Whether it is cleaning the beach with a mince pie and mulled wine or spotting shrimp in rock pools in the height of summer, one group of volunteers can be found on Shoreham Beach come rain or shine.
The Friends of Shoreham Beach run cleaning events throughout the year to conserve the area, including just after Christmas, and an education programme to inform people about the flora and fauna that call the beach their home. And due to their hard work, the beach is in great shape for its tenth anniversary of becoming a Local Nature Reserve.
Jacky Woolcock, 77, of Beach Road, is the secretary of the group and is on the committee that maintains the protected area.
She moved to Shoreham Beach in 1989 after living in southern India for 18 years, but said she finds the wildlife here just as exciting. “It is a wonderful place to live, to see that view. I love it here; I remember when I moved in on the first morning. It’s an ideal place for a water baby like myself.”
Shoreham Beach is a vegetated shingle beach, a rare habitat which is only found in New Zealand, Japan and the South East of England. Around 90 plants can be found growing there, including the endangered Childing Pink, and the environment supports a selection of birds, molluscs, moths, butterflies and reptiles.
Due to this, the beach was identified and designated as a Site of Nature Conservation Importance in May 1992, and was designated as a Local Nature Reserve in April 2002, with it being officially declared in July 2006. This ensures that the site is managed so that it is maintained for future generations – and many members of the Friends of Shoreham Beach are on the management committee.
To mark the 10-year milestone, Jacky said they installed new informative signs on the beach thanks to a grant and the group’s chairman Joy Daintree. “She has done a fantastic job,” said Jacky. “I just poodle along doing minutes and looking at flowers and birds.”
She said that Joy also set up the original petition for the Shoreham Boardwalk, which has made the beach accessible for people who use wheelchairs. There have also been extra educational sessions to mark the anniversary – including one about the importance of the beach, which took place on Saturday, and another this morning. It will allow people to examine rock pool wildlife under a microscope.
Jacky said it is important that visitors to the beach and nearby residents respect the area, such as not trampling the flowers or to leaving rubbish in plastic bags. “Foxes will open the bags and distribute the rubbish around the beach, and birds try to eat the plastic. If they eat too much of it, they will die of starvation as it blocks them up.”
Another problem, Jacky says, is that invasive plants have begun to take over the beach as soil and food waste from nearby homes over-enrich the shingle. One of them sounds rather tasty: a three cornered garlic plant, which Jacky and other volunteers cleared from the beach earlier this year with park rangers from Adur District Council.
But after clearing 33 black bags and filling four trucks with the plant, certainly she won’t be eating Chicken Kiev any time soon. “After pulling up all that garlic, it’s enough to put you off!,” she said.
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