Wittering Area Community Conservation Project
November 2021- Ongoing
To improve wildlife habitat, flood management, community engagement with the local environment, and to promote community and personal well-being.
The Wittering Area is loved by people and wildlife alike for its beautiful and diverse coastal landscape. Important habitats, such as mudflats, ditches, sand dunes, vegetated shingle and native trees, are present throughout the region and these natural features link to the protected areas of Chichester Harbour and Medmerry Nature Reserve.
Maintaining, expanding and increasing connections between these wetland and woodland habitats is vital to ensure the long-term protection of local wildlife and to safeguard our coastal communities from the increasing effects of climate change, including flooding events.
Mudflats, Chichester Harbour by Bob Parkes
Some of the fantastic FLOW Project volunteers
In 2016, MWHG created the Fixing and Linking Our Wetlands (FLOW) Project, which worked across all parishes on the Manhood Peninsula to restore ditches and ponds, including the surrounding tree networks.
Over the course of the 5 year project, a friendly and dedicated volunteer base grew. Thanks to their efforts, FLOW was able to transform 50 wetland sites. The obvious mental and physical health benefits of meeting and working together in outdoor spaces became even clearer during the pandemic. MWHG was keen to expand on FLOW's achievements and engage our passionate volunteers through a new project.
In the summer of 2021, MWHG received funding from the F Glenister Woodger Trust to launch the Wittering Area Community Conservation Project. The project includes the continuing habitat management and wildlife surveying of FLOW sites in the parishes of West Wittering, East Wittering, Bracklesham, Earnley, West Itchenor and Birdham, as well as working with the parish councils and other land-owners in these parishes to enhance the wildlife value of the land they manage.
This includes reducing or eliminating mowing of some areas, wildflower seeding and planting, and tree and hedge planting. Another important component of the project is community engagement, particularly working with children and young people in the parishes.
This project is led by Community Conservation Officers Jane Reeve and Louise Barnetson. The project's active volunteer base regularly meet to carry out tree and hedge planting, wildlife surveying and landscaping activities.
Wildlife and Habitat Surveying
When surveying a site, the team look for opportunities to increase wildlife friendly features, such as hedgerows and tree cover, free flowing drainage to prevent flooding, and a variety of native plants. The results of these surveys inform an improvement plan for each site.
Surveys are repeated annually to monitor progress in flood water management and wildlife activity. Bat, moth, and water vole population numbers are of particular interest, as their presence indicates the habitat is well connected and thriving.
Site and wildlife surveying
Improving a site often involves filling in sparse hedgerows, planting native trees, and stabilizing ditch and pond banks with the addition of riparian plants. Debris and vegetation, which obstruct watercourses, are removed to prevent stagnant water and nearby surface flooding.
Access to sunlight is increased through coppicing. Coppiced wood is stacked on site to create ‘dead hedge’ habitats for insects. Hedges, living or dead, increase safe routes for wildlife to travel between habitats.
The project works with parish councils and other land-owners to rewild spaces on the land that they manage. This is achieved by reducing some land management, such as mowing, and increasing the planting of wildflowers, trees and hedges.
Education and Training
Volunteers are trained in traditional skills of coppicing and hedge laying, as well as other landscaping, planting, surveying, GIS mapping, and wildlife identification techniques.
Engaging with the community through schools, youth groups, local events, and online campaigns, allows the project to increase awareness of the importance of woodland and wetland habitats.
The Community Conservation Officers host corporate volunteering days, which promote the positive and feel-good benefits of outdoor teamwork and helping the environment.
Team building and corporate volunteering days
Since the project's start in November 2021, the team have completed 21 volunteering sessions, including large scale community tree planting events. The project is also collaborating with local schools, youth groups, businesses and government bodies to create wild spaces for nature - we can't wait to show you the results!
Read the latest news from this project:
PARTNERSHIPS & FUNDING
Manhood Wildlife and Heritage Group (MWHG)
Funded by your donations, distributed through MWHG.
Emma is a garden designer who has given her time to design, create quotes and source materials for a new high biodiversity flowerbed in West Wittering parish, to support pollinators.