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MWHG Newsletter: 13th May 2024

Dear Volunteers and Supporters,

We are still buzzing from our recent bank holiday weekend Family Wildlife Discovery Day in Birdham, where over 100 people attended to take part in bat box making, pond dipping, nature trails, and more. Thank you to everyone who came along or shared the event with friends and family! Our next Family Wildlife Discovery Day is on Saturday 1st June at St Peter & St Paul Churchyard in West Wittering.

Read on for fresh news and updates from our conservation projects.

Wittering Area Community Conservation Project Update

We have had another busy season with plenty to do and lots to see. Spring is always such a joyous time and despite having a pretty wet one there have been signs of life and lots of vegetation growth.

Our first job this spring was to give the fairly new flowerbed at Marine Drive a refresh by removing dead material and relocating wildflowers that we didn’t want there. This little biodiversity hotspot has done extremely well in this location and was designed by co-project leader Emma Horton. The coastal themed plants have adapted to the strong salt laden winds and drought conditions of the summer and this little gem is well worth a visit.

We have carried out wildflower seeding of two newly created earth bunds; one in Birdham where a new path was installed in the recreation ground, and the other in West Wittering where more tennis courts have put in at Rookwood Pavilion fields. The excess turf and topsoil scraped off the surface to flatten these fields was used to make these bunds onsite as the costs of transporting to landfill would be prohibitive.

Collinson Group volunteers sowing wild seeds

It is a double win as these earth banks can provide a different microclimate and will hopefully increase the foraging options for pollinating insects now we have seeded them with wildflowers. We chose a seed mix that should tolerate the dry conditions and also contains some different grass species to stabilized the banks. At Rookwood Pavilion fields we were joined by a team from the Collinson Group who helped us to rake the soil surfaces to sow and stamp in the wild seeds. It is going to be very interesting to see how this site develops.

We have also carried out one of my favourite activities in the last month and that is Hemlock Water Dropwort removal. This tall and quite attractive plant has started to dominate the banks of local ditches and ponds and while it is a native species it is now having a negative impact. This very poisonous plant quickly shades out other floral species and takes over, creating a monoculture. While it has lovely flowers that bees, butterflies and other insects use, once the flowering season is over there is nothing else left available.

Removing Hemlock Water Dropwort from Itchenor Pond

March and April is the ideal time to pull or dig it out as the ground is still soft enough for all the parsnip type roots to be removed. They are put on high ground and turned up to the sun so that they do not regrow. When we get to a site and see thousands of these plants all we can do is go back in late summer and remove the flowers once they start to seed. We do see a difference where we carry out this work and Triangle pond in Birdham and the accessible banks of Itchenor pond are a testament to this with a wide range of floral species.

We are just starting our floral survey of some of our sites and many of the volunteers really love this activity, as we all learn more and more plants each year and are amazed at how much our brains have remembered through the winter. We are lucky enough to have Felicity and her encyclopaedic knowledge of plants, and many books always in her rucksack, to work out the difference between all the buttercup species, for example. Once you get down at plant level you realise just how many there are and how beautiful some of the tiniest flowers are – mother nature at her most creative!

Family Wildlife Discovery Day in Birdham

We have just put on our first family wildlife engagement event for this year at St James Church in Birdham. Churchyards are such great places for wildlife as they are normally quite quiet and offer many micro habitats for different species. We had lots to offer the families that came along with bird box and bat box making, bird feeder making, bug house creation, pond dipping, wildflower bomb making, sunflower seed planting, a wildlife trail, bug hunting, moth trapping and reptile hunting. All the children get to make things to take home and it is an opportunity to see the world around them on a smaller scale.

We had some very enthusiastic bug hunters running around and a brave slow worm that met a very keen public. Everyone went away with a smile on their face and the free refreshments provided by the church via a funeral directors, and access to a shady café area and toilets made it a great venue. We couldn’t have put this on without our amazing volunteers who helped with all the lugging of resources and set up gazebos and tables. Thank you for everyone’s contribution – never has the saying ‘many hands make light work’ been truer. We have another session like this planned for the West Wittering church on Saturday 1st June so please do come along and help.

Recent Project Updates

By Joe Savill | Vitacress Survey Project, Selsey Photo Archive Project, Beryl James Tree Nursery

Holly Blue by David Wyatt

Vitacress Survey Project

We’ve now started this year’s surveys with Peacock, Holly Blue, Orange Tip and Speckled Wood, Large & Small White butterflies already recorded. Among the bird highlights have been a close encounter with a Green Woodpecker and some acrobatic Long-tailed Tits.

We are still looking for new volunteers as this will help us to ensure regular surveys throughout the year. Only basic ID knowledge is needed and help will always be on hand from the rest of the team. It’s a lovely, peaceful site to walk around, mostly flat, and full of wildlife, so do join us. Contact Joe via

Selsey Photo Archive Project

We’ve been working on a website map to show the location of some of the photos. This is now live on the site so do take a look. You can access it directly from the Home Page.

We are still looking for volunteers in particular areas. Would you like to help with any of the following?

  • Website work – nothing complicated and full training can be given – if I can do it anyone can!

  • Cataloguing photos – a general knowledge of Selsey is required for this.

  • Researching and writing blogs for the site. Every photo displayed on the site tells a story and it would be great to tell some more of these on the site. If you enjoy detective work, this might suit you.

And it can all be done at home, whenever you want to do it. Contact Joe via

The Beryl James Tree Nursery

Jane Reeve and her team of very committed volunteers have planted hundreds of young trees in the nursery. These were left over from the hedgerow planting in the winter. They will be looked after in the nursery until this season’s planting begins.

Unfortunately, most of the seed sown at The Hidden garden last autumn has been predated but I have quite a few trees germinating from the left over seed sown in my garden – mainly Oaks.

We are always looking for more volunteers so do get in touch if you’re interested. The more trees we can grow locally, the better.

Also, please contact me if you have young trees to donate or have ideas about where you would like to see trees planted in the Selsey area. Contact Joe via

Heritage update 

We are currently making a film with Millstream Productions (Emsworth) to accompany the exhibition which will be taking place at the The Novium from July 2024 until March 2026.

The restoration of Chalder Station has reached an important stage with a meeting having taken place with the Landowners, Church Commissioners, we now await a decision regarding their 'permission'. In the meantime we have another meeting on site at the end of May with Govia Thameslink and Trackwork to progress our plans to re-instate a length of track alongside the platform.

The latest Selsey Town Plan contains a feasibility study into restoring the tunnel under the main road near what used to be Selsey Bridge Station.

Another anniversary 'Walk The Selsey Tram Way' is planned from Saturday 24th August - meeting at East Beach car park at 10.30am and walking 6.5 miles to Sidlesham, passing 8 of the 11 stations along the route. Both the start and finish points can be accessed by the No 52 bus. An interactive map for use of a mobile phone can be downloaded from the website:

The website for Sidlesham Land Settlement Association continues to be active. The latest contact with Roger Hart who then came over from USA and was able to visit the house where he was born in 1948.

Bitten by the Surveying Bug

7-Spot Ladybirds, Felicity McStea

We received 39 records in April and March, consisting of 297 individuals, bringing our survey's grand total to 1389 wildlife records. We were also sent some fantastic photos - check them out below alongside a selection of recent records.

Note in your calendars that 24 June to 30 June marks the Royal Entomological Society's Insect Week. Those signed up to our volunteer news have started receiving invitations to our summer surveying activities - please come along and keep recording your insect sightings from home, too!

A reminder that you can now submit your wildlife records through our online form on a desktop, or a mobile device for recording on the go! Learn more on our Find Wildlife From Home survey page.

Survey Results for March and April 2024

1 Wood Mouse

2 7-Spot Ladybirds

1 Red Admiral Butterfly

6 Starlings

2 Buff-Tailed Bumblebees

4 Dunnocks

1 Brimstone Butterfly

2 Blue Tits

250 Brent Geese

8 Robins

7 Blackbirds

1 Peacock Butterfly

Tell us about the wildlife you've seen in your garden, neighbourhood and surrounding local area and we will also submit your records to the National Biological Records Centre on your behalf.

To take part in our wildlife survey, click on the button below.

Southern Water Hedging Our Future Project

The new phase of this Southern Water funded project has started and we are looking now to plant trees in North Mundham and Hunston parishes. This parish has been chosen to focus some attention to the north of the peninsula and to recruit some volunteers from this area. We are aware of a couple of farmers that could do with their fields being planted up with hedges and have been approached about putting in some hedges by another farmer so it is all a good start.

Beryl James Selsey Tree Nursery in April

The focus of our work over the next few months will be to attend the Mundham village fete to encourage volunteering for this project, look at where hedges used to be, choose exactly where we will plant trees, calculate how many we need, decide whether to do this in one big push – i.e. over an intense couple of weeks rather than one day a week, and generally try and iron out the details. We will then plan to start planting from November.

In the mean-time we will be looking after the trees in our West Wittering and Beryl James Selsey community tree nurseries and making sure they are watered and weeded and in good shape for planting in their final destination in the winter.

Sycamore seed clearing, West Wittering Tree Nursey

We had a work party a couple of weeks ago to remove thousands of sycamore seedlings that had invaded our West Wittering tree nursery beds. Why remove thriving tree seeds from these tree nursery beds? Sycamores are viewed as the new kids on the block when it comes to native trees as they were possibly introduced by the romans, or some say it was during the reign of the Tudors. Therefore, they haven’t evolved with our native wildlife ad tend to invade and take over woodlands. By pulling out their prolific seedlings we give other woodland species a chance and help to maintain increased biodiversity.

We look forward to offering up tree planting opportunities in the future so please do look out for emails.

Next MWHG Newsletter: Monday 8th July 2024


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