Sussex Great Geosites

Seven Sisters / Chris Mole

Seven Sisters / Chris Mole

Author Olle Åkesson
Marine Officer

The Geological Society recently asked for suggestions of the UK’s best geological sites. This week, after several hundred submissions and a public vote, the top 100 Great Geosites were announced.

In the Coastal category it will probably come as no surprise to find out that the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head made it onto this list. The iconic cliffs and lighthouse are popular tourist attractions and featured on everything from mugs to posters.

You might not know that the chalk, which seemingly disappears under the shingle beach extends out to sea and forms some of the best and biggest chalk reefs in Europe. Thanks to various animals such as piddocks and worms that bore into the reef they are covered in crevices and teaming with life. The reefs are part of the Beachy Head West Marine Conservation Zone and protected by UK law.

In the Adventurous category appeared a more unusual site: Mixon Hole. This is an underwater gorge about 25 – 30 metres deep situated just South East of Selsey Bill. It is thought that in Biblical times it was the mouth of a river leading into Chichester and that Romans used it in 43AD to bring supplies into the city. Since then the coast has erroded and left the gorge behind. It is even more unusual as other, similar features, have been filled in with sediment and gravel while Mixon Hole has remained clear. Its soft clay walls are constantly eroding and home to a variety of marine life including crabs, lobsters, snakelocks anemones and lesser spotter catsharks. There is so much life and unusual species that Mixon Hole is part of the recommended Marine Conservation Zone Selsey Bill and the Hounds.

Mixon Hole

It is really encouraging that these underwater sites are being recognised. Hopefully it is an indication that the old adage ‘out of sight, out of mind’ is no longer applicable to the marine environment.

To become a friend of a Marine Conservation Zone click here

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What’s Happening to our Hedgehogs?

Here is a Guest Blog from Broadwater-based Hedgehog Street Champion, Catherine Amey

hedgehog / Alan Baldry, Hedgehog Street

hedgehog / Alan Baldry, Hedgehog Street

We know that hedgehog populations are in decline. The reasons are complex and research is ongoing but what is becoming clearer is that habitat fragmentation is a pressing issue. The increasing use of impenetrable fencing around gardens, which reduces the movement of hedgehogs between gardens, has almost certainly lead to fragmentation of urban hedgehog populations and is likely to have contributed to declining numbers. Other issues affecting the urban environment include increased traffic and use of pesticides.

In more rural areas of Sussex, it is likely that the decline has similar roots to the widespread haemorrhaging of farmland biodiversity – industrial farming destroys plant diversity, and thus invertebrates, and everything that eats them. The landscape is being simplified on many scales. Due to agricultural intensification, there has been around a 50% decline in hedgerows in rural Britain since 1945. Hedgerows provide ideal locations for hedgehog nesting sites as well as being important movement corridors. The scale of the loss of hedgerows will certainly have had an impact on rural hedgehog populations.

The best thing you can do to help? Link your garden with others. We can make hedgehogs’ life a little easier by removing garden barriers within our control – for example, by making holes in or under our garden fences and walls for them to pass through. The gap need only be 13x13cm or 5 inches square and so will be too small for most pets.

Other simple tips include:

  • Avoid slug pellets (they are poisonous to hedgehogs)
  • Create hedgehog friendly garden features such as log piles and compost heaps
  • Check any piles of wood or garden refuse for a nesting hedgehog before burning a bonfire.

More information is available from www.hedgehogstreet.org or you can contact Catherine Amey at: catherine@redgraphite.co.uk

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If you go down to the woods today

mud monster / Matt Deering

mud monster / Matt Deering

Author Ronnie Reed
People and Wildlife Officer Seven Sisters Country Park

It’s October, half term is looming; time to take a walk through the woods to smell the damp earth, kick up the leaves, collect conkers or beech nuts, look for fungus and enjoy the quiet of the trees as the birds and animals settle down for the winter. But venture into Friston Forest over half term and you may be disappointed. There might be a lack of wildlife; the squirrels may have headed for the trees, the birds might have flown and the rabbits might be hiding safely underground. You might however spot some wildlife of a different kind; very noisy wildlife.

The Sussex Wildlife Trust is tempting a two legged species out into forest, away from its normal habitat of computer screens and television to enjoy autumn beneath the softly changing colours of the trees. For those who come along on Thursday 30 October and follow our trail from the Visitor Centre into the forest there is a big surprise waiting.

We are setting up a fire site beneath the beech trees, and offering lots of things to do. There will be a chance to try your hand at fire lighting, an opportunity to build shelters, and there are lots of things to make with a distinctive Halloween twist. It’s that time of year when we frighten ourselves with spiders and bats; so why not make your own out of wood or clay, or weave a web catcher from willow, create your own spooky witch on a stick or mould mud into monsters on the trees.

If you don’t fancy the scary stuff there are leaves to collect to turn into something beautiful to take home with you, apples to decorate, and mobiles hung with autumn treasures to make.

And then if you are into games why not have a go at some apple bobbing, make your own hoops and try your hand at quoits, or play noughts and crosses with a difference.

If it all gets too much there is a fire to sit around, marshmallows to eat and hot chocolate to drink.

If you want to leave mum and dad at home or mum and dad want to lose the kids for the day there is also our last Wild Woodies holiday club of the year. Come armed with lunch and warm clothes because we are outside, under the trees doing some of the above, hunting for wildlife and cooking up some warming autumn food.

So if you go down to the woods today you are sure of a big surprise.

Click here for more wild events during half-term

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Konik ponies arrive at Friston Forest

Konik pony

Konik pony

Author Steve Tillman
Reserves Officer

The rare breed of pony known as Koniks are joining our long horn cattle within the grazing area of Friston Forest. Up to 11 ponies have been permanently loaned to the Sussex Wildlife Trust by the wildlife charity Wildwood Trust. Their introduction will further enable us to graze this landscape as naturally as possible using a range of different grazing animals.

Konik Polski (Equus ferus) derives from the Polish word for ‘little horse’. The Konik is a descendant of the wild tarpan horse that roamed most of Britain and Europe thousands of years ago, as with many of our native breeds. The tarpan was mixed with a domestic horse in parts of Poland, as scientists were hoping to maintain the tarpans wild and hardy characteristics, thus resulting in the Konik we have today. The tarpan became extinct in Britain due to deforestation and being hunted by man.

Konik ponies

Konik ponies

The Konik is known as a keystone breed, as it has the ability to modify its environment to suit its needs. This can benefit plant and animal species, as the environment will otherwise succeed to woody scrub affecting certain plants and animals that previously inhabited this area. So a keystone species can have a potential positive impact on an ecosystem. The Konik is very resilient to harsh terrain and severe weather, as well as a variety of different forages. It is highly adaptable and will lose condition over winter foraging on reeds and stripping bark from willow and silver birch. They will then improve their condition in the summer when grasses improve and there is more for them to eat.

Long horn cattle at Friston Forest

Long horn cattle at Friston Forest

Find out more about the Friston Forest Grazing Project

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Sussex Wildlife Discs

Are you wondering what to do with your car’s tax disc holder, now tax discs are no more? Well, we have a use for them, you could download and display one of our Sussex Wildlife Discs!

Simply right-click on this link, save link, then print and place in your former-tax disc holder. We have four designs available.

Sussex wildlife disc / Phil Selley

Sussex wildlife disc / Phil Selley

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An epitaph to the ‘Godfather’ of chalk streams

Nigel Holmes

Nigel Holmes

Author Fran Southgate
Living Wetlands Officer

I heard the very sad news this week that a wonderful chap called Nigel Holmes passed away. Nigel was a larger than life character with a mischievous sense of humour, who did more for the health of our rivers than anyone I know. As one of the founders of the River Restoration Centre, Nigel went on to become a nationally respected expert in the conservation of some of our rarer streams and watercourses. In particular we owe him a great debt for having single-handedly walked hundreds of kilometres of Sussex rivers, helping us to put over 135 km of internationally rare chalk stream on the map, and offering us a wealth of ideas as to how we can enhance them for people and wildlife.

Nigel taught me a great deal, in a way that I will never forget, and I hope sincerely that I can help to continue his legacy by carrying on his work on our rare rivers and streams. I considered him to be a friend as well as a peer, and I have some treasured memories of spending days on the river with him, watching his face light up with delight when he found what he described as ‘nationally important streams’ flowing from the chalk of the South Downs.

He will be sorely missed, and we offer his family our sincere condolences.

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Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Sussex’

For National Poetry Day

God gave all men all earth to love,
But, since our hearts are small
Ordained for each one spot should prove
Beloved over all;
That, as He watched Creation’s birth,
So we, in godlike mood,
May of our love create our earth
And see that it is good.

So one shall Baltic pines content,
As one some Surrey glade,
Or one the palm-grove’s droned lament
Before Levuka’s Trade.
Each to his choice, and I rejoice
The lot has fallen to me
In a fair ground-in a fair ground —
Yea, Sussex by the sea!

No tender-hearted garden crowns,
No bosonied woods adorn
Our blunt, bow-headed, whale-backed Downs,
But gnarled and writhen thorn —
Bare slopes where chasing shadows skim,
And, through the gaps revealed,
Belt upon belt, the wooded, dim,
Blue goodness of the Weald.

Clean of officious fence or hedge,
Half-wild and wholly tame,
The wise turf cloaks the white cliff-edge
As when the Romans came.
What sign of those that fought and died
At shift of sword and sword?
The barrow and the camp abide,
The sunlight and the sward.

Here leaps ashore the full Sou’west
All heavy-winged with brine,
Here lies above the folded crest
The Channel’s leaden line,
And here the sea-fogs lap and cling,
And here, each warning each,
The sheep-bells and the ship-bells ring
Along the hidden beach.

We have no waters to delight
Our broad and brookless vales —
Only the dewpond on the height
Unfed, that never fails —
Whereby no tattered herbage tells
Which way the season flies —
Only our close-bit thyme that smells
Like dawn in Paradise.

Here through the strong and shadeless days
The tinkling silence thrills;
Or little, lost, Down churches praise
The Lord who made the hills:
But here the Old Gods guard their round,
And, in her secret heart,
The heathen kingdom Wilfrid found
Dreams, as she dwells, apart.

Though all the rest were all my share,
With equal soul I’d see
Her nine-and-thirty sisters fair,
Yet none more fair than she.
Choose ye your need from Thames to Tweed,
And I will choose instead
Such lands as lie ‘twixt Rake and Rye,
Black Down and Beachy Head.

I will go out against the sun
Where the rolled scarp retires,
And the Long Man of Wilmington
Looks naked toward the shires;
And east till doubling Rother crawls
To find the fickle tide,
By dry and sea-forgotten walls,
Our ports of stranded pride.

I will go north about the shaws
And the deep ghylls that breed
Huge oaks and old, the which we hold
No more than Sussex weed;
Or south where windy Piddinghoe’s
Begilded dolphin veers,
And red beside wide-banked Ouse
Lie down our Sussex steers.

So to the land our hearts we give
Til the sure magic strike,
And Memory, Use, and Love make live
Us and our fields alike —
That deeper than our speech and thought,
Beyond our reason’s sway,
Clay of the pit whence we were wrought
Yearns to its fellow-clay.

God gives all men all earth to love,
But, since man’s heart is smal,
Ordains for each one spot shal prove
Beloved over all.
Each to his choice, and I rejoice
The lot has fallen to me
In a fair ground-in a fair ground —
Yea, Sussex by the sea!

Sussex downs / Finn Hopson

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It’s time to vote for your favourite

Author Richard Cobden
Digital Media Officer

Photography Competition Vote / Darin Smith

Our Photography Competition judges had the difficult task of selecting 12 finalists from over 600 entries. Congratulations to all the finalists and thank you to everyone who entered the competition. The quality of images was outstanding this year, with more photographers than ever before entering our ‘Simply the Best’ themed competition.

Now it is over to you to vote for the overall winner. Look through the finalists and vote for your favourite here.

You can only vote once, any multiple votes will be discounted.

Ladybird in the Tulips / Martin Munn Tawny Owl / Phil Winter Male Kingfisher / Steven Whitehead Grass Snake / Maxwell Law Iping Common / Nicki Kent Holy Cow on Malling Down / Jennie Fellows Pearl-bordered Fritllary / David Potter The Birds and the Boat / Jonathan Goddard Second Frost / Jim Bryan Peek-a-boo / Guy Barnard Floods / Robert Maynard Sussex Poppies / Mark Bond

Voting closes on Sunday 19 October 2014. The overall winner will be announced in next month’s newsletter.

The final 12 photographs will feature in an online calendar, available in December.

Prizes

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Re-wilding – an idea finding its time?

Author Tony Whitbread
Chief Executive

A few months ago I wrote a series of blogs on re-wilding – the idea that we can re-naturalise parts of the British countryside, reinstating natural processes as an alternative to management by people. This was largely stimulated by George Monbiot’s excellent book “Feral”.

The idea, however, is not new and discussions about nature versus nurture have been going on in ecology for decades. It could, however, be an idea finding its time.

In 1995 Bill Jenman and I wrote an article called “A Natural Method of Conserving Biodiversity in Britain”.  This contained many of the points that are being made today.  The Sussex Wildlife Trust has reprinted it with the kind permission of British Wildlife (Volume 7, Number 2, December 1995).

Re-reading it today I find that many of the ideas being discussed today were already well-advanced 20 years ago.  Some of the terminology might have changed (we didn’t use the term “re-wilding”) and conservation management, rather than the promotion of natural processes, was perhaps more prevalent then than it is now.  Also some emphasis might have changed slightly.  We recognised the importance of top predators but today we would probably give even more prominence to the role that predators have in influencing grazing animals and through this the way that vegetation develops (the so-called “trophic cascade”).

The article was, perhaps, too optimistic in promoting new wildernesses in Britain as we have not seen large areas reverting to nature. However, progress has been made with some major areas of re-naturalisation being delivered by private landowners as well as charities (see my last article in “Natural World”).

I also remain optimistic that a greater appreciation of natural processes has worked into the thinking on conservation management throughout nature conservation. 20 years ago management planning started from the perspective of managing nature, today we work from the perspective of how nature works before implementing management regimes. Our whole Living Landscape theme is based on the idea that by working on a landscape scale we have to think about the processes that deliver a rich and varied wildlife – natural processes as well as human processes like agriculture and forestry.

Take a look at this British Wildlife article today. I don’t think we were either mindless dreamers or way ahead of our time. It promoted many of the things that are being put forward today under the title of Rewidling Britain – perhaps the difference now is that there is a strong momentum building behind re-wilding, with more people involved and more people pushing for it.  Hopefully it really is an idea finding its time.

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