Win Spring Garden & Leisure Show 2015 Tickets

orange tip / Derek Middleton

orange tip / Derek Middleton

We have a pair of tickets (two adults) to the Spring Garden & Leisure Show to give away.
The show is held at the South of England Showground, Ardingly on the 4th and 5th of May 2015.

To enter our free draw just pop your details into the form below.
The competition closes on 26th April 2015.

Create your own user feedback survey

Visit the Spring Garden & Leisure Show website for full details of the event.

Good luck

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Sun-tan lotion and sedge warblers

brimstone / Alison Playle

brimstone / Alison Playle

Author Michael Blencowe
Community Wildlife Officer

Wednesday was the first in a series of wildlife events which I will be leading in the Combe Valley Countryside Park in 2015. Combe Valley lies between Bexhill and Hastings and offers a rich variety of wildlife habitats including woodland, marsh, reedbed, farmland and open water.

This week’s walk targeted our returning summer migrant birds which are racing back to England from Africa. We gathered at Hastings Garden Centre at the southern end of Combe Valley and it was great to see so many people were supporting our first walk here. I had cleverly planned the event to coincide with the hottest day of the year so far and, as temperatures headed towards 24 degrees, we slopped on the sun-tan lotion and headed into the park.

The bird list was soon heading towards 30 species – and we had only walked 100 metres. Plenty of returning migrants such as chiffchaff and blackcap were feeding alongside the path while resident Cetti’s warblers called explosively from the reedbeds. Also in the reeds the first returning sedge warblers were already claiming their territories with their incessant chattering song.

wheatear / Alison Playle

wheatear / Alison Playle

Halfway along the walk we had a great view down the valley and saw some of the first swallows making their way inland. We also had fantastic close views of three wheatears as they chased insects, refuelling before continuing on their migration further north. A common whitethroat, fresh in from Africa, was announcing his spot in the valley with his scratchy call from a hawthorn and from deep in the cover the willows the unmistakable call of a cuckoo rang out.

Butterflies were also in abundance along the walk. Large numbers of peacock, brimstone and small tortoiseshell were evidence that these species had survived well over the mild winter and early emergers such as the orange-tip and speckled wood were busy patrolling their territories.

Throughout 2015 there are plenty of opportunities to join us on wildlife walks in the Combe Valley and we’ll be looking out for birds, butterflies, bats and moths on future walks. There are also a number of general wildlife walks to suit everyone and two special Wild Beach events and Bulverhythe for children. Details of all these events are on the events page of our website or can be downloaded in this pdf which also contains details of lots of other events being held in the Bexhill and Hastings area.

Our next events will be two guided walks around Sussex Wildlife Trust’s Filsham Reedbed reserve on April 30th and May 13th and a butterfly walk on May 14th.

Download Combe Valley Countryside Park Events Programme here


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Inviting the inverts

Author Kevin Lerwill
Gatwick Greenspace Project Community Wildlife Officer

aquatic invertebrate shelter

aquatic invertebrate shelter

Quite often we are asked by private landowners and local authorities to give advice, or to help improve, the many ponds and larger lakes in our project area for wildlife, which is great, I love ponds. However, the majority of our established lakes and ponds have multiple uses and seem to have many of the same problems affecting them, which can make improving them for wildlife more of a challenge.

On one site, which is used by a local angling club, the Gatwick Greenspace Partnership volunteers have recently installed an aquatic invertebrate shelter area, which small insects, such as damselfly larvae, pond skaters and diving beetles can hide behind, safe in the knowledge that the fish can’t get to them behind their barrier of birch bundles. It is hoped that by providing several protected areas like this here and elsewhere, more insects will survive into adulthood, thus increasing the biodiversity in the water and in the marginal vegetation beyond.

This was done with the agreement of the angling club beforehand and I think that co-operation is the key word here – maintaining a regular dialogue with other user groups and explaining your intentions and the wider benefits that they will bring to the area, normally overcomes any suspicion or doubts I find. I also posted a small poster nearby to inform people what this new structure was for, as raising awareness is also part of the process.

Ok, I realise it probably doesn’t quite qualify as a Marine Conservation Zone just yet, but the basic principle is the same in my mind and if these initial shelter areas show signs of increased insect activity in the ponds, then I hope to install more in the future.

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In Praise of Volunteers

Author Ronnie Reed
People and Wildlife Officer Seven Sisters Country Park

Volunteering at Seven Sisters / Miles Davies

Volunteering at Seven Sisters / Miles Davies

It was a bright but chilly morning just before the Easter. There was a clear blue sky but the wind came from the north and had an edge to it. A Great tit hung on the acacia tree just outside our Pump Barn blasting out its song across the empty courtyard. Inside the barn, motes of dust hung on the shafts of sunlight draining in through the glass doors.

Beneath the ancient oak beams were laid out tables brimming over with pots of paint, tissue paper, brushes, glue, glitter, bags of straw, bundles of ivy, and paper plates. There were eggs ready for blowing, newspapers waiting to be turned into tiny flower pots, a bag of clay asking to be modelled into warty toads and smooth frogs, a bucket of mud ready for paw prints and everywhere pictures of spring and the creatures that were just crawling out of hibernation. The scene was set for our Easter family event, our ‘Spring Special’.

Moving quietly between the tables were my volunteer helpers for the day. As they had arrived I had given them each a table of craft activities to look after and they were quietly trying to work out what I was asking them to do. No one sniggered at my lame examples of what we were supposed to be making with the children when they arrived and no one moaned about what they had been asked to do even the brave person with the bucket of brown and yellow streaked ‘claggy ‘ mud.

This would be a drop session, no booking: so no idea of how many people would turn up. If the weather held there would be pond dipping as well as arts and crafts for families to enjoy and I was hoping for around fifty, sixty (if the gods were smiling) people. Ten twenty and we moved a table outside, creaking with Sussex Wildlife Trust leaflets and a small pot of change, ready to tempt people in as they walked passed.

But there was no need to tempt anyone; they came unbidden, in their droves. For the next half an hour there was a continual stream of mums and dads, grand parents, aunts, uncles, friends and all of their children. The change ran out as the barn swelled with noise. In a brief lull I put my head around the door and all I could see were people and in the middle of them all were my volunteers surrounded by noise and laughter, making amazing things with the children, engaging with the adults and working away so hard to create a really special event.

A large group disappeared with one of those volunteers down to the pond and still the barn was full. The volunteers worked through lunch time and into the afternoon until finally they helped blow the last egg and make the last nest, and stuck the last frog life cycle onto a plate.

And then they helped to clear up.

And then some of them came back a week later to do another event in the woods. One that bought families around a camp fire to try their hand at fire lighting, shelter building, mud modelling (mud again) and making things out of natural materials using quite scary tools. The volunteers skilfully wove an atmosphere of calm and peacefulness through our corner of the woodland as families settled down to enjoy making things, looked at wildlife around them or just sat around the fire breathing in the forest on a beautiful spring day.

I never ceased to be amazed at the remarkable people who give up their time and energy to help me out down here at the Seven Sisters. In the winter months, in the cold that only an old Sussex barn can muster up, I had them painting the alcoves, the corridors and the toilets. When schools come to visit they stand on wind driven hillsides to listen to the same information, even the same jokes, time and time again. They help with little kids and big kids. They help out during holiday times and weekends, at evening events, in rain, wind, and yes snow! And they do it for free with a smile on their faces and with an enthusiasm that I cannot match.

So can I say a huge thank-you to everyone who helps? Without you, things could not run and there would be no happy children or grateful parents and satisfied schools and no loos painted blue!

And just for the record the ‘Spring Special’ event attracted 169 people. How’s that for dedication!

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Lucky 13th for Me!

Author Mike Russell
Senior Conservation Advisor

nightingale / Neil Fletcher

nightingale / Neil Fletcher

A familiar and exquisite sound assailed my ears as I walked around Woods Mill this morning; one of ‘my’ nightingales has arrived. We go back a long way these nightingales and me; for the past 30 years our lives have been intrinsically linked and their beautiful song has been the soundtrack to my life during this time.

To think that this little bird not much bigger than a robin has made it all the way back from West Africa to this tiny little part of Sussex and sings his heart out to tempt a mate is mind boggling. If I had my way, I would incorporate into the manifestos of the political parties that it should be compulsory for everyone to go out of an evening to listen to their song because, if we did that the world would surely be a better place.

So, for over a quarter of a century now, I have made it my mission to get people to listen to this most wondrous of sounds by running Nightingale Evenings. This year I’m running four events, two at Woods Mill in Henfield, one at Arlington and a joint event with Knepp Safaris at West Grinstead.

No unlucky 13th for me then, this is four days earlier than last year, but five days later than in 2013, but for the next six weeks or so, the most talented songbird of the natural world is going to be performing at Woods Mill.

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What does sustainable development really mean?

Author Ian Hepburn
Head of Conservation


new building / Miles Davies

The planning system is supposed to ensure a measured approach to development and a transparent and equitable process to the control of development. There are some good intentions in Government policy. In June 2011 the Natural Environment White Paper made it abundantly clear that there is an expectation that “… the planning system [will] deliver homes, businesses, infrastructure and thriving local places that the country needs, while protecting and enhancing the natural and historic environment.” The National Planning Policy Framework (March 2012) is unambiguous, stating that “…The purpose of planning is to help achieve sustainable development…” acknowledging that economy, society and the environment are mutually dependent and need to be effectively integrated.

However despite existing legislation and policy, we continue to see unsustainable and damaging development. Nature is under more pressure than ever before. Habitats are becoming more fragmented and degraded; many more species of plants and animals are in decline than are in a healthy state.

The Sussex Wildlife Trust, support sustainable development. One of the key elements of ‘sustainability’ that seems to be missing from our planning system is the recognition that there are environmental limits which constrain the way we use and develop our landscape.

We would like all the MPs in Sussex to pledge their to support local planning authorities to help the elected members and officers to make plans and take decisions which are better informed and recognise environmental limits to development. In particular:

  1. Ensuring the ecological expertise available to Local Planning Authorities is adequate.

Qualified ecological expertise is vital in both strategic planning and in managing development control. We believe that all local authorities should have in-house ecological expertise available to advise and inform plan-making and decision-taking.

  1. Ensuring the ecological evidence base is relevant and up to date.

We need to see a stronger commitment to collect and interpret the ecological data needed to make properly informed decisions about the future of our natural resources, early on in the strategic planning process. For example by ensuring all local planning authorities have green infrastructure strategies in place to inform locations for strategic allocations, roads and other areas of major development.

  1. Forward thinking about our environment

Strategic planning focuses on housing and ‘hard’ infrastructure needs for the next 20 years. We need better integration with the natural environment in this process to be sure that we don’t exceed the capacity of our local environment and that adaptation to climate change is taken properly into account as part of the planning process. Novel techniques such as mapping ecosystem and natural capital are becoming readily available and should be used to assist plan making and decision taking. We need to see clear obligations in policy to utilise these tools effectively, and the resources to do so.

These are three aims which we believe must be firmly embedded in the planning process if the Government is serious about achieving sustainable development. They are not the whole answer, but they reflect known deficiencies in the planning system which must be remedied urgently.

Please ask your prospective parliamentary candidates:

“Do you acknowledge that there are environmental limits to development in Sussex?”

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Nature at the Heart of Politics

Author Mike Russell
Senior Conservation Advisor

Malling Down / Brian Jackson

Malling Down / Brian Jackson

Another general election is upon us, another chance to raise the environment and wildlife as fundamentally important issues, another potential grown of disappointment as they get buried in the melee of bruising political debate centered on the management of the economy. Yet the environment, wildlife and the economy are inextricably linked; a healthy economy is underpinned by a healthy environment.

People also care about the environment and wildlife; a recent poll suggests that over 90% of people surveyed agreed that our wellbeing and quality of life is based on nature and biodiversity.  Numerous studies show that a healthy environment and regular contact with wildlife have a number of benefits for communities, people with both physical and mental health problems and for those confined to their homes and in residential care. But these benefits are not measured, they don’t have a pure economic value and therefore are not valued by decision-makers, hence over 60% of our species have declined in the last 50 years and continue do so at an alarming rate; our actions as a society have undermined nature’s ability to support us, just as our need for that support has increased.

In an effort to try and get the environment right up to the top of the political agenda, The Wildlife Trusts, along with the RSPB, are proposing to all parties the implementation of a Nature and Wellbeing Act to bring about the recovery of nature within a generation, for the benefit of people and wildlife. Loss of habitats, plants and animals affects how our environment soaks up extreme rainfall, absorbs carbon, and provides clean water. It affects the health of our soils, fish stocks and pollinators. It affects how we can adapt to climate change, the liveability of our cities and the productivity of our countryside.

Legislation to protect our wildlife has largely failed to halt decline in most species; protecting individual species will only work if the habitats, climatic conditions and the diversity of nature on which those species depend are also maintained. This proposed Act would place nature at the heart of how decisions are made about health, housing and other development, education, economic growth, flood resilience and social cohesion. The protection and creation of healthy woods, rivers, meadows, parks and wild land around us in local, regional and national networks would help achieve objectives in all these areas.

We must get away from the idea that wildlife and the environment is a block to economic growth, an idea that has strong political currency at the moment. Politicians, decision-makers need to take into account people’s desire to live in places where wildlife can flourish, they realise the benefits that this brings to their lives, it is about time that those who make the decisions around their lives also realise it.

More information on the proposed Nature and Wellbeing Act can be found here.

Please ask your prospective parliamentary candidates:

“Do you support the creation of a Nature and Wellbeing Act for England?”

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Support Marine Conservation Zones

Author Olle Åkesson
Marine Officer

lobster / Paul Naylor

lobster / Paul Naylor

Under the water, close in shore and further out at the horizon there are big changes afoot. The Government is currently consulting on the designation of 23 new Marine Conservation Zones around England – to help protect and recover wildlife at sea.

It all started in 2011 when 127 zones were proposed in English waters. These zones protected the rarest, most pristine habitats and vulnerable species. They are supposed to create an ecologically coherent network, allowing species to move and migrate between sites. Two years later the government designated just 27 zones, three in Sussex with a promise to deliver more in 2016 and 2017.

The three areas designated in 2013 were Pagham Harbour, Kingmere and Beachy Head West. Pagham Harbour protects rare Defolin’s lagoon snails and seagrass meadows which provide nursery grounds for juvenile fish. Kingmere protects the breeding grounds of black sea bream which build nests in the seabed and Beachy Head west has some of the best chalk reefs in Europe, home to seahorses and the crevices of the chalk hosts a wide array of life.

While they have been designated, appropriate management is urgently needed to ensure that the sites are properly protected and not just lines on a map.

The second round of designations was announced at the end of January. Disappointingly only 23 zones are being considered for designation. With so few the zones lack coherence and connectivity, making them small individual sanctuaries and not the ecologically coherent network we were promised.

In the second round, there are three sites around the Sussex coastline:


Just South East of Selsey Bill, this site is an important tope shark pupping ground. Soft and fragile sponges and corals such as dead man’s finger and white striped anemones grow on the rocky outcrops and boulders scattered in the zone.

Offshore Overfalls

About ten miles south of Bognor Regis and almost 600 km2 in size, the seabed is a mix of habitats. Sandstone reefs are provide shelter for crabs, lobsters and shrimp while the Overfalls, the zones namesake is an unusual area where sand and gravel form waves across the seabed. The waves are important hunting and breeding ground for flatfish, skates and rays.

Offshore Brighton

Almost at the median line with France and over 850 km2 this deep water site is less affected by wind and wave activity. Because of this the deep rocky habitats are easily colonised and have high species diversity. Here, ross worms form biogenic reefs. The individual worms use sand and fine gravel to build tubes in which they live. Large congregations of the worms create complex structures on the seabed. In amongst the tubes smaller crabs, lobsters and fish make their home.

The government has opened a consultation so that the public can have their say on Marine Conservation Zones and we are urging anyone with an interest to respond.

A short letter, outlining that you support the designation of Marine Conservation Zones, why you feel the seas need protection and finally if you are particularly passionate about a specific Marine Conservation Zone, or simply your personal view on why you feel the sea is important. We also need to tell the government that we need many more zones so that they become a network and not just lone sites scattered around the coast.

Individual letters such as this are given higher regard by the government than simply ticking a box or liking a status to show your support.

To help you with your letter the Wildlife Trusts have put together an online form available at

Some zones were dropped due to a ‘lack of public support’ even before the consultation went live, so it is important to show the government that there is strong public support for Marine Conservation Zones and Marine Protection.

Please ask your prospective parliamentary candidates:

“Do you support rapid action to complete the agreed network of Marine Conservation Zones and have you signed up to the Marine Charter?”

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Selwyns Wood

Author Lou Bateman
Membership Recruiter


After a dull and soggy start to British Summer Time and a tiring shift at a garden centre in Crowborough today, I decided to cheer myself up with a trip to a Sussex Wildlife Trust reserve. We are spoilt for choice in this beautiful part of the Weald and in better weather conditions I probably would have chosen Old Lodge for its amazing views across the Ashdown Forest heathland but blustery March winds drove me to a more sheltered woodland setting.

The main attraction of Selwyns Wood nature reserve is the ghyll; a steep sided ravine that the little stream has cut through the sandstone, a common feature in this corner of the county. Although the scenery at this time of year has yet to come to its green and leafy best, there was still plenty of beauty and colour in the essentially wintery landscape. The damp environment encourages a profusion of mosses and ferns which soften the appearance of the wood even on a day as grey as this. The narrow pathways and shallow streams make it a perfect natural adventure playground for children and walkers of well-behaved dogs alike. My dog, Stanlie, was definitely impressed albeit a touch disappointed that he wasn’t allowed to chase an unsuspecting grey squirrel!

In the wooded parts there was plenty of evidence of the coppicing of hazel and sweet chestnut and I hope to go back in the autumn to collect a few fallen chestnuts for roasting. In glades amongst the trees the bluebells were starting to emerge from their long slumber – in a month there will be carpets of my favourite flowers scenting the forest floor. Wood has also been harvested to construct numerous benches, inviting picnics on warmer days, and roughly made bridges cross the miniature valleys.

One corner of the reserve opens up to a heathland habitat with gorse, broom and heather brightening the vista with warm colours. The ghostly silver birch trees are interspersed with new shoots of honeysuckle, which come midsummer will perfume the air deliciously.


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BBC Countryfile visits Levin Down

Adam Henson from BBC Countryfile, came to Levin Down with a very special delivery – three of his own rare breed Exmoor ponies. He meets reserve manager Mark Monk-Terry who explained how conservation grazing is used to manage this nationally important chalk grassland site.

Read our blog about Countryfile’s visit and the Exmoor ponies.


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