagoons that had been created for this purpose.

During the walk around 32 species of birds were either heard or observed along the way in addition to the evidence of many flourishing trees, wild flowers and plants. It was reassuring to find that this important area is still thriving and providing an important and valuable sanctuary for local wildlife. Still in their teams of 6, members enjoyed some refreshments at the outside seating area of the impressive newly built café at Ferring Country Centre.

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.

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Woodland Walk at Patching 22nd April

On a beautiful sunny, but chilly, morning 18 members of Ferring Conservation Group met in France Lane at Patching for a woodland walk. With social distancing rules paramount 3 teams of six people with their knowledgeable guides Tricia Hall, Peter Dale and Graham Tuppen strode out across a newly ploughed field following the public footpath signs to discover the secrets at the heart of a typical English wood. Woods are special and remain the last refuge for many fauna and flora, and a place of seasonal wonder.

The hope was to find carpets of Bluebells and the three groups set off at a gentle pace keeping their eyes peeled and ears tuned for the sights and sounds of this wonderful sanctuary of nature. Carefully following the long established footpaths it was soon noted that although some of the Bluebells were indeed in bloom, many were still in tight bud due to the unusually cld April weather. This did not dampen the enthusiasm of the three teams and as they ventured deeper into the wood their reward was soon realised with the green leaves of Dog’s Mercury – this poisonous plant is a good indicator of an ancient woodland. Pretty Wood Anemones were inter-spaced with pale Primroses, delicate Violets and the shade loving perennial, Lords-and-Ladies Lilies. Lesser Celandines added a splash of bright yellow complementing the purple petals of Ground-ivy which is a member of the dead-nettle family and is not closely related to Ivy as its name suggests. Along with Wood Spurge, White Dead Nettle, Red Campion and a few Goldilocks Buttercups they unexpectedly came across beautiful Early Purple Orchids which were apparent in several areas. Although they are uncommon each plant consists of 50 rich purple-pink flowers which give off a strong and unpleasant smell once the flowers have been fertilised.

The clouds of snow-white flowers of the Blackthorn edged the wood and these spiny and densely branched trees can grow to the height of around 6-7m and live for up to 100 years. The favourite winter tipple of Sloe Gin is made from its rich, dark inky berries. Numerous bird sound was identified including Chiffchaffs, Great Tits, a Song Thrush and a rather enthusiastic Wren. The pitiful cry of a Buzzard could be heard on the wind although this bird remained unseen. A single Robin was spotted standing boldly at the side of the footpath and as the Groups made their way back a Comma butterfly was enjoying the warmth from the sun on the branch of a Blackthorn tree, also a Bee Fly had the same idea as it rested by the path. A Brimstone, Peacock and Orange Tip were seen at the edge of the wood. Despite the disappointment of the lack of Bluebells the members thanked their guides and considered the morning an interesting and worthwhile exercise and were grateful to once again take part in an organised Group activity.