30 Day Wild

Mark Barkaway
Head of Fundraising and Communications


This summer we’re encouraging people to get outdoors and take part in the UK’s first month-long nature challenge event ’30 days wild’.

Research shows that those who live near and experience greenspaces have a 50 per cent chance of being more healthy – both physically and mentally – and are 40 per cent less likely to become overweight or obese. Getting back to nature is good for us.

Some campaigns ask you for cash. Others ask you to bake, grow a moustache or give up something that’s bad for you. We just want you to start giving yourself time in nature every day.

Throughout the month of June we’re challenging people in Sussex to do something wild every day for 30 days because we believe life is better when it’s a bit wild. We want as many people as possible to experience nature and make it part of their everyday life.

You can sign up for your 30 Days Wild, and get a pack full of ideas, inspiration and Random Acts of Wildness to keep you motivated and help you make room for nature in the busiest of lives. You’ll receive emails throughout the month with things you can do near to your home, activities to inspire you and your family, and a fun chance to measure how your wildness changes throughout the month.

Wildlife and wild places are closer than you think.

For more information and to accept the challenge, visit www.wildlifetrusts.org/30DaysWild


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​Let’s celebrate European nature laws …by trying to eliminate them?

Author Ian Hepburn
Head of Conservation

blackcap / Derek Middleton

blackcap / Derek Middleton

EU laws which are designed to defend the most threatened species and habitats across Europe are themselves under threat. We need the support of everyone to make sure that we don’t lose these essential pieces of legislation. At the end of this blog you can see how to help.

May 21st 2015. Swifts are screaming in the (mostly) blue skies above us.

Blackcaps and chiff-chaffs are singing in gardens and hedgerows. Butterflies are dancing in the sunshine.

Ponds are heaving with tadpoles, young frogs and toads. We relish this time of year. What we tend not to think about much – if at all – is the vital suite of policy measures and legal safeguards which exist to try to make sure that what’s commonplace remains so, and to give an essential boost the future prospects of the many species and habitats which have declined and are now tough to find.

Turn the clock back to 21 years to May 21st 1994. The Habitats Directive – one of the pair of EU laws making up the ‘nature directives’ – came into force on this day across the European Union. Aimed at securing the future for the species and habitats at most risk of extinction in the EU, this legislation – and its slightly older partner, the ‘Birds Directive’ – has been used effectively to enhance the protection of key sites supporting Europe’s scarcest habitats and for regimes to safeguard vulnerable species.

Forward again to the present. How are we celebrating the 21st birthday of the Habitats Directive? Well, my guess is that most of us aren’t giving it a second thought. That’s perfectly understandable. The vast majority of people won’t have come across the nature directives, let alone the benefits our wildlife continues to derive from them. But these laws are important tools in our defence of nature in Sussex. We refer to them regularly in challenging development proposals which could otherwise damage the sites, habitats or species which are covered by the nature directives.

However, the European Commission has embarked on a review of the nature directives. The review is designed to make “EU law lighter, simpler and less costly”. Music to the ears of some, and on the face of it not unreasonable. But nature conservationists across Europe are concerned that this is being done in the mistaken belief that the nature directives are a hinderence to economic performance. We’ve been here before. The UK Government made a very public attack on the nature directives a few years ago, when terms like ‘gold-plating EU legislation’ and ‘a burden on industry’ were thrown around. Potentially powerful sound bites. But none of the assertions that the Birds and Habitats Directives were a brake on economic growth was substantiated by evidence.

Now we are faced with the real prospect that the nature directives could be watered down. We cannot let that happen. We are asking everyone to respond to the public consultation to ensure that the nature directives remain intact. This is an important opportunity. Please demonstrate your support by using The Wildlife Trusts’ web form to have your say and to join those – including over 100 environmental charities – who are defending the nature directives.

Take Action to Protect Europe’s Laws for Nature here

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A Tale of Two Trips

Author Ronnie Reed
Education Officer

X box Vs swifts. photos: Mawel and Scyrene

X box Vs swifts. photos: Mawel and Scyrene

At the end of last week the education team down here at the Seven Sisters welcomed a school from Surrey who were on a residential trip staying at a local Youth Hostel. They had a three day break, two nights (quite long disturbed nights according to the staff who looked somewhat bleary eyed) at the smart new South Downs Youth Hostel at Itford a stoneís throw away from the River Ouse.

Listening to them it seemed they had a packed and varied itinerary; lots of new things to see and lots to do. There was the River Ouse to explore, gliding its way down from Lewes through lush green farm land towards Newhaven. They walked from the Youth Hostel up to the idyllic village of Southease, a typical Sussex village with grey flint church and picturesque old cottages sitting serenely on a perfect English village green. They visited the White Horse carved into the chalk downs above the gently meandering Cuckmere. They had an evening visit from a bygone smuggler who told his gruesome stories of the illicit trade that once thrived along the Sussex coast. There were lots of games and activities. On their last day they joined us for a walk down the Cuckmere Valley to the sea and then up over Seaford Head with its iconic view of the coastguard cottages and the Seven Sisters and finally met up with the coach that was to take them home to their waiting parents.

Although the children probably did not appreciate it, for three days they were immersed in the history, culture and wildlife of a complete different area from which they came; countryside instead of town, wildlife instead of streets, bird song instead of traffic noise.

As we were walking across the cliffs towards Seaford I got chatting to one of the boys in the group and I asked him if he had a good time. Yes, he agreed it had been good but added that he couldnít wait to get back to his Xbox. He had really missed it and the first thing he was going to do was plug it in and start playing again.

Over the bank holiday break I took a trip as well; up to Shropshire and we stayed in an amazing Youth Hostel, a Grade 1 listed Elizabethan manor house in the middle of nowhere surrounded by gently rolling hills and farmland. There were swifts nesting in the roof and as we took a gentle stroll after dinner the first evening just as the light was fading, they were screaming round the buildings. I was woken in the morning by the sound of a woodpecker drumming and a flock of noisy Canadian geese. No traffic noise and no light pollution and no television! We spent our days ëdoingí the touristy bit around Ironbridge, soaking up the industrial history of this area and walking through woods carpeted end to end with Wild Garlic along foot paths laced with Barren Strawberry. There was oak, coppiced hazel, lime and elm fresh with new growth, dappled sunlight falling through the trees and a deep silence broken only by the sound of birds singing.

As we packed to return home I wanted to stay with the swifts, the peace and the quiet. I had no burning desire to return to the noise of everyday life; the traffic, the sound of my mobile phone going off, the blare of the television, the wake up jingle of the computer logging on.

So what was the difference between me and the young lad (letís call him Sam) I had talked to as we climbed the cliffs above the coastguard cottages?

Age? Maybe, looking in the mirror is not my favourite pastime now.

Different backgrounds? I was a farmerís daughter; this young man had grown up in the town.

A different generation growing up in different worlds? Undoubtedly.

As a child my entertainment was outside; climbing trees, wading through streams, collecting conkers, building dens, collecting tadpoles, hunting for crickets, and dare I say it, catching butterflies (not in the interests of science but just for the sheer hell of it).

Young Samís entertainment is inside; it is his computer, his XBox, the television. They open a window onto an exciting surreal world full of adventure and daring which he can interact with.

My freedom as a child came from being out of school and being able to walk across the Downs. Samís freedom comes from being able to manipulate a world created inside a box in which he can play the hero, the one in control with skills he would never use outside this virtual world.

So why should I think my world is better? Why should I have felt so sad when Sam revealed his longing for his Xbox? Am I just being superior, judgemental, out of touch? Because I do think what I had (still have) is better. What I experienced as a child was real; I could bark my shins on a tree, feel the cold misery of the rain, watch the tadpoles swim. I was linked up to a world of experiences which didnít disappear when the machine was switched off. My childhood memories are vivid, if a little rose tinted, but will Sam remember the virtual games he played when he is my age?

Perhaps more importantly, that connection with the natural world that formed as I played in it has lasted right the way through so that even now the sound of swifts flying round as the sky darkens still makes my nerve ends tingle and brings a rush of joy.

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Win a Family Ticket to Elderflower Fields Festival 2015


We are looking for people in Sussex to share their favourite outdoor stories as part of our My Wild Life campaign. Share yours, and you could win family tickets to Elderflower Fields Festival 2015, worth over £300!


What do you need to do?

Simply share a photo of you and your favourite moment outdoors with us, and tell us why it matters to you.

For some inspiration, take a look at our My Wild Life campaign, www.mywildlife.org.uk.

Please send your entry to anneweinhold@sussexwt.org.uk The competition closes at noon on Wednesday May 13th so hurry to get your photo and story in!

We will choose our favourite story from all the entries, and notify the winner by Friday May 15th so you will have plenty of time to pack in time for the Festival.



Terms and Conditions

The closing date for entries for this competition is noon on Wednesday, May 13.

  1. This competition is open to residents of the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and Republic of Ireland aged 18 years or over, except for employees of the Sussex Wildlife Trust, their families or anyone else associated with this competition.
  2. All information detailing how to enter this competition forms part of these terms and conditions. It is a condition of entry that all rules are accepted as final and that the competitor agrees to abide by these rules. The decision of the judges is final and no correspondence will be entered into. Submission of an entry will be taken to mean acceptance of these terms and conditions.
  3. Entries should be submitted by via email to anneweinhold@sussexwt.org.uk. Entries must be labelled with the entrant’s name and image files must be between 1MB and 3MB. Entrants should include their own name, address and telephone number. We regret that we are unable to accept postal entries.
  4. All entries must be received by the advertised closing time and date.
  5. All images submitted must be the work of the individual submitting them and must not have been published elsewhere or have won a prize in any other photographic competition. It is the responsibility of each entrant to ensure that any images they submit have been taken with the permission of the subject and do not infringe the copyright of any third party or any laws. Entrants must warrant that the photograph they are submitting is their own work and that they own the copyright for it.
  6. Copyright in all images submitted for this competition remains with the respective entrants. However, in consideration of their providing the Competition, each entrant grants a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual licence to the Sussex Wildlife Trust to feature any or all of the submitted images in any of their publications, their websites and/or in any promotional material connected to this competition. Entrants agree that their pictures and stories may be shared as part of the My Wild Life campaign (www.mywildlife.org.uk).
  7. Only one entry per person. Late, illegible, incomplete, defaced or corrupt entries will not be accepted. No responsibility can be accepted for lost entries and proof of transmission will not be accepted as proof of receipt. Entries must not be sent through agencies or third parties.
  8. The winning entry will be that the picture in combination with the story is the most compelling. The winner will be notified two days after the closing date of the competition.
  9. The winning entrant shall win a set of family tickets (2 adults, 2 children 5 – 16 years of age; children under 5 go free) to the Elderflower Fields Festival 2015 (May 22 – 25), worth £310.00, provided by So Sussex, the organisers of the festival.  The winner will have to arrange and pay for their own transport. The Sussex Wildlife Trust has no legal obligations with regards to the event itself. The prize is subject to availability.
  10. The winners may be required to take part in publicity.
  11. The prize as described is available on the date of publication. All prizes are non transferable and there are no cash alternatives.
  12. Events may occur that render the competition itself or the awarding of the prizes impossible due to reasons beyond the control of the Promoter and accordingly the Promoter may at its absolute discretion vary or amend the promotion and the entrant agrees that no liability shall attach to the Promoter as a result thereof.
  13. The Sussex Wildlife Trust is responsible for the first part of the promotion, which is the publication and adjudication of the competition. All other facilities connected with the provision of the prize are the responsibility of So Sussex.
  14. English law applies and the exclusive jurisdiction of the English Courts shall prevail.
    Promoter Sussex Wildlife Trust, Woods Mill, Henfield, West Sussex BN5 9SD.

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Singing in the Rain

whitethroat / Jon Hawkins

whitethroat / Jon Hawkins

Author Mike Russell
Senior Conservation Advisor

At 3.00am on Sunday morning, the piercing song of my alarm clock has my arm flaying around in the dark for the off switch, trying without success not wake my wife up. It can’t be that time already, seems like I’ve only been in bed 20 minutes.

It was International Dawn Chorus Day and an expectant crowd would soon be arriving at Woods Mill in an hours’ time for the experience of a life time. Making my way downstairs, I’m was greeted by the sound of the wind howling down the chimney and a machine gun round of raindrops smash against the window.

Glugging down a quick cup of tea, I made my way to Woods Mill to prepare to receive the clients and psyche myself up to greet them with as much of a smile on my face as possible considering the weather conditions; surely everyone will take one look at the weather and turn over to go back to sleep. But no, gradually headlights turn into the car park and virtually everyone has made it; I love the British spirit in adversity!

Gathering everyone together I accentuate the positive by saying that birds don’t mind singing in the rain and in fact it has got a bit warmer, slightly playing down the fact that what they really don’t like is a howling wind. We set off and through sheer willpower, I manage to cajole a few notes from the nightingale across the road, a Herculean effort on his part I thought.

We took our places in the wood, the idea to wait in silence for the birds to start; it is about 4.30 at this point. The only sounds at this time are the howling wind through the trees and the patter of raindrops on the various shades of raingear that people are wearing. I explained that, in my experience the robin is the first bird to sing and then a few minutes later the first notes of a distant song thrush greet us, my credentials as an ornithological expert crashing around my ears. A much closer song thrush then replies and soon a robin decides to join in.

Subtly, the sound grows, the volume gradually increasing, the main players at this point being our resident song thrushes, robins and blackbirds. Despite the conditions, the clarity of the sound permeates through the wood and by 5.00am there is a real symphony, one of the best I’ve heard in years. Late risers had now also joined in, wrens, blues and great tits and an almost imperceptible goldcrest.

We abandoned our position and took a walk around the nature reserve, gradually adding some of the summer visitors to the choir, chiffchaff, blackcap, whitethroat and reed warbler plus our latest rare visitor, the explosive sound of a Cetti’s warbler. A whinnying sound comes from the lake, the call of our now resident little grebes. If you imagine a neighing horse about four inches in height, well that what the little grebe sounds like.

After admiring the kestrel sitting on the edge of his nestbox, we went back to enjoy a breakfast, and it had stopped raining. To my delight, everyone said they really enjoyed the experience despite the weather.

I too admired their fortitude and stoicism, but it is true, there is nothing like being in the middle of wood at night and then hearing the gradual build of natural sound until it reaches a crescendo, truly brilliant. After clearing up, I went off with the words of Gene Kelly in my head.

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More blue skies and migrant birds along the Combe Valley

Author Michael Blencowe
People and Wildlife Officer


A few weeks ago when I was leading a walk in the Combe Valley between Bexhill and Hastings I was slapping on the sun tan lotion. After the downpours of the last few days I had packed my waterproofs but, yet again, I had struck lucky with some blues skies and plenty of sunshine. Today I was joined by Alice Parfitt, manager of Sussex Wildlife Trust’s Filsham Reedbed for a guided walk through this reserve. It seems it wasn’t just us who was keen to get out into the country park. We were joined by 38 others as we headed off into the Combe Valley. The scrub at the start of the walk gave us the opportunity to search for warblers and some vocal chiffchaff and blackcap were joined by a lesser whitethroat with its distinctive warbling, rattling call as well as common whitethroat. The sedge warblers in the valley have also returned from their wintering grounds south of the Sahara and were noisily establishing their territories along our route. Above swallows were arriving and an agile hobby put in an appearance as it hunted over the reedbed. Cetti’s warblers seem to be doing very well in Sussex at the moment – I’m hearing them in new locations across the county. They’ve long been established here at Filsham and their explosive call was a constant soundtrack to our walk. Despite the reedbeds being alive with the sound of reed warblers we only managed to catch a few glimpses of these hidden vocalists. Thanks to everyone who came along and joined us today.

There’s plenty more chances during 2015 to join us on wildlife walks along the valley. Over the coming months I’ll be leading butterfly, bird, bat and moth events as well as a few longer hikes. You can read more about all these events and more in the downloadable brochure here. The next walk will be focusing on the butterflies of the Combe Valley – so I’m hoping for another glorious day. Meet at the entrance to the country park at Hastings Garden Centre (Lewis Avenue, Bulverhythe off the A259) at 10:45 on 14th May.

Download Combe Valley Countryside Park Events Programme here


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WeaselPecker flies again

Helen in her studio and the ceramic WeaselPecker / Helen Hodson

Helen in her studio and the ceramic WeaselPecker / Helen Hodson

Join the ebay auction here.

Sussex potter Helen Hodson takes her inspiration from the natural world and when she saw Martin Le-May’s photograph of a weasel riding on the back of a green woodpecker she knew she just had to recreate it in clay.

Helen, 33, recently auctioned three of her original handmade ceramic badgers to raise money to support Sussex Wildlife Trust’s badger vaccination programme due to start in May on its nature reserves in the Lewes/Eastbourne Bovine TB hotspot area and raised over a £1,100 from the winning bids.

Now she plans to auction her woodpecker/weasel hanging sculpture on ebay and will donate 50% of money raised to support Sussex Wildlife Trust’s education programme.

Helen, works from a studio in Cuckfield, West Sussex and her handmade ‘Peculiar Pottery’ range is proving popular. She began making her own original creations after attending a pottery course three years ago and her pieces depict creatures from the wild including fox, badger, rabbit and beetles.

The ebay auction will be live from Friday April 24 for ten days with bids accepted from the UK and Europe.
Helen, who works for the Sussex Wildlife Trust in the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre said, ’‘When Martin’s picture went global many people thought it was a joke – it certainly made me laugh. But I have checked with wildlife experts and, although a rare occurrence, this ‘piggy back ride’ can happen.

‘Weasels hunt their prey, usually rabbits or other small mammals, by jumping onto the back of the animal and gripping the back of its neck with its teeth. They don’t often hunt birds but are tenacious predators and in this case it obviously didn’t want to relinquish a meal. It must have been quite a shock when the bird took to the skies.’

To see more of Helen’s work visit her website: www.helenhodson.com
Join the ebay auction here.

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All for the Want of a Piece of String

knot /  Marcus T Ward

knot / Marcus T Ward

Author Mike Russell
Senior Conservation Advisor

Now I’m very good at relaxing and just watching; my routine in the morning is to come down, get my tea and breakfast, switch on the ‘Today’ programme and sit and look out in the back garden and just observe.

In the last few days entertainment has been provided by the bit of string used to tie up the raspberry canes as it has become a much desired object for some of the birds in the garden, an essential item to adorn their nests; the problem is that the string is offering up strong resistance to their efforts to remove it.

I have a couple pairs of starlings making the use of the space under the roof tiles to nest in and they squabble over the rights to hang onto the canes and tug with all their strength at the string, usually to no avail. Occasionally a tiny wisp is borne away triumphantly but it is really scant reward for the effort they’ve put in.

When the starlings are not struggling with it, a few house sparrows try their luck but again all their hard work goes unrewarded. The canes bend with their effort but the string simply refuses to budge. Even the little blue tits have a go, sneaking in when the starlings and sparrows are off resting, probably trying to regain their strength to give it another go, but it is a futile attempt, the string remains resolutely and firmly attached to the canes, testament to the firmness of the way I tied them together in the first place.

My garden is pretty small but does seem to warrant a lot of interest from the local avian population. A pair of blackbirds think better of expending energy in trying to tackle the unmovable string so they spend the time picking up the debris scattered around and adding to the nest they’ve started building in the ivy covering the fence. A sense of guilt now encompasses me as I know from past years that as soon as we go out and start enjoying the garden in the warm sunshine, the birds become stressed and usually abandon the nest, our garden not being big enough to accommodate a pair of humans and a pair of blackbirds sharing the same space at the same time. As much as I love birds, I’m not going to give up my share of the spring and summer I’m afraid. I hope it is early in the year enough for them to go and find a more suitable and less disturbed location to raise a family.

My newly shorn birch tree attracts a wood pigeon who snaps off the thin twigs and flies off to an unknown destination with it, at least unknown to me. I’ve had to discourage the jackdaws as using our chimney as an ideal home, recently a sweep has come into remove a dense ball of twigs, amazingly each twig almost exactly the same in length.

I don’t know, call myself a bird lover!

starling / Neil Fletcher

starling / Neil Fletcher

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A New Voice in the Woods Mill Spring Choir

Author Mike Russell
Senior Conservation Advisor

Cetti's warbler / Dave Kilbey

Cetti’s warbler / Dave Kilbey

A new voice has joined the avian choir at Woods Mill this past week, a Cetti’s warbler has arrived on the reserve, barking out his presence as you walk past the tangled vegetation alongside the old reedbed.

‘Barking’ is an appropriate term for this robin-sized regulation brown bird, it delivers a loud, staccato song from deep within the foliage, usually very low down and despite its volume and diligent searching it is very hard to see. A certain George Yeates, tried to transcribe this song into words;

‘What yer – what yer – what yer….come-and-see-me-bet-you-don’t…..bet-you-don’t’

This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever and shows just how hard it is to actually describe in words the sound of bird song. Unlike other song birds it only sings sporadically, so you hear it once, perhaps unsure what it is, hang around expecting it to call again only to give up after 15 minutes as the silence is deafening.

Named after a 18th century Jesuit Naturalist Francesco Cetti, the Cetti’s warbler is new coloniser to the UK, being first recorded in 1961 and was recorded as a breeding species in Kent 10 years later. A run of cold winters in the 1970’s almost saw it’s demise here, but in the last 20 year’s it has re-established itself and now, though you can’t describe it as common, it has become a resident bird joining the Dartford warbler as our only resident warbler species.

If you are lucky enough to see one they are what one of those paint charts would describe as ‘warm brown’ on top and pale underneath. In profile they sometimes resemble an over-sized wren as they have a habit of cocking their tale up.

I’ve yet to see the Woods Mill bird so any chance I have I’m going out onto the reserve to try and get a glimpse before all the foliage comes out. Other Trust reserves you are likely to hear them include Rye Harbour, Filsham Reedbeds or Waltham Brooks and are now generally widespread, though not common, across Sussex.

Cetti’s warblers are more like rap artists compared to our classical singers like the nightingale, song thrush or blackbird, but nevertheless they are a welcome addition to the reserve choir, it would just be nice to actually see it now and then.

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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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