Group Meeting – 24th February 2017

Neil Hulme, a Project Officer from Butterfly Conservation, gave an informative and interesting, illustrated talk regarding a three year conservation project launched in April 2015 by the wildlife charity, to halt the drastic decline in numbers of two of the rarest woodland butterflies in Sussex.

In the 1970’s both the Pearl-bordered and small Pearl-bordered Fritillary were common in woods, along with the Cuckoo and the Nightingale. In fact last year no Small-bordered Fritillaries were seen at the only remaining colony site in the county. Both butterflies are similarly marked on the upper side of their wings, with striking orange-brown colour, overlain with black spots. The underside of the rear wings is intricately patterned resembling a stained glass window. The range of blocks of colour and the arrangement of numerous silvery-white studs – the butterfly’s ‘pearls’, helps to distinguish between the two species.

With funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund the project plans to restore a healthy population by re-introducing captive-bred butterflies to suitable areas, by improving habitats and offering advice to landowners in how to manage areas of woodland for the benefit of these endangered species.

A return to traditional methods and practices will hopefully encourage clearings and glades for flowering plants such as Bluebell, Bugle, Wood Anemone, Lesser Celandine and Wild Garlic to thrive where sunlight can again penetrate through the trees to reach the woodland floor. The caterpillars of both species feed on violets which flourish shortly after an area of woodland has been coppiced or cleared. Community engagement is encouraged by the project and children in particular are able to help by growing and planting out violets for hungry caterpillars to eat.

After a break for refreshments Tricia Hall delivered her popular Nature Notes with news of a three year Nest Box project. Tricia asked if members would be willing to sign up and volunteer to monitor the nest boxes that had been sited throughout the village and record their findings. Tricia also commented that crocuses, daffodils, snowdrops, primroses and catkins were all evident in gardens, verges and the banks of the Rife.

Ed Miller followed with an update on planning issues and gave us news that the planning application for 8 flats on the site of the old Beehive Cottage had been approved and the developer had immediately put up two very large advertising hoardings at the building plot. The planning application for 23 ‘eco’ yurts on land north of Littlehampton Road has still to be decided. Ed commented that as far as the Goring Gap is concerned there is still no sign of a planning application from Persimmon Homes.

David Bettiss concluded the meeting by informing us that a cheque for £570 from the sale of Christmas cards, calendars and painted pebbles, was recently presented to the Chestnut Tree House Children’s Hospice by himself and Tricia Hall. David also reminded members that any contributions for our 2017 magazine would be gratefully received and must be sent to Tricia Hall by Thursday 16th March.