Park Ranger, Parks & Foreshore
Craig Ifield is a Park Ranger at Adur & Worthing Councils. His main role is to maintain our parks and open spaces. This includes working with green space volunteer community groups across Adur and Worthing helping them with various projects and supporting them in developing their groups.
Craig's background is with the The Conservation Volunteers charity as a project officer working to enable communities in Adur and Worthing to improve their health and wellbeing.
You can read Craig's current blog posts on this page below:
See also: Parks
It’s been an interesting week in the parks department with various works taking place. But also a strange one, as the autumn process is starting to take place but it is still unseasonably warm outside - because of this much of the local wildlife has been acting somewhat confused.
One of the biggest changes in the department is the recruitment of our new Leisure Attendant, Emily. There have also been many ground works taking place to get our parks ready for the new season.
Emily’s role is to assist the Ranger team to carry out playground maintenance, repairs and replacements of equipment. She will also be on hand for us to carry out bench installations, ground maintenance works, and site maintenance. This is a huge asset to the team as it frees up time for the Ranger to focus more on community work and help transform our parks into some even more incredible place to visit and be in.
With the addition of Emily, the team has the green light for more tasks to take place in our parks, this includes running more of our popular events. Volunteer groups, tree planting sessions and making our parks more unique through having them reflect our communities all are all great examples of what we want to be working on with you, our residents.
It was also great this week to see the success of Heene Cemetery during their AGM, showcasing the great work that they have done. Recovering the history of the site, who is buried there and their stories. They have opened the site up to wildlife, introducing bug hotels, chainsaw art, wild flowers, bee hives and making it a safe haven for pollinators. This was really wonderful to see a group that have enjoyed their volunteering experience and committed themselves to a site in which they have received much joy and sense of achievement from. It’s been great to work with them and it has really been lovely to see what they have planned for the future. A massive well done to the work that they have done!
The beloved ‘Sammy the Covid Snake’ in Brooklands has been removed from the side of the lake as requested by the lady that started it’s creation. We have done this as autumn has arrived and rain is coming, which will wash away many of the paints that have been used. Therefore we have taken it to keep safe - this is until we know what can be done with the decorated stones and make it a lasting memory of these difficult times.
As always, if you wish to get more involved in the process and the shaping of your park in the future, please contact:
Photo: Sammy the Covid Snake at Worthing's Brooklands Park
The Great British Spring Clean, is now the Great British September Clean, with Keep Britain Tidy, going ahead from 11th September to 27th September 2020. This crucial campaign is an eye opener to how much litter is left laying in our parks and the dangers this causes.
During lockdown we saw a huge increase in litter in our parks. I always wonder, if people can bring food, drinks and products to the park, why can't the same people take their rubbish home? This year, the clean is a bit more difficult, as if you wish to set a meeting for a clean, only a maximum of 6 people can take part, to maintain social distancing, or single people can do it alone in a set area.
The biggest contributor to litter across the country is drinks bottles and cans, these make up around 75% of all litter. These can easily be recycled and reused, but instead they are dumped in parks, roads and along our beaches.
When they are dumped they are then buried and lost for years, breaking down and leaking pollutants into our parks, disrupting the local ecosystems. Micro-plastics breakdown and enter the food chain of our local wildlife which causes serious internal damage to thousands of animals. We have seen more and more plastic in the stomachs of deceased animals, the majority of which started its journey when someone simply did not want to put it in the bin or simply carry it home once it was used.
Litter costs millions of pounds to tidy up, and much is still missed due to the sheer quantity of what is dropped.
It's not just plastics, glass is not only a hazard as a piece of litter, that a person or creature could cut themselves on, but discarded pieces of glass also concentrate rays of sunlight, and in the past have been the cause of forest fires, damaging habitats that are not seen.
The RSPCA receives around 5,000 calls a day regarding animals in danger due to litter.
One piece of litter that may not seem much, is a simple plastic bag. However, in reality this bag or wrapper easily ends up in wild areas or waterways where they act as entrapments, causing animals to suffocate or be entangled, which cause lifelong damage, or can kill animals.
Litter may simply be unsightly to us or a nuisance, but if the problem is not addressed soon, we shall all suffer. Micro-plastics are getting into our food supply, many fish are being found with micro-plastic in their stomachs which we can easily digest unnoticed, and it will be only a matter of time before land animals share the same fate.
It is stated by the UK Government that it costs £28 per household to clean up litter, this is still not enough. We can not tackle this problem alone, it is something affecting all of us and something that we all need to do our part in ensuring we are not adding to.
If you wish to join in and help tackle rubbish in our parks please let me know and we can arrange a safe way of cleaning up - just send me an email at email@example.com
Or if you feel you wish to go out alone and do so, please use the Keep Britain Tidy website to monitor what you have done.
For more information please visit, Keep Britain Tidy's website.
Photo: Litter on Lancing Beach Green
The weather has started to shift these last few weeks, away from warm sunny days, to more clouder, wetter and stormier weather, and it is easy to forget the joy found in being outdoors. As this natural shift occurs, we all tend to spend more time indoors and we can forget the wonders outside, despite new amazing changes beginning to take shape. New colours will soon appear on the trees and new wildlife will begin to appear.
Now, is the time to dig out the waterproofs so we can continue to interact with greenspaces, enjoying walks and play, especially for children. It is beneficial to your physical and mental wellbeing, allowing yourself time to interact with the world around you, and please do not be warned off by the weather, it is something to experience, not resent.
It is well known that being outdoors makes you feel better in yourself, reduces stress and anxiety, but for children it is actually a vital part of their development behaviour. There are some concerns that some children are losing this link with nature and in turn are missing out on vital parts of their personal development, such as creative thinking, as well as planned risk taking.
One of the best places for development to take place is in woodland or a greenspace, as they allow for uninstructed play, meaning social skills and imagination start to take shape. This helps for better communication be it among siblings, parents, carers or other children who are playing as games are constructed, creativity has to be used.
It is also in these times of unrestricted, unorganised play, which allows for these social skills to develop which will be carried on in later life, as well as allowing for problem solving to start taking place along with calculated risks. Children climbing a tree may seem very simple, but there are so many problems that they have had to figure out and overcome to get to their desired position, which helps develop the challenge settings in the mind.
In recent studies, it has been shown that children who have grown up in greener areas have been shown to have a slightly higher IQ than those in less green places, so please take advantage of the wonderful spaces near you! You can find a list of green spaces to inspire you on our parks webpage and if I may suggest some wonderful local woodlands to explore and enjoy, Whitebeam Woods and Lancing Ring are absolutely worth a visit.
Interaction with nature, undoubtedly helps the physical wellbeing of children and adults alike, from the physical strength from either walking or climbing, to also helping develop the immune system. Engaging with the local soils and foliage helps our bodies get used to the germs and microbes around us, as well as being outdoors in all weather. It helps our bodies to condition ourselves to the reality of life rather than the shelter of our own homes.
Recent studies have also shown eating local honeys or local fruits and vegetables, helps to build up our immune systems to the local environment as well as helping tackle hay fever, as you will be ingesting the local pollen, therefore allowing your body to build tolerance to pollen.
Despite there being lots of research that focuses on children, the benefits are also true for adults, as our development never stops, it is simply more rapid in children. Please do not allow for the change in weather to stop you from enjoying the outdoors, see it as an opportunity to seek new joys in the new environment that it creates.
This month marks the 5 year anniversary of Rewilding Britain who are a force across the UK changing the way we think about nature, how we interact with it and how we can integrate it into our economy. Nature is the very thing we survive off, so why is it sometimes seen as a nuisance and an enemy rather than something that can enhance our lives? Rewilding Britain is striving to reset the outlook on the environment.
Rewilding was a new term introduced into the conservations around the environment about 5 years ago. Rewilding is the process of systematically allowing land to go back to what it was originally. This is a process that many landowners find challenging, allowing their land to simply be taken over by nature and not landscaped. However last year alone, Rewilding Britain have taken plans to help around 100,000 acres of land be rewilded. Rewilding Britain is most well-known for their work in reintroducing species into the UK, like beavers and for their future plans of reintroducing Bison back into the UK, after its 6,000 year absence. This reintroduction not only increases the biodiversity of the area, but also allows for there to be a return to large natural processes that the land has been missing, most of which are beneficial to humans.
Take the beaver, it may be a nuisance in certain areas, but the dams they create and trees they naturally fell build amazing flood defences and dramatically change landscape to better utilise water flow.
Rewilding Britain also attempts to change legislation in the courts to give more economic backing to greenspaces as a whole, meaning there is more of an incentive for private landowners to want to give up their land to improve the environment. This incentive is mainly aimed at farmland, and will mean there is money to start changing our landscape allowing for a payback period. These schemes also push governments to see the importance of the natural world. Giving land an economic value is very difficult, but it is something that is needed to be looked deeply into, ensuring our greenspaces are seen as an asset.
For example, a tree; the amount of carbon it takes in means it offsets, say £500 worth of carbon. This tree's root system then absorbs a certain amount of water, which prevents flooding or extra drainage, this saves say another £500, it then enriches soil, adds biodiversity to the area allowing for habitats and cleans other pollutants. This contributes to increasing local environmental health and cleans the air, which saves another £400 in infrastructure, while providing health benefits. This means one tree is now worth £1,400. You times this by a small woodland of 200 trees. Now what had been 'just a woodland' is actually worth £280,000, simply through its trees, not taking into account the area as a whole, wildflowers, plant life, animals life and varied other benefits.
The numbers above are not a real example, but you can quickly see how having an economic value, not previously attached to an area can allow for there to be better security of and worth of our greenspaces. These thought processes are something that is important to all of us, and is something we, as a Parks Team, are looking into. We're asking how much benefit is there really in all our greenspaces? What needs to be done to improve that bio-rich life? And what is unique about our landscape that adds value?
This sort type of rewilding activity can be seen at sites such as Malthouse Meadow in Sompting.
This week unfortunately I have the sad news to deliver that the Cob (male) swan in Brooklands has passed away. After the efforts of the Friends of Brooklands Park getting in touch with Wadars Animal Rescue Charity, they discovered that the swan passed away as a result of 'Duck Virus Enteritis'. This is a common disease in Ducks and hard to trace, as many of them are asymptomatic and can carry the virus with little or no signs of illness. They become poor, withdraw from eating and keep away from their families.
The family that many of the locals have come to love and become attached to, have had a difficult year this year, but in the same light have been very successful, with seven being born and thriving. One has been taken by Wadars and taken to a sanctuary as it was suffering from Cerebral Palsy, but it is doing well. The swans came to the lake and have taken kindly to the local residents near the lake and public alike. The swans enjoyed a honeymoon period, which is the first year of them being together, during this time they make a nest and get ready to lay eggs but they do not actually lay any eggs. The pair are known to mate for life, as they very rarely go off with other mates, except for cases when one swan is left widowed. At the moment the Pen (female) is still looking after her new young and swimming in the lake. She will begin to look for a new mate, who is typically older anyway, next breeding season which is around mid-March/April.
The Duck Virus Enteritis that unfortunately got to this swan is hard for us to monitor, but it only affects swans and ducks. If there are ducks acting strangely then we can take action, however, these animals remove themselves from groups when they feel poorly. They hide themselves so as to not spread the disease, and this makes it very hard for us to track them. There are many reasons for how this could have got here, it's most likely to have been transmitted from ducks flying in from other areas, without knowing they are ill. It is not, like some signs have said, from feeding the ducks bread, there is no direct link from this to the illness. Feeding ducks and swans bread might be bad for them as it makes them fatter quicker and it's not part of the natural diet, but this is not a direct link to their illness. I would discourage the use of bread and instead use seed.
Bread can however contribute to the problem in other ways, as it sits in the water, soaking up waste matter of other animals, and therefore can cause other illnesses to transfer more rapidly. The water however is clean and is thriving with life, so there is no real concern for the rest of the pond as a whole. There are moorhens, gauls and coots living in the lake meaning there is life in the lake that is supporting these animals.These are indicating species for water life as a whole. This is a very strong indication to show that the lake is healthy, which has also been monitored by the Environment Agency and Wadars, who have also agreed on the life and quality of this lake.
This is sad news, but the Pen will continue to thrive as will the cygnets on the water. If you see any birds acting poorly or stange please email, firstname.lastname@example.org, I am also happy to talk about what alternatives can be used for bread to allow for better health of the birds, but ready mixed seeds are a good start, provided they are for ducks or swans.
Photo: Swans on Brooklands Lake
As the sun shines and we are able to get out and enjoy the wonderful green spaces across Adur and Worthing, I would like to highlight the importance and the beauty of the Butterfly.
We are drawing to the end of the ‘Big Butterfly Count’ run by the Butterfly Conservation, ending Sunday 9th August. This is a campaign that takes 15 minutes to sit and count the Butterflies that you see in your garden, on your walk or in your local green space. Click here to join in and record what you see. There is also an attached, identification chat of the most common in the South.
There are around 59 different types of Butterflies in the UK, 22 of which are common to gardens up and down the country. Out of these, two are migrants and not permanent residents of the UK, which is the Clouded Yellow and The Painted Lady.
Painted Ladies are one of my favourite butterflies due to the phenomenal journey that they take. They originate from North Africa and then migrate here during the summer months. These migrations can be truly spectacular, with one of the largest occurring in 2009 where the large flying groups were visible from space satellites. The journey is anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 miles. Painted Ladies can be found along most coastlines, often floating amongst Thistles as this plant is their main source of food. This shows the importance of our part of the world, as coastal towns are the first stop for many of these incredible butterflies after their long migration.
Butterflies are important to the local landscape as they are a great indicator to other wildlife processes, similar to that of bees. They are pollinators so therefore can allow for a relatively accurate account of the local wildflowers and see if there is need for more. If you have less Butterflies then it means that there is a lack of wildflower and long grasses, therefore there will be a lack of low level insects (making up around two thirds of the species on the planet) and animals on the bottom end of the food chain, thus less of those higher up, leading to a lack of biodiversity.
Photo: The Painted Lady butterfly
Similarly, if you can only track one type of Butterfly in the area, this means there is a lack of diversity - highlighting that there’s a dominating species all the way through the food chain and lack that biodiversity richness that is so very much needed in the world today.
This is not only to allow our beautiful wildlife to survive, but also help us in the fight against climate change. Butterflies are very fragile, therefore they react to change quicker than most, allowing for a quicker warning of ecological changes.
Butterflies and Moths have been around for 50 million years, the first said to have been involved around some 150 million years ago. They are one of the most diverse groups of animals on the planet with nearly 250,000 different species, they have been studied for around 300 years, making them part of world heritage. Likewise, they are used to teach people all around the world.
Children learn about life cycles and the natural world through the insect, due to the very clear cut stages of their life. Also, despite their beauty and the joy they bring when seeing them as a caterpillar or butterfly, they are also vital to many birds and bats as prey. It’s estimated Blue Tits alone eat five billion caterpillars a year. These insects are a vital part of birds and bat’s diets - they are dependent on them to survive.
Please get involved and take part in this vital survey, learn more about the world around you and help us understand more about our local environment. Gardens make up most greenspaces in our area so this data is very important to understanding what else we can do to support gardeners in being more bio-rich.
Please take 15 minutes and look at the stunning world around you, if you get stuck please visit the link or email me at email@example.com
Download the Butterfly Conservation's ID sheet below:
It has been nice to see the sun shining this week and a few days of nice clear weather. This week the park rangers have begun to re-engage with the local community groups following Government guidelines. I would like to take this time to thank Friends of Groups for all their hard work and dedication to the parks they love. It is lovely seeing the parks blooming this year and the work of the parks team and Friends of Groups coming into its own.
I managed to meet with Friends of Marine Gardens, they have been working away on the site making it look amazing, and their hard work has not gone unnoticed. They have managed to keep the site clean and tidy, clearing pathways and ensuring the beds have been mulched and soil turned.
It is great to have seen the group carry on work through such a difficult time, allowing for normality to resume in the park and allowing for local residents to enjoy the site, maintain social distance and carry on.
It is not only the public that have been able to reap the benefits of this work, wildlife has been flourishing in the park, especially bees, enjoying the fresh lavender, varied small birds enjoying the hedging around the park and new life forming in the pond.
I have also been catching up with Friends of Shoreham Beach that are gearing up for getting to work soon on the Local Nature Reserve.
They have also started a photography competition.:
- This is running until 31st August 2020, and is titled 'The Beach in Summer'.
- The competition is open to all, including children and young people.
- If you would like to submit an image - and there's some great prizes - and a hope your picture will be in an exhibition in October - then for further details and to upload an image go to the Friends of Shoreham Beach website.
This photography competition is a great way to get outdoors and engage with a unique landscape and take in your local surroundings, maybe take some time to yourself and see what the most interesting thing you can find on the beach is. This could be anything from the rare vegetated shingle or something interesting that has washed up on the shores.
This is a great way to find out what is on the beach from an ecological perspective, as well as sharing with other people highlights from this beautiful space. Please join in and show what is important to you about this spot.
Despite these difficult and challenging times it has been nice to see the surge in the community spirit, people taking more of an interest in their local parks and areas. There have been so many constructive questions regarding parks and many comments regarding, noticing certain features or changes in their parks.
These times have highlighted the importance of greenspaces small and large, not only for the benefits for the environment but also the health of our communities. They give us the time and space to ourselves or to safely socialise.
Taking time to enjoy the world around us as well as feel like we have a bigger part to play in this world. These quiet areas are hopefully somewhere many have found peace and calm in the current madness.
I would love to hear how you have been using the parks in the recent months and if there is anything that you have recently discovered, be it a park that you never knew of, or discovering something in a park you hadn't seen before. Please contact me:
Please also join in the Friends of Shoreham Beach photo competition on their website and carry on enjoying our parks.
Photo: Shoreham Beach
It has been a busy time for the ranger team, as parks have really been in demand! Parks across Adur and Worthing have become a hive of activity seeing picnickers, walkers, runners, lunch time strollers, and a whole host of varied activities for those finding ways to keep active and look after their wellbeing.
During this time the Ranger team have been busy working on the playgrounds, we have carried out maintenance work on all 42 playground and outdoor gyms so they were ready for re-opening which was finally done on 4th July 2020, this has been lovely to see. It has been hard work but it has been worth it to see the enjoyment of the public using these spaces once again, in a safe manner.
It has been great to see the parks being used more and more over this time, and many people either discovering or re-discovering their local parks and using them in more creative ways, as well as many people giving themselves the time to enjoy and embrace nature.
It has been a real joy to see the success of many of the no-mowing areas across Adur and Worthing. These have successfully added more wildflower and insect life to the parks, the amount of crickets and small insect life you can now hear and see, if you give yourself the time to look, is truly lovely.
Our no-mowing areas have shown the success of nature and highlighted areas needing a helping hand with additional wildflower seeding, as well as those that are working well as just grass.
It is important to remember grass is a vital part of the ecosystem, so simply having grass is actually really great and as important as the wildflowers, as it is home to varied other life and a successful carbon capture source.
We have also used long grass areas to enhance the enjoyment of the park, by mowing in mazes, which allow for the benefits of the long grass but also create a great resource for the park to be used by members of the public.
There have been three mazes cut into the long grasses, one in Victoria Park, one at Western Parade green and my favourite at Buckingham Park, which has the beautiful Willow dome situated in the middle. This is a unique, living dome; it is made of several living Willows, which add to the ecology of the area, continuing to grow, thickening and providing more of a shelter over time.
It would be great to hear from you and see if you have seen any changes in your local parks due to the new long grass areas. Please contact me:
Photos: Cutting mazes in the grass in our parks
Over the past few weeks we have seen many insects start to take flight and appear in our gardens and our streets, these fill our areas with beautiful colours and displays of flight. However, there is one that is always (I feel) overlooked. You may have started to notice piles of dirt forming around the cracks in pavements and walkways; this is the start of the humble and incredible ant building its nest. I wanted to showcase the power and brilliance of ants, and despite them being a nuisance to us from time to time, why they are such an incredible creature.
To start with, there are over 12,000 different species of ant, which cover nearly all areas of the world. This includes the infamous bullet ant, said to have the most painful bite in the world from one of the smallest insects. They can carry up to 50 times their own weight, which is equivalent to an average person lifting 4 tons, or a medium sized digger. Many do not have eyes and some have no ears, hence the importance of their antennae, using this to feel vibrations and hiding from predators and tracking prey. However, the most impressive thing about ants is that they are social, and they build colonies, with worker ants, miners, soldiers, scouts and pretty much anything needed in a functioning society. Ants will help and retrieve injured ants during battles with termites, this method results in a 30% bigger colony, so less lost in battle. This means they are very successful.
Ants often link themselves together to pull heavy prey multiplying their strength. I always remember one summer, there was a dead caterpillar in the garden and ants were around it, and I saw this linking in action, as they pulled and heaved the giant caterpillar back to their nest, sharing the weight and making structures together. Their nests are also something to behold and shape countryside. To show what they can do, the biggest nest on record in Argentina was 3,700 miles long.
Due to their sheer size and effectiveness of their colonies these insects have a sizable impact on their local environment. The tonnage of soil that they move, allows for distribution of seeds and they help breakdown materials much more rapidly. Allowing these naturalists to get into the soil quicker, raises the nutrient contents in the soils, this means there is more growth which encourages more life to the area.
However, ants can also become a problem, if you have billions instead of millions, they begin to have a negative effect as they are too efficient, and out hunt and over feed on the local environment damaging it.
Nevertheless, they are still a vital food source to many birds and small animals. It is incredible to think such a small insect has such a huge impact in its local environment. Alone they are not a very strong insect and can easily be hunted, some spiders and termites use this to their advantage, making them confused and breaking them away from other ants. If spiders or termites, attempt to fight with an ant colony they have no chance. This is also why if you see a line of ants it is important not to break it, as they might be heading back to their nest, and they all follow the one in front, but only the lead ant actually knows where they are going.
Ants are very different all over the world and they are affected by some of the strangest things known to science. They seem to be one of the only creatures that suffer from zombification. There is a fungus in Brazil that the ants eat, and the fungus uses the ant’s body to be transported to the perfect growing spot above the forest floor. The fungus takes complete control of the ant’s body after basically killing the ant, and makes it march blindly until it eventually rests and then the fungus uses the ant’s body as nutrients to grow. You may also recall last year, around summertime, we had swarms of flying ants, and gulls started to act a little stranger, not moving out the way of others and stumbling around. This was due to a chemical in the ants, reacting inside of the gulls, which basically makes them drunk!
Ants are incredible insects that seem to be lost in the world of natural amazement. I hope this is just another small insight into the incredible world of mini-beasts and the simply amazing powers the natural world has developed.
13th May 2020: From bullet trains to Giraffe’s in space, let’s take a leap into the world of nature inspired design
Over the course of the last few weeks I have been speaking and asking what we can see and hear in the environment around us. In all the madness of today's society I have often found peace in the world around me and the wildlife that it contains, seeking each species and life as something to behold and watch in amazement no matter how simple or complex.
From the simple seeds of a dandelion being perfectly adapted to distribute far and wide from one gust of wind, to the complex structure of a Peregrine Falcon so that it can take the immense pressure and force from travelling at 240mph. Did you know that nature has inspired the design and technology we use today? Here are some examples that you may not have known...
Number one on my list and one of my favourites is the bullet train. This was invented back in 1964 and was an innovation of a lifetime, allowing for passengers to travel Japan at the speeds of 130mph. However the problem was that due to these super speeds, each time the train exited a tunnel there were such loud bangs that passengers complained that it felt as if the train was physically squeezing through the tunnels. The designers then turned to nature and found the solution thanks to the Kingfisher, specifically how its beak could cut through the water with ease allowing for the bird to silently reach its prey silently. This adaptation has allowed for the bullet train to become world renowned for its speed and comfort, now travelling at speeds of 200mph!
Next are Fireflies which are something to behold in their own right as their abdomen glows in the night. They do this by a chemical reaction through the exoskeleton which then reflects in the 'lantern' which can be used to attract mates. However it is not only this bright display that is impressive, but the fact that they do not use much of their energy to light up the night sky. Scientists have studied this and discovered a way to make LED lighting - an already highly effective method of light - to become one and a half more times more powerful.
Now on to Giraffes, the world's tallest animal. They have proven very useful to study and might be a key to helping humans to venture into space! Many blood regulating technologies have been designed using the biology of the Giraffe. Due to the sheer size of the animal, the amount of pressure that is needed to pump blood from the legs to the top of the head is tremendous which makes their blood pressure twice that of the average human! Scientists have copied the structure of the skin over the legs of the Giraffe where pressure is its highest and replicated this for G-suits to regulate blood flow but still allow for maximum mobility. These G-suits are said to allow humans to experience up to 9 G-force, which is 4-5 more Gs then is safe for a human. This tech will help fighter pilots and astronauts alike.
There are many things that the animal kingdom holds the answers to and can inspire us from. Many other life saving technologies have come from these realms including the hypodermic needle inspired by the Mosquito, to everyday household appliances such as Velcro, invented from the idea of nettles and barbs sticking to dog hairs with ease. We have a lot to thank the world around us for, allowing us to always strive for new technology and better efficiency.
Many of us have started to see lots of new life emerging as the sun makes a return. I have mentioned bees, birds and butterflies in previous blogs, however these are not the only animals starting to emerge this time of year - just as important is insect life.
Insects are the baseline of the food chain and a strong indicator of healthy ecosystems. It is a step up from plant life, but is the second point in the chain to sustain a strong, healthy and symbiotic ecosystem. I have selected a few of the best mini-beasts that you should be on the lookout for in the coming weeks, highlighting some interesting points about this micro wilderness. Something that many of us might like to explore.
To start with is this odd little fella who’s appearance seems more suited to desert sand-dunes than here in the UK! The Zebra Spider enjoys basking in the sun and is often found roaming around stones, rotting wood and sunny pavement. I first remember discovering these spiders on a table outside, and realizing this spider leapt like a tiddly wink every time I got my finger close. Their fangs and big eyes seem to grip me and ever since this disbelief of a jumping spider, in my back garden, I have always been amazed by them. At the size of only 5-7mm, they can jump up to 10cm - nearly 10 times their body length!
Photo: The Zebra Spider
This is the equivalent of a person jumping around 18 metres with ease every time they jump, (bearing in mind the current record is 8.95 meters). They do this by pumping blood directly into their legs at high pressure. This is the main way that they hunt silently and with no trace, this along with huge fangs and near 360 degree vision, makes them a very formidable predator. These spiders also have very little in the way of webbing, only needed for a safety line if they overestimate their jump. This little garden friend is a cute looking creature that will keep other unwanted creepy crawlies away from you house without the need for unsightly webs.
The Garden Tiger Moth, very much like it's name is a stunning creature that seems it should belong to something much grander than the realms of Moth, but in that Kingdom it lays and wears the name proudly as it should. This is a night time flying moth that struggles to stay out of sight in the day due to its tremendous display of colours and is often seen around the edge of gardens and on garden walls towards the end of summer, though you may see them start to pop up now due to recent sunny weather. It might seem that these creatures are taunting predators with such displays of colours, especially sleeping in the open during the day. However, just like it was when it is a caterpillar, The Garden Tiger Moth is covered in small irritating hairs and their bright colours are there to remind predators that they are unpleasant tasting. These moths are also a fantastic pollinator, drinking and eating nectar of flowers. You could call it a butterfly in disguise or the ‘Peacock of Moths’.
Photo: The Garden Tiger Moth
Out of the 46 ladybird species, the Two Spotted Ladybird is the most common in the UK, and is the one that is most likely getting trapped in your houses in the Winter months... and now as they begin to take flight. Ladybirds are one of the greatest pesticides in the garden as they eat up to 50 pesky Aphids a day. Ladybirds are known to fly at speeds of 35mph and at the height of nearly 3,500 ft. These bugs are just as important as a pollinator and will visit gardens with wildflowers and long grass. These small lives are the backbone of the grander ecosystems and life that we see around us. Unfortunately, the Two Spotted Ladybird is now under threat from the Harlequin Ladybird which has become one of its main predators and threatens its territory and resources on a daily basis. The Harlequin is often seen as the ‘classic’ Ladybird but this is not the case.
Photo: Image of a Ladybird, not the Two Spotted one mentioned by Craig
This was just a small window into the world of mini-beasts, a fascinating and exciting world which we are constantly learning about. The study of such has sparked engineering and science alike, along with being the inspiration for many science fiction novels and movies. They have helped us design and develop many modern technologies. Without this base layer, which is often overlooked, much of the world around us would not exist nor would it be able to function as it does now. These are vital to the structures of the world. If you wish to know more or share what you have found in your gardens, please feel free to get in touch, firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’re looking for an activity for the kids this weekend, I’ve got just the task which demonstrates biology and nature. Building your own ‘mini greenhouse’ out of cups. You can plant one seed in a mini greenhouse environment and one without, to show the difference a greenhouse environment has on plant life. You can grow some in the light and some in the dark demonstrating the need for light.
To make a mini greenhouse, you will need some clear cups which will fit snugly on the top of a small plant pot or another cup. Whatever you use to plant the seed in, please make sure it has holes in it for drainage (you can use a push pin to carefully pierce these holes). Make sure the cup in which you plant the seed is opaque and do not allow light at the soil from the sides. Fill your cup or pot with soil nearly to the top. Most pots have a lip on them, when they start to bulge at the top, you’ll know that’s the level to fill to. Place your seeds into the soil, make sure to plant 3-5 per pot as often some do not take, press down and cover with soil. Water the soil and place your smaller clear cup on top, which will create a nice little greenhouse. The plants with a little clear cup on top grow much quicker than seeds without the clear top, and will need less watering as well.
There is lots to share with children about this process. You’re demonstrating how different climates work, and how we can make artificial climates. You can touch on climate change and the greenhouse effect, showing sustainable warmth allows plants to grow, but if you keep increasing the temperature, the plants will die. You’re also showing the process of photosynthesis, and how the more sunlight a plant gets the better it grows. You can discuss the way sunlight, and warmer climates heat up the microbes in the potting soil, which means nutrients are transferred much more efficiently as most microbes work more effectively in temperatures of around 30 degrees. This also helps when moving onto explaining how composting works and why compost bins are conventionally black to hold the heat in and help microbes work. Compost bins create the optimum climate for breakdown of waste to soil more rapidly.
This hands on approach and allowing plants to be grown in different locations around the house, can really show the versatility of some plants or the niche of others.
Please let me know how you get on, and send any photos of your mini greenhouse experiments to email@example.com
Here is a little project that can be done in the garden to help bees. Many solitary bees and mining bees will use bug hotels to rest and stop, however many need a home which can be made with a simple terracotta planting pot, and dry grass (moss if possible). Most bees need a helping hand to thrive in today's world. The gaps in the pollination highways are so large it is very tiring for bees to travel and build nests. If they can have a home built ready for them it would drastically help bees be successful.
First, find a nice sunny spot in the garden, preferably under a tree or some shrubs. Dig a hole for the terracotta pot, which should be filled with dry grass and moss. Bury a majority of the pot with the base pointing out. The pot should already have a drainage hole, and this should be the part pointing out of the ground. Bees can squeeze themselves in; making them feel secure from predators, and more like a home they would make for themselves. By doing this you have saved the bee from wasting energy trying to find and build a home. Most bees use already holes in the ground for their homes anyway, be it an empty vole run or a mouse’s old house. But, they would usually still have to spend a lot of time gathering materials to make it warm, despite some materials being left behind from previous inhabitants. Having more accessible, ready-made homes for many bees will also mean there is less competition and less fighting over territories as well as resources, which would help the population to increase.
Another way to help bees as they start to emerge is to make you garden more bee friendly. This can be as simple as leaving an area of your garden to grow into long grass, allowing more wildflowers to come through, as well as allowing bees to hide from predators better. Long grass also makes conditions better for bees to gather pollen, as it increases humidity which helps bees especially during mating seasons. You can also plant more wildflowers. Different bees like different plants. However, most like buddleia and mixture of wildflowers, there is a table below to show some other plants that help bees. Lastly, a very shallow bird bath is also a huge plus for bees, especially a shallow bird bath which has small stone placed in, or even bottle tops to create ‘islands’ in the water. Many bees drown in birdbaths and ponds as their wings get wet in deep waters, but they like to stop to cool off or to have a drink, so creating islands will give bees a perch to sit on to do this and avoid damaging their wings.
A general rule for bee friendly gardens is you need plants coming up all year round. Bees really enjoy purple plants as this is the colour they see best, as they see in ultraviolet. Tubular plants are preferable as they give the bee shelter. But you need variation of plant life and conditions for different bees, as bumble bees will act very differently to mining bees and solitary bees, who enjoy the long grasses for protection.
If you’d like more information on what you can do to help bees in your garden or make your mini greenspace a more biodiverse area, please get in touch with myself, firstname.lastname@example.org
|Sunny Areas||Shaded Areas||Herbs|
Many of us will more than likely allow our minds to wander more during our time at home. Spending more time standing by the kettle making the seventh tea of the morning, despite it only being 10am, just so we are not shackled to our makeshift home office desks. You may have also found you are picking up things you never used to take notice of, or might be starting to see there are many more characters out in the world than just us. So, I thought I might try and help put those moments of mind wandering to good use, with a garden safari or a little wildlife bingo.
Below is a chart that might help identify different creatures emerging in your garden, some a little earlier than they should be. I would also like to take the time this week just to point out some of the characteristics of this new garden kingdom/urban zoo that you may have started to recognise, just outside your window.
One of my personal favourites is the starling. Its shimmering speckled body and its dots of emerald have always mesmerised me. These may be one of the most social birds, flocking in 'murmurations' in trees or roof tops. They gather and seem to chat, hence the group noun of a 'chattering' of starlings. I always remember walking home from school and seeing these mass gatherings, and thinking about what they were discussing, the best place to eat in town or maybe what their plans were for the rest of the day. However, it is not just the chatter that never fails to bring a smile to my face, but it is equally the silence as they all stop. Then, the crescendo of fluttering as they take flight to have another meeting, then silence. I also loved the idea that if you stood under the tree they were in, one minute you would be in full shade, then in a flash you would have a blast of sunshine through the tree as the starlings took flight. Unfortunately, their numbers have been dropping year on year due to many challenges they face, and their chatter is becoming less and less powerful, but never lacking in beauty.
If you have started venturing out doing your own gardening or even started a compost to help reduce your food waste, you may have spotted a new friend, who is a lot quieter this time of year, but still around. The ever eager Robin. They always fly down once the first millimetre of soil is moved, to see if they can have an easy meal. As soon as you turn your back, even if you have just got the fork out, they will be inquisitive, trying to find out what is happening. However, do not be fooled by their 'buddy' style nature. The Robin is very territorial, and might be one of the most aggressive birds of Britain, definitely for its size. This means, it's also more than likely you see the same Robin each time visiting you, feeding itself to be the strongest in its patch. They are a beautiful and interesting little bird and one that is good to have around.
Lastly is the Blue Tit, which I love seeing, darting around over the garden, and probably one of the smartest birds in the garden environment. Whenever you throughout a hand full of seed or feed, pigeons and gulls will attempt to clamber on the bird table one way or another never realizing their own size. They go for the biggest and best prizes they can find until they give up. However if you look carefully you will always see the Blue Tit either at the foot of the table pecking at the piece you have dropped or that has been knocked off the table, rather than fighting for position. You will also see it take cover in the nearby tree or fence line waiting for an opening, merrily chirping away, working smarter than trying to be the strongest. To me this is one of the most beautiful birds, with a song to match, commonly seen in the garden, and seems to just love what it does, and what it is.
I would love to hear what your favourite new found characters are, that you've seen in your gardens or from your window. If you need help with identification please email me email@example.com
Click on image below for a larger version or you can download a printable PDF:
Another week has passed and we are all looking for more things to do around the house to entertain ourselves and our families. So here's an activity you can do in the garden or indoors. Building a bird hide brings a traditional observational tool used by nature reserves to your home.
To enjoy a hide, first of all you need to create a spot you know birds and pollinators will love.
They may be called a 'bird' hide but essentially it's a place which allows you to sit still comfortably, without drawing attention to yourself, so any creatures you'd like to watch, be it bees or butterflies, hedgehogs or foxes, are not disturbed by or alerted to your presence.
Before you create the hide, you need to ensure there is a space for the minibeasts, animals or birds you wish to watch. Ask yourself, is it a space safe from traffic or other predators? Can you encourage them into your garden or to your window space with bird feeders or pollinating plants?
Next, to build a hide in your garden you will need an old sheet or blanket, 2 short sticks or poles, and 1 long stick or pole and string or rope to bind the sticks/poles.
First tie the 3 poles together to make a low frame tall enough to sit in, then place the blanket over the top and peg down and in place.
Next cut a small, thin viewing hole for you to look out from.
Remember you're going to need to stay in your hide for some time, so think about stocking your hide with food and drinks, things to keep you warm if needed. (This might be a great time to dig out those fold out plastic binoculars that have been sitting in a drawer somewhere!)
Indoors, you won't need a tent, but what you will need to do is set up a seating area along the window ledge. You may be less visible to animals, birds, and insects, but you still won't want to draw unnecessary attention to yourself, especially if you know you won't be able to stay very still for long. The less visible you are the closer the creatures are likely to get. Place card, cardboard or paper over the window you're going to use, allowing only an eye-peeking sized gap to look through. You still won't want to be getting up and down lots, so stock your immediate area with food and drinks easily within arms reach, make sure you're comfortable with a supportive seat and cushions.
While you're in your hide, make a list of all the different things you see, listen out for different birds songs. You might not always know the names of all the different birds you see, or bugs, but if you write quick descriptions, or drawings you can later see if you can find them in this bird identifier on the RSPB website: or in this bug directory on the bug life website: there's also a quick bug identifier guide on the bug life website which might come in handy!
I would absolutely recommend taking on this activity with children, they can build the hides, or create hide spaces, make the lists of what they see, listen for bird calls and sounds, describe the creatures they don't know the names of and look them up later to learn what they're called. It's an activity which develops dexterity, creativity, planning, problem solving, research, analysis skills, observation, awareness of habitats and nature, and earth sciences.
It also involves children in the whole process of an activity, and gives them ownership of it. They'll be more likely to engage for longer, get more involved and try the process again in the future.
If you need any help with constructing your hide, or further tips or tricks to create an encouraging setting for wildlife, please drop me an email.
A traditional Easter activity is the classic Easter egg hunt, and you can still have one at home or in the garden, with a little bit of ingenuity!
There are different ways to approach Easter egg hunts which can help children learn in different ways.
Firstly, you could encourage your kids to draw a map of your garden or house. Try and get them to draw the map in detail, you could even create a map via google maps and a screenshot of your garden.
Using maps teaches children a sense of direction and orienteering, while giving them an understanding of North, East, South and West. You can make this more of a focus by hanging a few signs on fences or walls.
You can give your child instructions on where to find whatever you’ve hidden,(an egg or toy for example), ie 3 steps North, and 5 steps West. Doing this encourages listening skills, demonstrates teamwork and helps give your child an awareness of distances, something that’s particularly poignant at the moment.
The other trick is to have no map and make your child look for clues, eggs or treasures themselves. They can then retrace their steps to draw their own map from where they have found the items.
Another way to refresh this activity is to use clues or riddles to get your child to guess where something has been hidden in the house or garden. This is great for developing problem solving and lateral thinking. (There is plenty of help online for writing riddles and clues if you are struggling, as making riddles and puzzles accessible for kids but hard enough to challenge them can be a real test at the end of a long day for weary parents!)
Lastly, something which always goes down really well in forest school sessions, is a physical finding challenge. This can be a nice activity in the garden or during an exercise walk. Ask your child to try and spot a leaf with a smooth edge, a daisy or dandelion. Can they spot a bluebell, or notice the difference between a blackbird and a starling? These mini searches allow children to explore the natural world in their own way, while learning more about different habitats.
For kids learning about insect life, the back garden is actually one of the most essential places. To highlight this we can look at Jennifer Own who spent years in her garden studying what was there. Jennifer only spent a few hours here and there in the garden, but discovered 1,997 different types of insect life! It is thought she would have discovered around 8,000 different forms of life in the garden over the course of her life!
One last recommendation for you, would be to not do what my mother used to do with me. I had to find all the green dot stickers she had hidden, to claim my Easter egg, but all the green stickers were hidden in the garden. Green, in the garden! My mum never placed them on the bark of a tree, no, stems of plants or a blade of grass. I struggled every year to find the last one and after hours of trying, and mum trying to remember where she put it, we usually had to forfeit.
If you would like any further suggestions or tips for how to make the most of your garden during these challenging times please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Over the bank holiday weekend you might be in need of an activity which you can do with the kids. Something that’s always popular in forestry schools, and can be done in a garden or inside is building a fort or a den.
Building a den outside or a fort inside is a great team building activity. It could be an activity siblings can do together, helping them learn cooperation skills, and what can be achieved through teamwork.
In forestry schools, building dens is usually done with logs, sticks, old bits of timber and incorporating trees to balance against. First, these materials need to be foraged, and then a plan needs to be put together with how they should be arranged. It doesn’t have to be complex, even the most basic of structure I have seen entertain kids for hours! It's more about creativity, for young people to have a design in their mind, and then to put it together.
For those children which are slightly older, you can incorporate using tools, such as how to use a saw to cut pieces of wood to build these forts. For younger children using tarps or old bed sheets for canopies can be something they enjoy figuring out and placing.
Forts and dens are a really proactive way for outdoor learning. As children try to find new materials to build with, they will discover worms, roots and various creepy crawlies. They can explore the natural world in a very curious, but simple way.
Both indoors and outdoors this activity provides a space for kids which is theirs, which they have chosen and built themselves. Forts and dens allow for a separation of four walls and can be changed every time they are built, which makes it refreshing and fun.
Indoors, cushions, pillows, bed sheets or towels draped between beds, sofas, chairs or tables can work really well. These forts can feel particularly cosy, and reassuring safe spaces for young children. They can be ideal places for stories to be told or a calm setting for children to learn, allowing them to explore books at their own pace or draw from their imagination rather than sitting at a desk. It might also be a nice environment to teach children why they need to wash their hands and explain what is currently happening in the world, if they have yet to have these conversations, or they need to be repeated.
Me and my brothers always used to use an old blue tarp and set it up in the trees, it was nothing more than a mere shower curtain really. Nevertheless, we sat up in the tree for hours reading, listening to music and chatting, away from our parents. It was our own world. We used to climb the tree and bind the tarp in place with old skipping ropes or random bits we found in the shed or garage. It never took much, but we thought we were geniuses hoisting a tarp, hanging it off certain branches to give us shade, or leaving parts open so we could spy on mum and dad. We felt invisible, sitting in the tree with a bright blue tarp wrapped around a small opening in the canopy.
Forts and dens are a great way for kids to build and play, but probably best if it’s not like me or my brothers, try and build them on ground level! And it’s always good to ensure any forts and dens are safe for the children to use, before they climb inside and start to play.
There are ideas and guides on how to build basic forts online, for some guidance just do a quick google first. But it is usually best to get some materials and then let the kids follow their imagination, taking a bit more of a back seat and just guiding them to insure they are safe.
If you’d like any particular tips or advice for fort or den building, or if you’d like to share any successes you’ve had please do get in touch. If there’s anything you’d like support on in the garden, or any ‘how to guides’ please send me a message too.
Please email email@example.com
Another week has gone and I hope you’re looking after yourself and that your garden is doing well.
It has been a privilege to see the changes in the season starting to truly take hold across Adur and Worthing, and I hope many of you are seeing nature's beauty from your home.
As the sun shines we can expect insects to start to reappear. With their re-emergence we will also start to see more birdlife in the gardens. We can start to hear their morning and evening calls more clearly now, which to me is one of the greatest joys.
I would like to share the power of Soundscaping and this is something all of us can do. Soundscaping is an ecological surveying technique usually used for large reserves where counting is not feasible or allows for a quick snapshot of what life is out there. It is often used in oceans too.
This might be a nice activity to do during these times. Take five minutes and listen or record the sounds around you, be it from the kitchen window or being able to stand in the garden. Do this once a day or every other day, at different points in the day. Play it back and see what you can hear (or note down what you think you can hear if you do not wish to record), hopefully you will start to see a change in the calls in the day and might be able to start hearing different calls, from the iconic melodies of the Robin to the self-obsessed Chiff-Chaff.
This could be done as a family, or whoever is in your household, or alone. See what each of you can pick out, now that there will be less traffic on the roads, hopefully the calls of wildlife will be heard further afield. I do this every time I enter a new park or area and often give myself time to listen at home, I do not record it but it’s something that brings me calm as well as allowing me to know there is so much still to be thankful for in nature. The best times to do these recordings or listen out for the calls is dawn and dusk. This is not only used to record birds, it is something for all calls, however in Adur and Worthing birds will most likely be the loudest.
Soundscaping is a technique that is well used, and has been used in many ways to help us understand the impact humans have had on nature. Unfortunately, it has over time meant recording has become less and less rich in songs in many parts of the world, but it can help identify rare, hard to see life, such as the unmistakable call of the turtle dove. It has also allowed us to see how animals are communicating and helped us learn dolphins have their own form of speech, vastly complex unlike many other animals, more than just mating and territorial calls.
If you wish to share the recordings of nature please feel free to email me, firstname.lastname@example.org or if you are having difficulty identifying certain calls I would be happy to help.
This week I would like to take the opportunity to discuss what we can do in our own gardens or in our own homes to help improve our wellbeing. As we all know being in the great outdoors is great for our physical and mental health. However, in these difficult times we will need to think about smaller greenspaces some of us have access to, like gardens or window boxes. There are also benefits in having indoor flowers, and small indoor herbal plants.
We must all still attempt to keep your physical health up even when staying at home. One way to do this, if you are lucky enough to have a garden, is to weed the beds, water the plants and do some general pottering. This work will burn calories in a way that is more enjoyable and beneficial than running around the living room!
Getting rid of weeds in the garden will help bedding plants and stronger polluters to come through in the garden, as you are reducing the competition in your garden's monoculture. However, the wilder the garden the better, as all gardens play a huge role in being a mass carbon sink as well as being a vital link for the green corridors across the whole of the UK. Gardens act as mini pit stops for all walks of life so it is best to enhance this as much as possible, having a mixture of growth in your garden, from wildflowers to pollinating bedding plants, grasses to log piles. These all are vital in helping wildlife.
If you do not have a garden, then herbal gardens in window boxes are also a great idea, these will allow not only for free herbs, but it will encourage wildlife to your windows. Many bees love Rosemary, Lavender and Chive. Similarly, a handful of wildflowers in a window box will encourage various butterflies to you. These small projects will not give you the same physical work out as that of gardening, but it will help with mental health. It stimulates the brain and will allow for a connection with nature which improves stress and anxiety levels.
Simply getting vital fresh air in the safety of your own home is crucial to your wellbeing. So bringing the outdoors to you is a great way to do this, allowing you to stay safe and socially distant.
While you are encouraging more wildlife into your garden or window boxes, this is your chance to play wildlife bingo, or try and quick sketches of what you see! These could be positive activities for children, to help them learn about pollination, the circle of life and our environment.
It would be great to see what you are doing in your garden. Maybe you’re working on a nature project or there’s something in your garden that has a personal meaning behind it that you’d like to share.
I’d love to hear from you please drop me a message via my email below.
Also if you’d like any advice on any projects you have in your garden or greenspace, like how to make a bird box or how to build a bug hotel please do pop me an email!
And don’t hesitate to send in any ideas of what we can all do at home, any activities or games we can all play to learn and have fun in these difficult times, and I’ll share them in my future blogs.
Contact Craig on email@example.com
This week has been lovely to start seeing the sights of spring coming through in our Parks. Celandine and Bluebells are coming through in woodlands, as well as last years succession bulbs beginning to bud, along with the blossom on the trees starting to sprout. With the first few rays of sunshine, it has brought with it the first pollinators floating around and bees buzzing.
In the UK there are 270 different species of bees alone, but since 1945 we have lost 97% of our wildflowers. However, the Park Rangers are fighting back against this by putting in more wildflowers in our parks - increasing the food for these very important insects. We have also been working with groups such as 'The Honey Collective', helping to support bee keepers in the Adur and Worthing area.
Photo: Honey bee (left) and bumble bee (right)
It was great to get some positive feedback from the Beekeeper at Buckingham Park this week. They were delighted to announce that their bees have survived the winter and are looking to expand the number of hives in the compound, due to the success from last year. Working together in this manner is the only true way that we can allow for our Parks to work for nature and help prevent such valuable life from going extinct, as well as allowing for wildflowers to flourish more.
This news, of one of our first beekeepers having been successful over their first year of being on the site, meaning it is something that can now be replicated on sites across Adur and Worthing. We're also aiming to work closer with Beekeepers and identify more pollinating highways to link hive to hive, as well as using these groups to be a keen eye for the wellbeing of the parks.
Us Park Rangers are aiming to improve all insect life in our parks, therefore allowing for more effective ecosystems, increased biodiversity and help beautify our parks. Insect life will mean more pollination, more carbon capturing fauna and also increase bird life and other wildlife as it will mean more food for the food chain in our local area.
The above will mean even more plant life can flourish in areas that we do not know about or do not have access to, such as tucked away grass verges or small private greens. We know this will occur as seeds are being captured in the wings of birds and dropped far and wide, as well as be seeds being passed through their system allowing for them to germinate.
Please feel free to visit the Beekeeper in Buckingham Park to answer more questions on Bees and pollinators. If you know of any areas that could lend themselves nicely to being a pollination runway, please contact Parks.
The 3rd of March is Wildlife Day, and I want to take this opportunity to showcase the power of nature, and how much we depend on nature for our basic life.
Last week I touched on the physical side of things, from food, carbon capture and even natural defences. This week I would like to discuss the impact that it has on the mind and body as well as allowing for a greater sense of wellbeing, and connectivity among all walks of life.
Most of us would've seen or heard of a sensor garden, which Parks are working in partnership with Sight Support Worthing to create a sensory Garden in Steyne Gardens. Parks are a great way for all of us to benefit from the great outdoors.
Photo: Flower in Beach House Park, Worthing
Starting with the basics, simply by being outdoors and walking through your local Park taking note of what flowers you see, or what birdsong you can here reduces stress. Use a park for a lunchtime walk, or during a meeting break, and reduce stress levels. It has also been proven that being outdoors reduces anxiety and depression, this is supported by Sussex Mind. We need nature to live and thrive, we are animals after all.
Respect and interaction with nature is deeply rooted in many cultures such as Japan, Pacific Islands and Scandinavian countries, which is somewhat lacking in English culture. However the ranger team are trying to bring this interaction back on a local scale. We are doing this by taking groups out to do conservation work, and we are beginning to piece together an events programme for summer so people can re-engage in new ways, be it community art projects or bushcraft like activities. All these will be designed to showcase nature as a resource, and be free for all of the local communities to get involved in.
Photo: Community tree planting on Sompting Rec
Walking through the park once in awhile also helps improve your memory, re-energising the body and reduces the speed of fatigue. It also encourages emotional thinking and removes stress from our lives. When we go away on holiday everyone goes for the nice views or remembers the scenery more than anything!
We are surrounded by the beautiful sea and the wonderful South Downs, we have this stunning surrounding which are taken for granted, our parks can be the gateway to re-engage with our own natural beauty.
Other studies have shown that it actually has an impact on our physical health too. Some studies have shown that patients in hospitals that have window beds or ‘views’, recover quicker than others (still disputed to be fully accurate). Additionally, helping with our vision as well.
The simple act of being close to nature is huge. Nature holds all the answers to the problems that we face, but it needs to be a symbiotic relationship and work in harmony with our green spaces. This is a project the Council is very much dedicated too, and our parks will be the backbone and bloodline of our future, as well as for our present selves.
Photo: Bee on Judas Tree at Worthing Crematorium
3rd March is World Wildlife Day, a day set by the UN to highlight the endangered wildlife in today's world. I would like to take this opportunity to showcase the importance and the power of the natural world and how it can help us in our daily lives. There are many projects that I am excited about that will begin to unfold in the coming years, which will hopefully begin to reintegrate the natural world with our everyday life.
'Rewilding' is a process Parks are beginning to introduce into the way we think about our Greenspaces. ‘Rewilding’ has been proven to fight back against climate change as well as drastically improving the health and wellbeing of local citizens. Rewilding is the management process by which you allow wildlife to take its nature course, but in a managed way. Many people were sceptical at first on this idea, it has been a popular opinion that wildlife has to be managed by people, however it did much better thousands of years ago without us around. It has adapted to its own environment and learnt to thrive there, so why do we try to contain it?
By allowing nature to do what it does best, it means you allow for the natural habitat to come into its own. It develops at its own rate and allows for there to be a mixture of various flora, fauna and tree life, allowing for different animal ecology to develop. It is also the right sort of wildlife; these are native species as the landscape is reverting back to what this ecology is used to. The prime example of what can be done in terms of rewilding is Knepp Estate. This was originally unusable farmland, and today is the hub of ecology in Sussex.
How does this link to us? It is a way of thinking, it is the path the Park department is taking when maintaining our parks. Where possible we shall ensure native pollinators are planted rather than just bedding plants that bees don’t use. We are looking to create pollination highways through Adur and Worthing. We are also attempting to create more green corridors connecting and expanding the brilliance of the Downs into our town. This allows easier movement for ecology, preventing isolation of certain species which causes whole host of other problems.
We benefit further, as we depend on the natural world for our own health, food and survival. Bees for example generates £1.8 billion in pollinating crops for farmers, they pollinate nearly 80% of wildflowers and 1 in 10 bee species face extinction. Rewilding soils capture twice the amount of CO2 in comparison to most average soils. All parks in Adur and Worthing could become a major carbon sink in the coming years. Further tree planting in the area would improve this capture, alongside helping oxygenate our air. It will start with simple processes, like leaving materials where they lay rather than removal, adding more nutrients to the soil.
This does not mean all parks need to be left to become untamed wildlands. These techniques are just things the Parks teams wish to work with and include in our urban areas. These processes help fight climate change and allow us to have a more balanced relationship with the world around us, which in turn will allow us to use our parks in more interesting and exciting ways.
For more information on Knepp please visit knepp.co.uk, and to see more of what is happening locally, please contact Parks.
Over the last couple of weeks, the Rangers have been planting trees in Brooklands, creating closer links with South Downs National Park Authority, as well beginning work on creating a living willow dome. It has been great to see the public coming out and wanting to make a difference in their area, helping to support their parks to make improvement for future generations.
As those who attended quickly realised, there is more to tree planting than just digging a hole. One of the most important aspects is mulching. Mulching provides many benefits for the tree, more than simply suppressing the weeds. Weeds attempt to out compete young trees or attempt to strangle them, mulching suppressed them but also acts like the leaf litter or dead wood you would find in a woodland area. This layer in the wild is mulched down by millions of organisms, creating a fertile soil, the more organisms in a soil the more fertile that soil becomes, these are good bacteria. Mulch allows for nutrients to go back into the soil, giving the tree this vital resource helps it be become established in its early years. Mulch is essentially baby food for young trees.
This mulch also acts like a lid for the tree and holds in the moisture near the tree acting like a constant drip, so not all is lost a few days after a heavy rain. Mulch also increases the humidity in the area around the tree, which allows for a more thriving community of bacteria. It is also important for young trees to have old mulch and not brand new chippings. New chippings need to be broken down and the tree wastes its own energy to put nitrates back in the soil, diverting valuable energy from its own development.
This is a very basic management technique and can be transferred easily to your own gardens. Mulching acts like deadwood in woodland, it puts food back into the soil. This is the natural process that would happen, without this mulch the tree would not survive; soil needs to be enriched to allow for more life. The rangers are dedicated to this process, and are taking less cuttings of organic matter away from the sites, allowing for this enrichment of soil and helping the thriving wildlife.
For more information or wish to know more about the natural process the Rangers are beginning to implement in your parks, please get in contact with the Ranger team.
Photo: Mulch around newly planted trees to show how they protect trees
Photos: The difference between old mulch (top) and new mulch (bottom) - old mulch is more beneficial
This week I have been working with the wonderful group of Friends of Marine Gardens. This group is led by the Head Ranger Anthony, and the group has only formed in the last year or so. The work they carry out in with the head gardener is vital to Marine Gardens and their hard work and support will continue to be vital to allow for the area to flourish under the Green Flag Award. This is a community initiative that is free for all the locals to join, with a range of activities taking place form basic weeding to hedge planting.
These local residents came together and approached the Council in helping out with the prize winning gardening work that took place there, and they started off as a small group doing the basic work. Now as they find their feet they are doing bigger projects, they have collectively created a vision for the park, a vision that the parks team are fully behind and support. Together we meet every two weeks to execute this plan.
As you can see from the photo below the team have started to cut back the dense bushes and made them back into the trees that they should be. This has allowed for a clearance in the hedging allowing locals to see the pond from the cafe. It allows more light into the park as well, meaning more benches will be in the sun for longer.
It will also allow for the beginning of ground flora. This clearance has allowed for a greater area for flower beds to be planted, which will begin when appropriate. It is currently in discussion on what best will be suited for the soil type there.
Furthermore it adds a bit of extra security to the site, allowing for people to see through the park, and meaning lamp light comes through in the evenings. They are also responsible for aiding the Council gardeners in mulching up the flower beds and weeding them to ensure the survival of pollinating species in the park, connecting this park to the wider pollination highway.
Due to the size of the site most materials are removed and added to the Councils' green waste. However, where we can we leave small twigs and leaf litter on the soil, allowing for these nutrients to breakdown into the soil making it more fertile. This is a natural process, woodlands are not clear of all green waste and neither should small runs of trees as it is denying this ecosystem of food and resources.
I would like to just say a big thank you to this group from the parks team on all the work that they have done, and that they have set themselves to do. This group has formed by themselves and we have supported their ideas, as it is your park, it should have your ideas.
If you are interested in finding out more about the group, or if you wish to find out your local friends of group, please contact the parks team. You can also get in contact directly on Facebook Friends of Marine Gardens, Worthing.
Photo: Cutting back the dense bushes to open up the flower beds and views across the park (photo credit Friends of Marine Gardens)
Photo: The Friends of Marine Gardens with their Green Flag (photo credit Friends of Marine Gardens)
This week was a big week for Brooklands, as Friends of Brooklands Park became fully established and held their first AGM on Saturday 18th January 2020.
In the meeting they discussed what the Friends of Group will be carrying out in the coming year. This was a celebration of what the Group will be able to achieve as their own group, separate from the Council, but will be given support from the Rangers.
They have committed to having a task day once a month as well as events throughout the year. This will range from a whole host of activities including conservation tasks, choir night sings to craft days. This group is becoming the voice of Brooklands and a very positive and excitable one at that.
Their first task day of this year will be held this coming Saturday 25th January 2020, doing some tree planting and generally meeting the people that want to help improve Brooklands.
They will later have clearance days, planting more wildflowers and bulbs as well as connecting with Keep Britain Tidy in the Spring for the 'Big Spring Clean'.
It is the role of the Ranger team to support this group in delivering these wonderful conservation tasks and start to move forward with Brooklands in allowing it to be a site of ecological enhancement. It will be a site for people to be submerged into nature, be mindful of today's environment and give back what we can to the place that has given us so much already.
I am looking forward to working with this lovely group who are so passionate about this site.
Photo: The Friends of Brooklands Park hard at work removing litter from the Park and grounds
I would also like to take this opportunity to just reiterate the message of the group as was shown on Saturday. They are a group wishing to help make, and to sustain and support the natural habitats of Brooklands, promoting environmental improvement and allowing for it to be a site of education, alongside encouraging the use of the park for people of all walks of life.
They are looking for people not only to get down in the mud to dig, cut and plant, but also be a group to socialise, chat and help promote Brooklands.
They need volunteers to make the teas and coffees.
They need volunteers to come watch the wildlife and record what is seen to evaluate the improvement.
If this seems like anything you wish to do please contact Friends of Brooklands via their Facebook page or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
It is wonderful to see the start of a group like this and I am looking forward to the year ahead on what improvements this group will make to this one of a kind landscape in the heart of Adur and Worthing.
Photo: The Iconic pond situated in the centre of Brooklands Park
Photo: The lesser known amphitheatre at the North of Brooklands Park
Many of the projects that the Ranger team are involved in carry out the process of coppicing. This has on many occasions been mistaken as deforestation or damaging the environment. However, it is a process that has occurred for thousands of years to gain natural materials to build fencing, housing and pretty much everything needed at the time of use. It can be done to any tree but most commonly Hazel due to being fast growing and mainly growing straight.
Coppicing is the process of cutting down a tree at base level and allowing for new shoots to grow off it, eventually into, pretty much, fully fledged trees. These are then cut down at base level, developing a stool which more shoots come off. So you are making the tree grow several trees off of one trunk.
There are many reasons for this, one being that it has been occurring for so long that woodland flora, fauna and animals have become dependent on it. Many pollutants and plant life need that variation in light in order to grow. There needs to be a removal of the canopy to open up a glade below which allows for the sunlight to hit these dominant plants starting their chemical reactions to begin growing. It is a process allowing for variation throughout the woodland, due to being cut on a rotation. This then allows for a mixture of new and mature woodland, gaining a variation of wildlife throughout the woods.
Another benefit is that it prolongs the life of the tree. Take Hazel, typically lives to be 80 years old depending on conditions that it lives in and changes to the land. However, by coppicing it makes the tree believe it is a new tree from the stool, and the stool provides the energy for it as if it was a young tree. This then goes through all the stages as it normally would and then is cut down to start over again. This means they will last for several hundred years instead, always thinking it is about 7/10 years old (whatever the coppice rotation is).
We carry out this process in Whitebeam Woods, Malthouse Meadow, Lancing Ring and The Plantation just to name a few. If you would like to try this process and see the impact that it can have as well as learn how to build with the materials, please get in contact with the Ranger Team.
Photo: Coppice nearly ready to be cut
Photo: Coppice at about one year
Photo: Coppice at about two years
So here it is the eagerly awaited 2020, the start of a New Year and decade. 2020 is the proposed turning point against climate change from various Earth Summits, and the time where more people are concerned about the environment than the economy.
However, many people do not know what they can do to help, other than cycle to work, reduce power consumption and using various other eco-friendly alternative products. But, there is another way, join a 'Friends of Group' and project your own environment.
It is the time of new resolutions and trying new things, why not find out about your local conservation groups and see what you can do to help? There is so much that can be done in Adur and Worthing. Communities can build everlasting projects together, and protect the environment they love, making friends along the way as well as creating something amazing.
There is more to a conservation group then just sweeping leaves back off paths and cutting down dead plants or allowing for public right of way. There is habitat building, honing woodworking skills by building bird and bat boxes, or attempting something new with dead hedging. You can gain a keen aesthetic eye to allow for areas of pollination planting, which provide much needed sustenance to bees and butterflies while creating beautiful surroundings for locals.
Physical work is not all that needs to be done; all these groups need support with budgeting, finding funds, raising awareness, and support with communication and planning events. If you wish to help out your local environment but have not got the skills or do not feel physical conservation is for you, then do not fear, you are just as important. Your work behind the scenes will allow conservation work to be carried out. Without the whole group together, change would be impossible. We all need to work together to fight back against climate change, the power is in all our hands.
As with all 'Friends of Groups' you will have full support of the council and you will work with the Ranger team to implement the changes you want to see. A 'Friends of Group' can be set up anywhere (once agreed with the local authority) or you can join any group you wish, anywhere close to your heart is the best place to start. It is my role, as it is with the whole Ranger team, to support these groups in every way possible. If you do not know how to get involved or would like help to set up or join a group, please contact the Ranger team.
We cannot do all of it alone, we need your support and your views to turn the tide against climate change for good.
I've got to say a huge thank you to all current groups running, making small and big changes where you are. Your work is greatly appreciated and is vital to our current environment. Here is to more changes in 2020.
Photo: Sowing wild flower seeds
Photo: Wild flowers in Beach House Grounds, Worthing
This week I have been out with Friends of Shoreham Beach working alongside The Princes Trust, clearing invasive species from the beach.
Friends of Shoreham Beach, is a community run conservation group for the preservation of Shoreham Beach. It is run by the community for the community; the Ranger team support these groups in every way it sees fit. Be it removal of green waste, tools, physical work or helping run the group itself.
In 1992 Shoreham Beach was given the certificate of a Site of Conservation Importance and as such has been looked after by various groups to maintain this precious site. The site is precious due to it being vegetated shingle which is a rare habitat in the world and sustains rare wildlife which captivates niche species, such as Childing Pink and Nottingham Catchfly.
The work that the group does is vital in removing species that are out performing the rare vegetation. This work needs to be carried out, or these plants will no longer exist, which in turn will remove specialist insects that feed off these plants, which then leads to the predators having less food and killing these off as well. This has a huge knock on effect that can start ripples of problems affecting UK wildlife as a whole, and in very unpredictable ways.
These invasive plants do create a habitat for common wildlife, they are important to the ecosystem. However, many of these plants, such as Silver Ragwort, are garden escapees dating back to the 1890s. 130 years is not a long time for nature to adapt to allow it to be a food source in today's ecosystem. Since then Silver Ragwort has dominated the shores of the south competing against these niche plants that cannot outdo these more versatile plants, and in time have the potential to wipe out all other species. The reason they do this is because they are able to beat more fragile plants for light, food and root space.
Friends of Shoreham Beach work tirelessly to remove these alien species from other countries, which kill off the native UK plants damaging local ecosystems. These plants are trying to make the environment more like their native homes, which our UK plants and wildlife are not used to. Friends of Shoreham Beach do not only do practical removal of these plants but also monitor the movement of wildlife, track what has been gained and what is native and non-native. Their work ensures the survival of this rare habitat, preventing any further damage to the wider UK eco-structure.
It is down to Friends of Shoreham Beach and groups like them, that Adur and Worthing have so many wonderful greenspace. These groups are on the forefront of wildlife protection and reducing environmental damage. It is not just down to conservation charities to look after our world, it is up to all of us, everyone can make a difference.
Photo: Vegetated shingle on Shoreham Beach
Photo: Clearing invasive species on Shoreham Beach
This week I wish to acknowledge the importance of tree planting, to tie in with The Woodland Trust, who have just finished (30th November 2019) #EveryTreeCounts campaign attempting to get one million trees planted in the UK.
The importance of this is that it is a great way to fight back against climate change, but also to ensure that future generations have green areas to play and use. Just the same as we have.
Each tree that you plant is estimated over its life time to take in one tonne of Carbon, however this depends on tree type. This can help us tackle the ever growing fears of climate change in a very real and practical way.
I want to shine the light however not just on the ecological side of this wonderful activity, but to quickly share with you the way that it can bring communities and people together.
In the past week myself and the Ranger Team have worked with Shoreham Academy and Heene C of E, planting trees with the students, which was great to see all Years working together for a common cause, which they will personally see grow up as they do. They will walk past part of their local area that they have changed forever.
We also do this with local groups. For me, it's so nice to see people from all walks of life come together, share stories, experiences and do as one. This is not only good for the planet, but great to watch transform, as it is a legacy that will be left. It will sustain wildlife that you yourself would have given a home.
It is a project that all ages can get involved in, and all can see the difference that it makes over time.
Your community could plant a woodland, and create your own beautiful environment to be surrounded by nature, nature that you have been able to bring to a site or location. That to me is truly amazing, and something that everyone should experience.
If you wish to do such a community activity, such as a tree planting party etc, but have no where to start, then please contact the Ranger team. We are here to help you, it's what we are meant for - to help local people improve their local spaces for the better of future generations and ourselves.
Photos: Planting trees with the community, digging holes and adding compost - The Rangers in the photos are Anthony Read, Head Ranger, and Adam Scott.
Hello my name is Craig and I have just started the role as a Park Ranger in the Environmental Services department. I use to be a volunteer with the Rangers, with the aid of The Conservation Volunteers with whom I used to work.
I started volunteering straight out of college where I was unsure what career I wished to pursue. However after helping out to improve local wildlife with various organisations across Worthing, Brighton and Arundel, I had my heart set on being a Ranger. I have now joined Adur & Worthing Councils as I wish to carry on the same sort of work that I carried out with these charities but on a permanent and wider remit.
I quickly learnt that the Rangers, are very much at the public's disposal. We are here to be used by the 'friends of' groups, and help volunteers find their feet in how they can start improving their local parks and Greenspaces. We are here to take suggestions and help those wanting to see change, improvement or enhancement of what their community.
What seems to be overlooked in today's urban environment is the idea that we can not make a difference due to our urbanised area, only those who live in the New Forest or those up in the Lake District can have such an impact on the environment.
This is untrue.
The local Greenspaces are just as important and can hold just as much activity. Each space can have its own microculture reflecting the community around it, however this can be discussed in a later blog. In the past week I have been installing memorial benches, discussing regression projects for some of Adur and Worthing's greenspaces, helping improve playgrounds, even help formulate new 'friends of' groups.
What I am most looking forward to in this role though is being able to help like minded people improve their local areas and help to build a green corridor throughout Adur and Worthing.
I am also looking to be able to look back at the work that I do with pride and seeing the enhancements made to the local community and their Parks alike.
There are also some very exciting projects in the pipeline for the district which I am very happy to be on the forefront of.
I am excited to be in this role to help our planet, as well as help empower locals who do not know where to start with this type of work or have a passion for the environment but need their voices heard, I am here to help and aid those and build a network of like minded people to support their communities.
Photos: Lancing Manor Park
Photo: Brooklands Park Wildflowers
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