West Wittering Community to Tackle Climate Change

West Wittering Community to Tackle Climate Change

by | Apr 13, 2022

The Manhood Peninsula juts out into the English Channel and includes The Witterings, Sidlesham, Selsey and Pagham. | Flickr, Mike McBey

The Manhood Wildlife and Heritage Group has received funding to engage the West Wittering community in mitigating the local effects of climate change. The funding will implement nature- based solutions to climate change whilst connecting people with their local community, enhancing both physical and mental wellbeing and empowering the community to make meaningful, long-term change.

The Manhood Peninsula, so named after the Saxon word “common land”, can be found south of Chichester, stretching from West Wittering to Pagham and encompassing all parishes, fields, beaches, streams and communities in between.

The Manhood Peninsula is home to two RSPB nature reserves and Chichester Harbour which is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and A Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Furthermore, the villages south of Chichester hold a rich history in fishing and agriculture which united communities in generations gone by.

But despite all its beauty, the Manhood Peninsula is not safe from the effects of climate change. Being both low lying and close to the sea, rising sea levels and extreme weather events could bring devastating consequences to the communities and wildlife south of Chichester.

The Manhood Wildlife and Heritage Group (MWHG) is a charity and volunteer group dedicated to promoting and protecting the environment and history of the Manhood Peninsula.

The Group is proud to have been recognized for conservation work and services to the local community through several awards, such as The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

To date, The Manhood Wildlife and Heritage group have carried out some amazing conservation work. Take their Fixing and Linking Our Wetlands (FLOW) project; a six-year long scheme which secured vital habitat for wildlife and improve local flood management, powered by a dedicated team of volunteers trained in natural heritage skills.

The water network on the Manhood Peninsula connects three protected areas; Pagham Harbour, Medmerry Nature Reserve and Chichester Harbour, making it an important highway for wetland species looking to breed.

One such species is the water vole, considered the mascot of the Manhood Peninsula who, sadly, has seen a 90% decline in the last six decades. According to the Sussex Wildlife Trust, there are just two remaining large populations of water voles in Sussex one of which is the West Sussex Coast, underscoring the importance of connecting The Manhood wetlands, and indeed celebrating the project’s success.

In November 2021, The MWHG received a generous £80,000 worth of funding from the Woodger Trust, a trust supporting charitable initiatives that provide a general benefit for people local to West Wittering. This funding will, over the course of three years, employ two Community Conservation Officers who will spearhead environmental initiatives in West Wittering and the surrounding parishes.

The water vole is a flagship species for the Manhood Peninsula| Flickr, Peter Trimming

The funding will also contribute to the upkeep of the West Wittering Tree Nursery, a new venture from The MWHG that is cultivating 2000 young native trees to plant across The Manhood Parishes, connecting fragments of habitat and improving drainage. A fully mature tree can act as a pump, absorbing hundreds of litres of water each day – crucial for these low-lying areas.

The tree-planting schemes will run as volunteer sessions in The Witterings, Bracklesham, Earnley, Itchenor and Birdham. These sessions will identify and manage areas in need of flood mitigation and wildlife conservation, promoting environmental, community and personal wellbeing. The sessions will also provide work experience for local young people who are keen to mitigate environmental problems, and perhaps kickstart their careers in conservation.

The West Wittering Tree Nursery is growing young native trees such as oak, birch and hawthorn.

The Conservation Officers will also run community events around the Peninsula for both children and adults, engaging people with the beautiful environment that West Sussex has to offer. Such events would include building bat and bird boxes to encourage our native yet endangered species back to The Peninsula, such as the Greater Horseshoe Bat which has seen a 90% decline in recent years, and just last year was found in Sussex once again.

Community events will also include bat detection, moth trapping and wildlife walks and talks, shedding light on the infamous species found south of Chichester. All of these community and volunteering events will bring like-minded people together. For older people in the community, this would nurture their mental wellbeing and even fitness after almost two long years of lockdowns, masks and isolation.

The Woodger Trust funding will also contribute to the bigger picture of flood management, as the Conservation Officers will conduct data collection on local wetlands, providing Parish Councils, West Sussex County Council and Chichester district council even the Environment Agency with feedback on drainage and planning.

“Volunteers on previous MWHG projects have found the benefits of such work to include physical fitness, mental wellbeing, new friendships, education, and a closer and more meaningful connection with the local area.”- MWHG Press Release 2021

To find out more about the upcoming community and volunteering events, visit the Manhood Wildlife and Heritage Group Website at https://www. mwhg.org.uk . If you are itching to get involved in volunteering at the West Wittering Tree Nursery or any other local wildlife conservation, please address any enquiries to Alex Ainge at aainge@mwhg.org.uk ,or via the MWHG’s contact form: www.mwhg.org.uk/contact-us.

Volunteers out in the fresh air

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