Friends of Chichester Harbour

PUBLISHED: 01:16 02 August 2012 | UPDATED: 21:41 20 February 2013

Friends of Chichester Harbour

Friends of Chichester Harbour

Conservancy charity The Friends of Chichester Harbour celebrates its 25th anniversary this year

The Friends of Chichester Harbour (FoCH), a charity with some 3,000 members, celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Bernard Clarke has been Chairman since 2010 and his primary role is to ensure that members run the charity in accordance with their constitution and achieve their aims and goals. We achieve this through a Trustee Committee and Honorary Officers of 12 members, says Bernard.

It was my passion for sailing that brought me down to Chichester Harbour from North Buckinghamshire. We stayed at Cobnor Point, Chidham in 1988 to sail our dinghy in the harbour. During those two visits we felt drawn by the sheer beauty and diversity of the harbour and decided to move to the village, which we did a few months later.

Each of the four seasons brings special qualities to the harbour, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. In the summer months it is the rich variety of the landscape with all the different crops in the fields and the South Downs providing the perfect backdrop. And, at weekends and holiday times we have the lovely spectacle of hundreds of brightly-coloured sailing boats.

I am really proud of what the FoCH has achieved this year. We have funded or partly funded eight projects that assist the public enjoyment of the harbour; ten projects that help maintain and improve the harbour and AONB environment; five projects that help maintain and improve public access to Chichester Harbour and finally six projects that provide education for young and old.

As Chairman I am particularly proud of the fact that we are enjoying record turn-out of our volunteers at the conservancy work parties 48 work parties in total this year, which I think is really impressive for a voluntary organisation.

I have sailed into many harbours all round the world but for me Chichester Harbour stands well above all others. I am pleased that I am part of a team that helps to retain its special characteristics.

Jenny and Chris Harvey have been Friends of Chichester Harbour for three years. We come out once a week and do what is required generally weeding, cutting, pruning, planting trees, says Jenny. Today were weeding the hemlock at a site called Fishbourne Meadows.

Jenny and Chris only moved to Sussex three years ago after discovering the beauty of the area. We actually didnt live here until three years ago and when we moved down we thought joining the FoCH was the obvious thing to do, describes Chris. The best thing about being a Friend for us is being out in the fresh air and getting some results, it is nice going back to see what we have achieved. Last week we went back to a place where we planted trees a few years ago and its lovely to see how they have grown. It also means we see parts of the harbour that the public cant get to, which is intriguing. Its just so picturesque and beautiful. Even in the rain its lovely, and we come out in all weathers. Weve also got a spin-off from this socially which is nice because a lot of us all joined at the same time. We have become friends and often socialise together.

John and Kay DArcy have been members for three years. Being a member involves doing a bit of conservation work, putting something back into the environment so everything is nice when people walk through the idyllic landscape, explains John. If youre interested in conservation issues its very rewarding, I worked for the WWF before I retired and I used to do this sort of thing and really enjoyed it. Weve always loved looking out to sea or on the sea and its our way of giving something back. We have enjoyed it from day one.

John and Kay have a special interest: About six months ago we volunteered to look after Beaks Nature Trail which is designed for children and people with special needs based at Dell Quay, explains Kay. We do the park maintenance there, keeping it neat and tidy, keeping all the wheelchair access clear.

John adds: One of our most memorable moments was when we were working at Chidham. We were there doing the initial groundwork and there was a lot of clearance to be done. Suddenly I heard this almighty bang and saw Georgie the Ranger flying through the air! She had gone through a power cable with a tool. The electric company had left something exposed and nobody had been in there for years, I rushed over and she was flat out on her back but luckily okay. Afterwards we could all have a joke about it but at the time it was quite serious.

Chris Dalby has been a FoCH for eight years: Just before I retired I decided I wanted to give something back to the area where I had grown up so I joined up with the Friends as a volunteer, says Chris. For me it involves maintaining the footpaths around the harbour, making sure they are kept clear for people to use and enjoy, getting rid of any rubbish
and any other associated work that we might be asked to do.

I live at Rustington, near Littlehampton, but I spend a lot of time here. I grew up in the area as my parents came down to West Wittering in 1946. Within about three years we bought a family boat and we used to sail out from West Wittering over to East Head and around the harbour. I got used to sailing as long ago as that. Nowadays I sail my solo dinghy from Chichester Yacht Club and this is where I taught my daughter to sail.

Chris is also a harbour watch volunteer, one of 31 people dotted around the harbour. Starting at Hayling Island all the way round the outline of the harbour, we each have a length of harbour side to look after and I have a bit from Rookwood at West Wittering to the hinge at East Head. That is very fortunate for me because that is where I used to play when I was a lad.

Mark Taylor has been a FoCH for four weeks. Its great fun and on a lovely sunny day its beautiful. I imagine it can be a bit challenging when its colder but its a thoroughly nice crowd of people, explains Mark. I took early retirement this April and decided I wanted to put something back into the community, keep fit and socialise. This meets all those needs.

Mark knew about FoCH partly because he knew conservation managers around the harbour and he is a local. I go rowing and sailing on the harbour so I did a search on the internet and I found out there were a couple of people I knew that were members already. With my limited experience, the best thing about being a member is the socialising with the other members. Theyre a great crowd to work with and all like-minded people.

Georgie Siddle is a Countryside Ranger for the Chichester Harbour Conservancy. Ive been doing this job for about five years now and I love it. Today were clearing a freshwater meadow site of hemlock and ragwort because both plants suck moisture out of the ground. We have cattle here that are allergic to both weeds so were removing it before the cattle come on the land so the wet marshland ecosystem is in balance. The hemlock is quite a poisonous plant and on the bottom it sucks water out. That makes the area dry and because this is an orchid site we want to get rid of the hemlock to keep all the moisture in the ground. When I first started looking after this site we had about 100-150 orchids. Last years count was 600 so we know that this method works.

When I started we had four FoCH a week and then gradually the numbers rose to about 24 and on occasions its been 30+. I am really chuffed and they love it, says Georgie.

During the childrens holidays we give them a party with a barbecue, a talk or a tour. This year weve got the solar boat going around the area with a picnic
on board which should be fun.

Georgie remembers a hairy moment at this site, Fishbourne Meadows: One of the girls got stuck in the water with her waders on. She doesnt like cows and she was panicking because the cows were there and they were looking at her wondering what she was doing, explains Georgie. I obviously went in to try and rescue her and I went in as well. We both had to try and drag ourselves out of the water with the cows there watching and everyone else laughing at us!

Georgies job is dramatically different from her previous career. I sat in an office for years and got so bored of data input that I decided a change of career was required. I saw a gardener working for the council just mowing the lawns and I thought, I could do that.

I took it to the extreme and went to college, studied and got all the relevant qualifications that were necessary to become a Ranger. I applied for this job and got it. I love it and I wouldnt change it for the world. n

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