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MWHG Newsletter: 8th July 2024

Dear Volunteers and Supporters,

The summer holidays are almost here, but our projects are busier than ever! Our Wittering Area Community Conservation Project team has been delving into the natural world with children, both in and outside of the classroom, and a tremendous 120 records were submitted to our wildlife survey during May and June. Plus, look out for our Selsey Tramway exhibition, which will be launching at the Novium Museum in Chichester on Friday, 12th July.

Read a full recap of recent and upcoming activities from all of our projects, below.

Wittering Area Community Conservation Project Update

The weather has warmed up and we can now call it summer. We started the season with another family engagement session at the St Peter & St Paul church in West Wittering as it has a lovely churchyard full of wild corners and interesting wildlife features. It has a beautiful wildflower meadow next to it which was a sight to behold and there us dead standing wood and fungi galore. We got lots of enthusiastic attendees again, plus their children (!) and so many volunteers that the event was a great success. We have lots of shade at this churchyard and with the cold winds, even on a sunny day, it was surprisingly cool but it didn’t rain so that made everything easier. We now have a model of activities that we can roll out at other sites so if we get some continued funding, we may look to do this across other parishes.

We have spent some time over the last couple of months carrying out floral surveys of the sites we help to manage so that we can see what is coming through and how the flora changes over time. In places like Snow Hill, which previously had been heavily mown and which now is left with some paths cut through it, we are seeing an increase in the floral diversity, less grass and a slight change in the make up year on year. Once you start poking about at ground level you realise there are lots of different wildflowers, not showy, but quietly existing in that first 10cm above the ground. Then there are other sites where the wildflowers are a bit more obvious and the ones at the Bus Stop Area in west Wittering have got very tall. The chicory is over 2 metres so pretty easy to see!

We are also into our mothing season and I do love this. It is a quiet but exciting activity when you just don’t know what you are going to catch, the trap goes out the night before at a safe location and then in the morning it is just a case of opening it up and hoping that there are lots of moths. You don’t know what you are going to catch, it is very weather dependant, but it is that anticipation of finding something rare, something we may not have seen before, or even something considered extinct. Our sessions so far this year seem to have coincide with poor overnight weather so nothing very much to report but going into July we keep our fingers crossed…!

We had a very necessary session cleaning and sharpening our tools ahead of the autumn bramble and willow cutting. It was good to oil and sharpen these tools so that we get the best out of them. We do replace them as necessary as these tools really do earn their keep and get a good bashing, but if we can extend their life with the use of an iron stone to grind the blade then we will.

Graham and I had a busy but rewarding day at Birdham Primary School where we helped them host a whole school wildlife day. We decided to concentrate on making bug houses, refreshing an existing large bug hotel, and allowing the children to have a bug hunt. Graham made the school a gorgeous hedgehog house that got filled with dead leaves and hay, ready for a wandering hedgehog. He also made some adorable bug houses so each class had 3 they could fill and they then got positioned in the school’s wildlife area. Some bugs didn’t survive the ordeal of the hunt but, 3 frogs found in and around the pond, were kept safe from reach, and a slow worm made a quick and successful getaway! We dealt with 137 children and it was a full-on day and no one fell in the pond despite trying quite hard!

Last summer Louise involved the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) in a Nightwatch bat survey at West Itchenor pond using a passive bat detector that was put in a tree by the pond for 24 hours. This recorded the bat activity for that period and the results have been very interesting. It detected Common pipistrelle, Myotis spp., Serotine, and Soprano pipistrelle. The pond is a great place for these bats to feed as it is a great food source. All the volunteers who have been bitten by the mosquitos at this site can attest to that ! Here is a snippet of information about the bats, provided by the BCT:

The common pipistrelle is the most common and widespread of all British bats. It is also one of the smallest, weighing around 5 grams (same as a 20p piece). A single pipistrelle can eat thousands of tiny insects in just one night! This is the species you are most likely to see around your garden or local green space.

The soprano pipistrelle is one of the most common and widespread bats, but rarely found in the most northern parts of Scotland. It is very similar to the common pipistrelle but has a paler face and it echolocates at a higher frequency.

The serotine is one of Britain’s largest bat species and usually one of the first to appear in the evening, often emerging in good light. Its broad wings and a leisurely, highly manoeuvrable flapping flight with occasional short glides and steep descents are distinctive.

The Myotis genus applies to six breeding bat species in the United Kingdom, including Alcathoe, Bechstein’s, Brandt’s, Daubenton’s, Natterer’s and whiskered bat. It is very difficult to distinguish between these species from their calls, so we can only give you the genus group for these bats. However, if you spot a bat flying close to the surface of water, it will likely be a Daubenton’s bat – our water specialist!

Heritage update 

The exhibition on The Selsey Tramway at the Novium (in Chichester) will be launched on Friday 12th July. It will then be open to the public from Saturday 13th July until March 2026. A model of the locomotive Selsey, loaned from the Colonel Stephens Museum, forms part of the display.

A film made by Millstream Productions in Emsworth, the company that made our LSA film, also forms part of the exhibition.

The annual anniversary Tramway walk will take place on Saturday 24th August starting at 10.00am at East Beach Car Park in Selsey. The route will pass the site of 8 of the 11 stations on the route of the tramway and end at The Anchor Inn, Sidlesham. 

MWHG Volunteers

A social event has been organised on 13th July for people who volunteer with the different MWHG groups and projects, namely: Pollinator Highway, Selsey Photo Archive, surveying funded by Vitacress, Tree Nurseries (Selsey & West Wittering), Manor Green Park, East Beach Pond, Management Team, other Heritage projects, Wittering Area Community Conservation funded by the Woodger Trust and Hedging Our Future funded by Southern Water.

BBC Radio Sussex

Various members of MWHG recorded podcasts with BBC Radio Sussex recently for The Blue Plaques in Selsey (Joe Savill & Lesley Bromley), The Selsey Tramway (David Pearce & Bill Martin) and the Land Settlement Association (Bill Martin). The recordings will be available on BBC Sounds.

Southern Water Hedging Our Future Project

West Wittering Tree Nursery

While this isn’t the correct time to be planting new hedgerows, I have been carrying out some research across the target parishes of Hunston and Mundham about where we might carry out some planting and discussing this with the local communities. It is interesting to get a broad range of views and to understand why some people don’t want hedges or think there may be a more sinister motive for planting them. Reassuring people and explaining the importance of these landscape and heritage features is part of my role and this includes attendance at community events, hosting online and in person presentations.

I have also had a visit to the West Sussex Records Office to look at some of their estate maps for these parishes so that I can see where hedgerows would have been, as boundary features, marking out the ownership of what were much smaller fields. Some of these maps, hand painted, with wax seals, are amazing works of art and were normally created as part of the conveyancing process when an estate was sold. I have to take photos of these maps as they can’t be scanned, they can be huge or odd shapes, and cannot be pressed flat. The staff are very helpful, as I blunder about not knowing where to start the research process and have guided me through the process of identifying landowners and the possibility of the existence of an historic map. Many of them have been gifted to the Records Office but there are lots of gaps so it is quite hit and miss as to whether you find anything useful.

I had an afternoon at the tree nursery tidying it, removing unwanted wildflowers and wheel barrowing about 20 loads of woodchip to try and supress the growth on the paths. The trees then had a good soak but we have been lucky this year with the late rain ss it has meant less watering and no amount of hose use can replace a good downpour! We could do with some more people to help with watering over the summer. If you can get to our West Wittering allotment and give the trees a water a couple of times a week, early in the morning or in the evening, we would gratefully receive your help (contact Jane Reeve if you can help out). These trees will get planted out this coming winter and we need every one of them.

Lots of baby trees that I had been growing at home from processed seeds collected in the autumn and planted in pots, plus others given to me, were moved to a temporary home over the summer. They have gone to the Hidden Garden in Selsey to be watered and tended until they are big enough to go into the Selsey Tree Nursery. The West Wittering Tree Nursery is currently full so it is kind of Paul to take these trees are they are still quite vulnerable.

We had a scorching session at Mapsons Farm removing invasive plant growth from around and in the tree guards of our newly planted hedge. We covered about 400 metres in 3 hours and the 4 volunteers worked really hard in the heat. David and Angela had a very close encounter with a young Roe deer who appeared to have been woken up suddenly by a bird scarer and was disorientated. It couldn’t believe its eyes when it saw us and jumped the ditch to get away. Of course, no one had their phones out but it was about 1 metre away from David as it emerged. We may do a little more hedge weeding but will start earlier in the day to avoid the heat.

Thank you to everyone for their support and help with this project, the hedges will look great once they are established.

Monitoring Mimics, and More!

Bee Orchid by Julia Holland

Recent warmer weather has encouraged our supporters outside for some spectacular wildlife watching over the last two months. 120 records, consisting of a whopping 567 individuals, were sent to us in May and June, bringing our survey's grand total to 1509 wildlife records.

Below is a selection of the many great photos and survey results submitted, including sightings of the fantastic Bee Orchid (left), which cleverly mimics the look of a female bee to entice males to land and, subsequently, leave behind pollen from other plants.

Our volunteers' summer wildlife surveying season is fully underway too, in particular moth surveys are taking place regularly across the parishes south of Chichester. Sign up to our volunteer news to receive invitations to our in-person surveying activities.

Survey Results for May and June 2024

2 Yellowhammers

9 Holly Blue Butterflies

4 Light Brown Apple Moths

2 Bats

7 Red Admiral Butterflies

1 Water Vole

6 Bee Orchids

1 Wood mouse

4 Whitethroats

3 Goldfinches

2 Cetti's Warblers

2 Dytiscidae Beetles

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.

Beryl James Tree Nursery

By Joe Savill |  Beryl James Tree Nursery

More donated trees have been planted at the site and some trees that were growing naturally outside our fenced area have been replanted within it, before the rest of the field is mown. This is one way of retaining this natural bounty.

The trees that we grew from seed sown in 2022 are continuing to grow well and we carried out some essential weeding and watering recently. Fortunately we’ve had plenty of rain so far this year but we’ll need to keep on top of this soon.

So far there have only been a handful of us looking after the site and thanks to everyone for their commitment. But, we will need more volunteers as the work expands 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 Savill at

Next MWHG Newsletter: Monday 9th September 2024



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