The charity Friends of Combe Valley (FoCV) is calling for volunteers to
help maintain Combe Valley Countryside Park. By David E P Dennis

Combe Valley, the vale of the Combe Haven river and its headstreams, the Powdermill and Watermill, covers 2,000 hectares in the centre of the communities of Crowhurst, Hollington, Filsham, Bulverhythe, Pebsham and Sidley. It is full of wildlife. Some 1,500 hectares is taken up by Combe Haven Countryside Park, which includes the coastal strip from Galley Hill to the wreck of the Amsterdam.

As many will know, there were protests when the Bexhill to Hastings bypass was built. To compensate for loss of landscape features, the East Sussex County Ecologist planned in twice as many features as were removed. More lakes and ponds were formed, and 100,000 trees were planted. That is the good news – and wildlife has undoubtedly benefitted from it.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) with Coots (Fulica atra)

However, there is one big problem: when the trees were planted, the contractor did not use biodegradable tree protectors. The tubular material used has now weathered into a strong plastic-like fibrous sheath, which is killing the trees. As tree trunks expand so most of the tubes constrict natural growth and need cutting off and removing to recycling.  FoCV has cut off 1,800 sheaths, but there are so many more – and so more volunteers are needed to help remove the rest, over the next year or two.

Young trees constricted by sheath protectors

Volunteers are invited to come to the Discovery Centre, Freshfields, St Leonards, just before the recycling centre but on the right-hand side. The FoCV Warden team will meet them at 10am every Thursday, weather permitting, and also every third Saturday of each month at 10am. Covid masks and gloves are needed, but cutting tools will be provided.

Coastal Heritage Sign Boards at Bridge Way, St Leonards-on-Sea

Wild About Wildlife

What will you see while you are working in the Valley? Some stunning creatures. We have some top raptors (birds of prey) like the Marsh Harrier, Red Kite, Hobby, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Barn Owl.  We have lots of Swans, Herons and Little and Cattle Egrets and some specially protected birds like the Dartford and Cetti’s Warblers, as well as Kingfishers, Lapwings, Grebes, Stonechats, Black-tailed Godwits, Yellowhammers, Goldfinches, Sedge and Reed warblers. Our geese are Greylag, Canada and Egyptian. 

For insect fans we have a very wide range of beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, wasps, bees and hoverflies, and for those who love landscape we have one third of all the fen in Sussex, some superb reed beds in our sites of special scientific interest and a range of harmless grass snakes, slow worms, marsh and common frogs and rare diving beetles. In the evenings, foxes, badgers, deer and bats may be seen.

Egyptian Geese (Alopochen aegyptiacus) 

For those of you who love the colourful beauty of nature we have many types of dragonfly, such as the Emperor and Four Spotted Chaser, and the so-called Hairy Dragonfly. Our damselflies include the Beautiful and Banded Demoiselles, White-legged and scarce Small Red-eyed Damselfly. Butterflies abound, for example: Clouded Yellow, Green Hairstreak, Speckled Wood, Gatekeeper, Painted Lady, Red Admiral, Peacock, Orange Tip, Comma, Meadow Brown, Large and Small Skipper, Small and Holly Blue and Brown Argus. Moths include the Pearl, Blood-vein, Shaded Broadbar, Burnet, Magpie, Cinnabar and the incredibly beautiful Purple and Gold (Pyrausta purpuralis).

Small Tortoiseshell butterfly (Nymphalis urticae) taking off

So, if you love nature, why not volunteer to save, enhance and preserve the beautiful natural environment on your doorstep, with its Greenway and 30 miles of footpaths? Working in such an environment will not be toil – it will be pleasure. You will get a sense of achievement and in coming years you will see the benefits of saving the trees. More wildlife, more pollinators – and more beauty in the world.

Learn More
To see our Facebook page – go here: @CombeValley
To see our website and join FoCV or Volunteer – go here:
Friends of Combe Valley welcome charity donations to pay for many more projects, including suitable paths for disability wheelchair-users and a sensory garden – and you can donate using our website.

ALL PICTURES: David E P Dennis

More on the Combe Valley click here

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