Cissbury Bioblitz

Cissbury Fields Bioblitz Gathering

On Thursday 4th August there was a large gathering of people who are involved with the management and ongoing development of Cissbury Fields. Adur and Worthing council were well represented with Rangers, Dog Warden and Councillors, South Downs National Park Rangers, Ornithologists, Archaeologists and Findon Valley Residents Association made for a good sample of organisations.

One of the main purposes of the get together was to engage with all users of the fields. Adur & Worthing council have a good commitment to involving everyone and they were carrying out a survey of opinions about the site. FVRA’s stand was focussed on creating a timeline of residents memories of the fields, this is an ongoing project and so far we have around fifty entries. The earliest we have is from 1944 when two elderly men can remember troops training for the D day landings.

It was heartening to be with so many people who are interested in how the fields are to be managed in the future. The two main issues are the level of public usage balanced with encouraging and increasing the diverse wild life which exists here. Dog walking is the most popular activity and the reluctance to pick up the resultant excrement one of the main management problems. This is because, to encourage a return to a good downland flora, a hay cut of the grass is necessary at least once a year. The best way to achieve this is to let a contractor do the work.

Hay has a value and if a contractor can come in and do the collection everyone is happy. The problem is that when a large quantity of dog excrement is present the hay is useless for feeding to livestock. Sometimes it can be used as biofuel but it has to be very dry and cut at the right time. How much better it would be if the fields could be kept free from dog waste, not just for haymaking but also for everyone who walks the fields.

I went on a short guided walk with an ornithologist and was pleased to hear that Skylark numbers are holding steady and may even be increasing. The site remains good for butterflies as well and, with more fields managed to encourage a diverse flora, numbers can only increase.