Harbour CHIRP - November 2015

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Photo: Pete Ayling


Welcome and introduction

Richard Austin - AONB Manager

Welcome to the November edition of Harbour CHIRP.

With cold mornings becoming more frequent, many small mammals adopt several approaches to help them cope with the chilly weather.

Larger mammals may migrate or grow a winter coat but these options are not always possible for smaller mammals - they let their body temperate fall, through torpor and hibernation, to save energy.

Torpor is a short-term reduction in body temperature, driven by cold weather and limited food. Hibernation is an extended form of torpor. In Chichester Harbour, dormice, bats, hedgehogs and woodmice will soon go into torpor, which may last for several days at a time.

Mammals will come out of hibernation to forage for food, drink water and to boost their immune system and this will continue until the warmer weather returns.

If you'd like to help hibernating animals in your garden this winter, consider replacing fences with hedges, growing a wide variety of plants and creating a dry winter shelter for them, using a slightly elevated and secure flat board with leaves near the entrance.

All this will help to make the winter months as cosy as possible for small mammals in the Harbour.



National News

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) like Chichester Harbour are some of the most special and most loved places in England, due to their distinctive character and natural beauty.

However, many of these protected areas are coming under increased pressure from development so the National Trust commissioned research by planning consultants, Green Balance, to look at case studies where large-scale developments have been approved in AONBs.

They found instances when national policies, designed to protect these landscapes, were not given sufficient weight by some local planning authorities. Their report suggests ways to improve planning practice, including a series of tests for decision-makers to apply in AONB cases and a brief, practical tool to help ensure policy is applied correctly.

We are a non-statutory consultee in the planning process and we responded to 85 planning applications (either in or directly adjacent to the Harbour) in the last 3 months. We are currently working in conjunction with the local planning authorities to update our Planning Guidance to help safeguard this special place for generations to come.

Click here to read the National Trust report


Join us for our winter bird watching events

Judi Darley - Communities Officer

Autumn is well underway, so we're thinking about our winter bird watching events. Harbour birds, however, have been preparing for the winter season for some time, with birds arriving back from their summer breeding grounds and others changing their plumage.

Curlews breed in the northern parts of the UK from April to July and return to the coast from July onwards, whereas Black-headed Gulls breed from April to July and will change their distinctive black heads (that are actually chocolate brown) to a silvery white with grey smudges either side of their head.

The first of our bird watching events is a walk at West Wittering on Sunday 1st November and our annual Joan Edom Memorial Walk is at Nutbourne on Sunday 15th November. Joan was the Harbour's first Conservation Warden and worked as a volunteer before Anne de Potier became our full-time Conservation Warden. Today, this role is fulfilled by James Parkin, our Farming and Wildlife Officer.

Why not join us for a boat trip on Saturday 14th or Sunday 22nd November? The Solar Heritage is ideal for bird watching as the birds aren't fazed by the boat so we can observe them in close proximity, and its near-silent engines mean we can hear the beautiful and evocative sounds they make.

Click here to find out more and to book a place. Remember to wrap up warm!

Grey Seal

Seals doing well in the Harbour but will they stay?

James Parkin - Farming & Wildlife Officer

This year, volunteer John Arnott and I teamed up with Langstone Harbour for the first time to co-ordinate our monthly counts of the Common and Grey Seals that grace our Harbours and "haul out" on the mud at low tide. They do this to rest, breed, give birth and moult and they feed on fish throughout the Solent when the tide is in.

The highest count of Common Seals was 21 adults and 8 pups. In 2010, the Common Seal population was estimated at 23-25 seals and our new estimate is now 34 - excellent and encouraging news that Common Seals have had pups this year and the population appears stable.

We also counted 5 Grey Seals, not usually seen in the Harbour- which raises the question "Where did they come from and will they leave here to breed?" - the nearest breeding populations are in Cornwall, Brittany and the Lincolnshire coast.

As with Harbour birds, seals are easily frightened when boats and people approach them. This could lead to mothers abandoning their pups and, if continually disturbed, they could decide to leave the Harbour.

We urge people to protect our seals by following the Solent Seal Observation Code and hopefully they will happily stay here and continue to thrive.



What are these children doing?

Jane Latawski - Education Officer

There's been a lot debate about the amount of time the present generation of children are spending indoors, instead of playing outside, and experts say spending less time outdoors can result in a wide range of behavioural problems.

So what are these boys from Bosmere Junior School doing?

Well... they're outdoors, totally absorbed in exploring the natural and man-made environment at Dell Quay. The boys and 12 classmates took part in a photography workshop, led by professional photographer Paul Gonella. They learnt photography skills and how to compose photos and take close up shots.

Paul and Aly Rough, from Bosmere School, were impressed with the children's curiosity and positive attitude and said "The children's eyes were opened to the beauty and wonder of nature, through photography. They were totally absorbed in looking at, learning from and appreciating the landscape and wildlife of Chichester Harbour".

Please contact me if you would like to arrange a workshop for your school or group.



All hands on deck at Cortice Copse

Georgie Siddle - Communities Ranger

Keith Rathbone - Countryside Ranger

Over 10 years ago we planted a new woodland area on Thorney Island, called Cortice Copse. This was quite a challenging project as the ground was mostly made up of dismantled runway from the old WWII air base!

However, the woodland is now thriving - a bit too well in fact! The bramble and gorse is in danger of taking over the young trees, so we have carried out 3 volunteer sessions this month - one with our friends at the Chichester Conservation Volunteers, and two with the Friends of Chichester Harbour.

It is in a lovely secluded location and we're often lucky enough to see wild hares darting between the rows of trees. Although there is no public access (as it is on the working military base), the wood is a haven for wildlife and is enjoyed by the serving personnel stationed at Baker Barracks.


Discover North Common

Nicky Horter - Countryside Officer (job-share)

We help to manage a lovely area of public open space at North Common, on Hayling Island. The site is a hidden gem and well-kept secret, and is well worth a visit - ideally combined with the nearby tea rooms at Northney Farm!

We have been carrying out habitat management works over a number of years to reduce the amount of scrub and encourage a diversity of habitats with open areas of grassland for flowers and insects to thrive.

Our Friends volunteers had a very productive session this month bramble bashing at the western end of the site.  If you are heading over that way, look out for the entrance on Northney Road, marked by a height barrier leading into a little car park. You will be able to enjoy stunning views over to Emsworth and the South Downs beyond.



Please bear with us during improvements

Judith Meagher - Countryside Officer (job-share)

380m of the Salterns Way was resurfaced recently, following generous funding from The F.G Woodger Trust. They kindly pledged £23,000 for improvements to the cycle path and £10,000 was used to improve a busy stretch at Apuldram, which is used by thousands of cyclists every year. Click here to find out more.

This stretch was closed for two weeks, with signs and barriers at each end but, sadly, our contractors still encountered a few cyclists and walkers who entered the work area, despite risking injury from heavy machinery.

We hope to make more improvements in the Harbour from now until March 2016 and we ask users to bear with us whilst the work takes place and follow any diversion notices. We'll ensure that the work is carried out as quickly as possible and, once complete, the footpaths and Salterns Way will be available for years to come - definitely worth the wait!


Photo: Paul Costern

Recent planning matters

Steve Lawrence - Planning Officer (job share)

As a non-statutory planning consultee, the Conservancy comments on planning applications made to local planning authorities affecting the AONB, thereby helping to ensure that the natural environment is conserved and enhanced. The Conservancy's Planning Consultative Committee meets every six weeks to consider the latest planning applications in and around Chichester Harbour.

Some of the more contentious applications reviewed recently included the proposed relocation of St. Wilfrid's

Hospice to Walton Lane in Bosham. The Committee discussed this application in some detail and ultimately raised no objection to the scheme, subject to a technical solution being found for the drainage issues. A solar farm has also been proposed at New Barn Farm in Bosham. Although the applicant scaled-down the original aspirations for the site, the Committee raised an objection partly because of the impact it would have on the landscape, which is in a protected area.

In West Itchenor, an application was submitted to change the use of some marine workshops to general warehousing. The Committee also decided to object to this proposal since they were unsatisfied with the level of marketing that had been undertaken.

Finally, with regards to the unauthorised development on land north of Birdham Farm, the Committee fully supports Chichester District Council's decision to take planning enforcement action over this case.

In total, over the last three months, the Conservancy has commented on over 80 planning applications. We will continue to work hard with the local planning authorities to help look after Chichester Harbour.