March Outside Events

We have 3 events happening in March as follows:

1. Monthly Community Project morning – Thursday 7 March at 10am. Meet at Community Orchard at Glebelands Recreation Ground to carry out some litter picking, small amount of cutting back bramble and grass cutting/ weeding around fruit trees. If you have them, please bring gloves, plus any combination of small loppers, shears and fork/ trowel

2. Annual Rife Clean – Sunday 10 March at 11am. Meet at Bluebird Cafe car park next to toilets. Equipment is provided, but it is likely to be muddy underfoot, so suggest wellies are worn. This will end at road bridge into Ferring Country Centre, where the equipment will be collected.

3. Guided Nature Walk up the Rife – Weds 20 March at 10am. Again meet at Bluebird Cafe car park for a walk led by our local expert Clive Hope to hopefully see some Spring bird arrivals, seasonal wildflower plants and early tree blossom. If people wish, we can take a break for coffee at the Country Centre cafe, and then return to the coast at leisure.

As always, all these events depend on decent weather, so if it is in doubt on the day, please check this website for any updates

Presentation on Ferring’s WWII defences including the Pill Box

Some pictures of the recent excellent presentation by committee member Pete Coe on Ferring’s WWII defences, and particularly the Pill Box on Patterson’s Walk. This included an update on its current joint restoration project with Ferring History Group, which is progressing well.

For information, Pete has also written a book on the subject which should be published before Christmas with all proceeds going to the restoration fund. Watch out for more details of the exact publication date and how to obtain a copy.

Ferring History Group and Ferring Conservation Group – (A Joint Project to clear and make safe the Pill Box on Patterson’s Walk)

As one of the few remaining Pill Box beach defences along the West Sussex coastline, this strategic structure was erected by the Royal Engineers in 1941 as part of the beach defences known as the coastal crust. Ferring lies in the middle of the West Sussex section of the German invasion plans, code named Operation Sea Lion.

It was felt by both Groups that it would be worthwhile to dry out and make the Pill Box safe inside as it would be of interest to residents and to local school children, especially year six pupils as WW2 is taught as part of the National Curriculum.

The steel entrance door had to be opened and a new lock fitted before the nine inches of water that covered the floor could be removed. As the water could not be pumped out it was tested to ascertain its source and it proved that this was rain water, and had not been flooded by seawater during high tides.

With guidance from Ferring Conservation Group committee member Pete Coe, himself a former officer of the Royal Engineers, a line of volunteers each with a bucket met on Patterson’s Walk on the morning of Friday 28th July. Under Pete Coe’s direction a human chain was formed between the Pill Box along the beach towards the sea and the muddy water was removed and bucketful after bucketful was passed along the line and dispersed along the beach.  Grateful thanks go to West Worthing MP Sir Peter Bottomley and Arun district councillors Mark Turner and Lesley-Anne Lloyd together with the many other volunteers, including one of the youngest members of Ferring Conservation Group, 11 year old Eoin Kearns, whose strength and enthusiasm matched that of any of the adults present.

Once the roof had been properly sealed the next stage of the project was to open up the bricked-up embrasures where the guns were mounted and install either vandal-proof glass or Perspex. This will enable visitors to appreciate the view the soldiers had from inside the Pill Box.

As well as leading the practical work Pete Coe will continue with further research with assistance from Martin Mace the author of Frontline Sussex: Defence Lines of West Sussex 1939-1945 who was also one of the volunteers helping with the practical work on the 28th July.

 

 

Butterfly Count at Cissbury Ring

On Tuesday 18th July members of Ferring Conservation Group, led by Clive Hope,Graham Tuppen and Jackie Hall, met at Cissbury Ring to take part in the Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count.

Gatekeeper Butterfly

It was a lovely sunny day, with only a gentle breeze, so the conditions were favourable and in all 19 varieties of butterflies, 3 of moths, with numbers of some species well into the 20s. The Group saw Large, Small and Marbled White, Brimstone, Small Copper, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Painted Lady, Red Admiral, Common and Chalkhill Blue, Brown Argus, Speckled Wood, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Wall Brown, Dark Green Fritillary, and Small and Essex Skipper Butterflies, and 6-Spot Burnet, Silver Y and Common Crimson and Gold Moths.

The wildflowers were many and varied, and birds spotted included Goldfinches, a Kestrel, Red Kite and a young Redstart.

The Group also saw the New Forest ponies that grazing freely playing an important part in restoring the iconic features of the landscape. The ponies eat away at dead grass and overgrowing shrubs which help to make space for wild flowers and allows wildlife to bloom.

Everyone agreed that the event was a delightful 2 hours of gentle exercise in a lovely setting with great company.

(Photographs courtesy of Peter Dale)

 

Summer Social

We’re holding our annual Summer social on the evening of Saturday 19 August, and this year it will be at the St. Andrew’s Church Centre, starting at 6.30pm.

There will be a choice of hot buffet main meals, with salads and bread etc, then a choice of desserts and cream to follow, plus one free drink will be included. There will also be a series of fun quizzes with prizes to entertain you and a raffle, so should be an evening of good company and good food as usual.

Tickets are priced at £12.50 per person. These can be bought at our stall at the Ferring  Village Fair at Glebelands recreation ground next Saurday 8 July between 11am and 4pm, or at our next meeting at the Village Hall on Friday 28 July. Alternatively, you can ring David Bettiss on 07502 176374 or send a message via the Contact button on this website to arrange purchase outside the above two occasions. We would ask that you pay at the time as this year we won’t be able to save tickets to be paid “on the door” on the night.

The Changing Chalk Partnership

Chalk grassland, a globally important habitat, has sadly been in decline since WWII. Led by the National Trust and funded by a £2.23 million grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and People’s Postcode Lottery, this 10 core partnership aims to connect landowners, farmers and communities around Brighton and Hove, Eastbourne and Lewes with pockets of chalk grassland along the eastern end of the South Downs.

The following delivery partners, Historic England, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and Writing our Legacy, will help deliver specialist activity on specific projects.

This grant will help restore rare habitats and lost landscapes, bringing history and local cultures to life. The partnership’s aim is give volunteers the opportunity to learn new skills and to support the partnership’s vision.

Over 800 hectares of land are to be managed to benefit nature, including 60 hectares of golf course land to be returned to species-rich chalk downland and around 40 sites to be returned to active grazing. As well as the restoration of five historic dew ponds, the long-term future of one of Britain’s most endangered insects, the Wart-biter bush-cricket among other species, will hopefully be secured.

Grazing is vital to preserving and restoring chalk grassland and the project aims to encourage the return of this important tradition. Large scale conservation grazing is being led by the South Downs National Park Authority to restore a new generation of graziers coming together to establish a system that is economically sustainable.

After a break for welcome cups of tea members were treated to warm mince pies as the traditional pre-Christmas treat!

Graham Tuppen then took to the floor with news of local wildlife sightings and happenings in the ever popular Nature Notes slot. Graham opened with a delightful photograph of the planting of a pretty Field Maple tree in Little Twitten in fond memory of our late Nature expert, committee member and friend, Tricia Hall. A large group of members and friends were present, including Tricia’s two daughters Jackie and Amanda and her little granddaughter Wren, who took her tree planting duties very seriously and was most reluctant to hand over the spade! During the last clean-up of the year around Warren Pond, a large Willow tree was cut back from the water’s edge and plans to enhance the biodiversity of the pond and bankside were discussed. As Warren Pond is one of the few remaining areas left in Ferring that can support a diverse range of pond life including waterfowl, birds and insects, this precious habitat is certainly worth preserving and enhancing. Graham then showed a photograph of members planting bulbs around the thriving Community Orchard which will hopefully enhance this worthwhile developing area.

 

Another photograph showed the flooded fields on the Southern Gap attracting many bird species including twenty Dunlin, five or six species of Gull, a Knot, a Little Stint, and eight Brent Geese. Also Kingfishers had been spotted mainly in the area to the north of the Rife.

Ed Miller concluded the meeting with some planning news and informed members that the groundworks had already begun on the 74 house estate west of the ASDA supermarket. The plans for the proposed housing estate on Highdown Vineyard had still not been submitted. While the planning application for houses on the Lansdowne Nursery site was still pending as is the application for the sale of alcohol and extended hours at the currently named Kingsley’s Coffee Shop.

September Beach Clean 2022

On the last beach clean of the year a beautiful sunny morning greeted thirty members of Ferring Conservation Group when they met up near the beach huts. As in previous years, the results of this particular beach clean were sent to the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), where thousands of people across the UK take part in the nationwide Great British Beach Clean. This data is used to trace litter back to its source and enables the MCS to campaign for change.

Although the area of beach from the start of Patterson’s Walk at Marine Drive and up to and including the Bluebird Café was cleaned as usual, the MCS survey just concentrates on a 100m stretch of beach, where every single piece of litter found is collected and recorded and this data is then uploaded to the MCS website.

After an introduction and safety talk from Jenny Grixti (who has organised the beach cleans for many years) the Group was issued with hi-vis jackets, sacks and litter pickers and despite a busy summer it was a pleasant surprise to find that the overall amount of litter found was a good deal less than in previous years. Also on a positive note there was little evidence of fisherman’s nets or angler’s tackle but sadly one syringe (without a needle) was found. A pair swimming trunks, goggles, one shoe, one sock, one cap and a couple of cigarette filters were collected. Unfortunately the amount of un-bagged dog poo had definitely increased. Interestingly a member picked up a crisp packet from behind the beach huts and was surprised to find a live toad inside, it was presumably using the material to retain moisture and find protection from the sun.

Jane Hayman from the Group commented that ‘ beach cleans not only bring people face-to-face with the reality of plastic pollution it is also a good way to attract attention and people will often stop to find out what is happening. It is also satisfying to receive thanks from beach users for the good work we are doing’.

Jenny Grixti would be keen to enrol two helpers to initially assist in the running of the beach cleans during 2023 with a view to taking over the role for the 2024 season and onwards. There are three beach cleans a year that take place on Saturdays (May, July and September) plus one on the banks of the Rife, usually in March.  If you are interested in this important work please drop Jenny an email on: jenny.grixti@outlook.com

 

 

Visit to Warnham Nature Reserve 18th January

Despite sub-zero temperatures 21 keen members of Ferring Conservation Group met at Warnham Nature Reserve for a guided tour of this beautiful and precious resource on the outskirts of Horsham. Their guide for the morning was Clive Hall, a knowledgeable local bird expert and longstanding member of the Group. He was assisted by the Group’s wildlife expert Tricia Hall and her daughter Jackie, who is a volunteer at Warnham. Since the Group’s last visit some years ago there have been many welcome additions by way of a newly built Visitor Centre, including a Café with inside and outside seating, a Discovery Hub and Wildlife Garden plus several new Hides. This 92 acre site boasts a serene 17 acre Millpond, complete with reedbeds and nesting islands and edged with a dominant boundary of lush vegetation including large areas of Great Reed Mace, often known as ‘Bulrush’. This provides ideal camouflage for the vast array of water birds that are attracted to this proven wildlife haven. This valuable oasis will be even more treasured in the years to come now that the countryside surrounding this popular town is under threat of massive development.

As members stood admiring the beauty and tranquillity of the Millpond many Black Headed gulls, and some young Herring Gulls could be seen along with 2 Mute swans, and a pretty Common Pochard duck – this medium sized, plump, diving duck feeds on plant seeds, water weed, snails and other aquatic invertebrates. The male is grey with a chestnut head and a black chest and rear end, while the female is a darker, duller grey-brown. The UK is an important winter destination for the Pochard and although it is a rare nesting bird it can be found in large numbers on lakes, reservoirs, flooded gravel pits and estuaries. Several Cormorants could be seen perched high in trees on the far side of the Millpond, silhouetted against the pale grey clouded sky, while a solitary Tufted duck circled overhead.

A short walk took members to the first of the new hides that overlooks a clearing in a wooded area where numerous bird feeders had been sited that had attracted many species of birds. Several male Chaffinches, Blue Tits, a solitary Reed Bunting, one Goldfinch, an exquisite Nuthatch, one Robin, a Magpie and a native Blackbird were all greedily consuming the abundant provisions. A rather plump Grey Squirrel arrived to tentatively eat up the seed that had fallen to the ground from the over enthusiastic antics of the small birds. It appears to be the perfect ‘no waste’ society, which we could all learn from.

Adjacent to the path leading to the second hide, a small herd of Hebridean sheep were quietly grazing in a field. These short-tailed, black sheep are a small and hardy breed originally from Scotland that are helping to manage the coarse rough grass and are proving effective at scrub control.  A welcome and contrasting attraction at Warnham.

At the second hide members were greeted by the sight of 2 male and 1 female Pheasants busily foraging for any discarded seed – the striking plumage of the males outshining the rather drab colouring of the much larger female. A cheeky Moorhen joined the scene as the familiar sound of a Greater Spotted Woodpecker was first heard and then sighted high in a nearby tree.

As members continued along the boardwalk they came across an eye-catching structure called ‘The Bat Bothy’ – one of two sculptures sited throughout the Reserve. Inspiration for this was taken from the tradition of placing stone structures in the landscape as basic shelters. The version at Warnham has been created as a home for bats with small entrances leading to an internal ‘cave’ where bats can gather and return to as dawn breaks. Jane Hayman from the Group said “these sculptures not only provide a valuable and practical function they are also pleasing to the eye and interesting structures that also aim to educate visitors”.

On the way back to the Visitor Centre a magnificent Grey Heron was finally sighted posing for a pose of keen wildlife photographers that had commandeered the last hide on the trail. They couldn’t believe their luck! Also a keen member spotted 2 Jackdaws huddled together against the bitter weather high up in a tall tree.

After heartfelt thanks were conveyed to the guides and the purchase of a hot drink from the splendid new café, members made their way to the seated area to thaw out with the additional help of an attractive and functional wood burning stove. Once fingers and toes had warmed up members shared the view that Warnham Nature Reserve provided a wonderful place to observe wildlife greatly enhanced by the recent, well designed, improvements.