Out and About - West Sussex
West Sussex is bordered by Hampshire to the west, Surrey to the north and East Sussex to the east, with Brighton and Hove in the south east corner. The English Channel lies to the south. The area has been formed from Upper Jurassic and Lower Cretaceous rock strata, part of the Weald–Artois Anticline. The eastern part of this ridge, the Weald of Kent, Sussex and Surrey has been greatly eroded, with the chalk surface removed to expose older Lower Cretaceous rocks of the Wealden Group. In West Sussex the exposed rock becomes older towards the north of the county with Lower Greensand ridges along the border with Surrey including the highest point of the county at Blackdown. Erosion of softer sand and clay strata has hollowed out the basin of the Weald leaving a north facing scarp slope of the chalk which runs east and west across the whole county, broken only by the valleys of the River Arun and River Adur. In addition to these two rivers which drain most of the county at winterbourne, the River Lavant, flows intermittently from springs on the dip slope of the chalk downs north of Chichester.
Those interested in history, prehistoric monuments include the Devil's Jumps, a group of Bronze Age burial mounds, and the Iron Age Cissbury Ring and Chanctonbury Ring hill forts on the South Downs. The Roman period saw the building of Fishbourne Roman Palace and rural villas such as Bignor Roman Villa together with a network of roads including Stane Street and the Sussex Greensand Way.
The bird life tends to be on the south coast with places like Pagham Harbour, Selsey Bill and Chichester Harbour and if you fancy a walk there is the 100 mile South Downs Way.Also go to Sussex Ornithological Society website.
I have put three areas in one section as they are close together , Selsey Bill, Church Norton and Pagham Harbour which is a good days birding in which you can mix up habitats and the tides.
Here is a great local blog with loads of information for the visiting birder - Birding the Selsey Peninsula.
Selsey Bill is a headland that points out into the English Channel and is a good spot to do some "Seawatching" and has a reputation for seeing good numbers of Pomarine Skua. In an average spring there is up to 200 birds passing through, with movement noted between mid-April and late June and peaking between 28th April and 22nd May. Pomarine Skuas and other seabird passage is from west to east in spring.
Pagham Harbour was until 2012 managed by the County Council until it was transferred to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). The site covers 1,500 acres. It's one of the few undeveloped stretches of the Sussex coast, and an internationally important wetland site for wildlife. It's a big, sheltered inlet that fills and empties with each tide, with wild ducks, geese and wading birds flying in to feed.
There is a lot to see all year; resident species include little egrets, ringed plovers and lapwings. With little terns breeding on the beach. Autumn and winter brings up to 20,000 ducks, geese and waders feeding and roosting across the reserve, including large numbers of Brent geese and Pintails. There is a small Visitor Centre with car park and toilets, and long walks around the harbour edge to the sea.It's a good place to see Yellow-legged Gulls, a gathering of up to 300 Yellow-legged Gulls is regularly noted in Pagham Harbour between the last week of July and early September. Two good blogs are Pagham Birder and the Pagham Harbour Local Nature Reserver blog run by the RSPB.
Church Norton is between Pagham and Selsey and has a convenient car park for easy access to the beach and those interested in history there is the grade 1 listed church St Wilfrid's Chapel next to the car park.
© Simon Thurgood 2017
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