Upcoming Events in 2020/2021

EVENING MEETINGS – Thursdays at 8pm in Ripley Village Hall.

All meetings free to members (except Mulled Wine evening) – £3 for non-members payable on the door (unless otherwise stated).*


Coronavirus Update

Although we are unable to have our usual indoor meetings, the committee are pleased to announce that they have now arranged
for some meetings to go ahead online, via Zoom.

If you are a member of the WSNHS, this service is free of charge and we hope you will be able to join us.

If you are not a member, and would like to participate, there is a charge of £5 per meeting. However, Single Membership is only £7 per annum, so this is well worth considering!
Please contact our Secretary, Cally Harris, for details on: cally.harris@creating-connections.com or 01372 459082.


26 November 2020 (Zoom meeting 8.00pm)

AGM meeting, followed by short illustrated talks:

Plants of the Tatra Mountains – An illustrated talk by Ewa Arbury.
Ewa grew up in Krakow, Poland, near the Tatra Mountains, which she visited many times.  She studied horticulture at the Agricultural University in Krakow and went on to become a student at RHS Garden, Wisley, where she met and married Jim Arbury, RHS fruit specialist.  She was hugely influenced by her grandmother, who was a village herbalist to whom neighbours turned when they needed remedies for common ailments.  This led  to a special interest in botany.

A dip into the Wildlife of the Luangwa Valley – A brief look at this jewel of eastern Zambia by Andrew Kingston.  Andrew grew up in Kenya and, living in rural areas, developed a fascination for the birds and butterflies around him.  After qualifying as a vet, he spent a couple of years working in Nairobi then took on a role in Zambia as government vet in farming areas.  Here, he and his family made annual excursions into Luangwa or one of Zambia’s other National Parks and, since coming to the UK, has been drawn back to this wonderful area several times.


17 December 2020 (Zoom meeting 8.00pm)

Unearthing the world of earthworms – illustrated talk by Dr Victoria Burton

Come and learn about the world of earthworms including the different types we have in the UK, and how they live and breed. Earthworms play an important role in making sure that soil is fit for plant growth. Find out the ways they do this and the benefits earthworms offer to people. Dr Victoria Burton is passionate about UK natural history, its identification and recording, particularly soil invertebrates. Her PhD research at the Natural History Museum and Imperial College London investigated how soil and leaf litter biodiversity responds to land use and included running a citizen science program called Earthworm Watch.


28 January 2021 (Zoom meeting 8.00pm)

The Wildlife of Eastern Europe – illustrated talk by Roger Beck

“The political complexion of Europe changed dramatically over the closing years of the 20th century. As a result, the opportunities for travel to ex-communist-bloc states multiplied rapidly, and, as a retired schoolteacher with a lifelong interest in ornithology, I have been lucky enough to visit no fewer than ten of those countries, spending at least a week in each one. (Sadly, it should have been twelve by now, but for the coronavirus pandemic!) In my presentation, I shall concentrate on the bird species encountered, but other forms of wildlife (mammals, butterflies, etc.) will also feature. The biodiversity of places like Estonia, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and ex-Yugoslavia is truly astounding, and I hope that my photographs can do it proper justice!”


25 February 2021 (Zoom meeting 8.00pm)

Interesting ways plants have adapted – Illustrated talk by Prof Mark Chase

From fire protection to false flowers, we celebrate the many ways plants have adapted over the last 160 million years. Prof Chase is Senior Research Professor at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.


25 March 2021

A Year in the Life of a Regional BTO Rep – illustrated talk by Penny Williams

Penny Williams is the BTO Regional Rep for Surrey. She will talk about the surveys that she organises and/or participates in. The surveys not only include birds but other species too. Penny will also be talking about two holidays that she took in 2016; the first in Tibetan China and the second travelling from Ascension Island via St Helena to Cape Town.


22 April 2021

Countryside Management in Surrey – illustrated talk by Ben Habgood

Ben is Conservation Manager for Surrey Wildlife Trust for the Thames Basin Heaths area.
His talk will focus of the importance of the work that SWT and other wildlife organisations do on the landscape and he will explain about the social, historical and environmental significance of these habitats from a local to European level.



Occasional walks are organised from time to time. They will be publicised here – so watch this space for further details!



22 October 2020 (Zoom meeting)

Charles Darwin and the Voyage of the Beagle illustrated talk by Dr James Taylor

Dr James Taylor is an art historian with an interest in natural history. His talk centred on the ground-breaking surveying expedition of the Beagle in 1831-1836. More broadly, he described the lives of Darwin and Fitzroy, who was the Captain of the Beagle and founding father of the Met. Office, their family influences, patronages and social connections. His story unfolded through the art, letters and observations at the time. Dr Taylor was the curator at the National Museum at Greenwich and also a specialist in Victorian paintings. His detailed research, together with his unique access to Cambridge University and Down House (Darwin’s home near Orpington) brought this momentous period to life for us.

(Extract from Enid Burman’s review)


24 September 2020 (Zoom meeting)

Birds Beyond The Boughs – illustrated talk by Simon Ginnaw

Simon is an ornithologist and conservationist and his presentation was the first of our Zoom meetings. His beautiful photographs, birdsong, music and naturalist’s passion immediately drew us in to the secret lives and fascinating ecology behind our familiar woodland and garden birds. With a background of the birds songs and calls, as well as lovely atmospheric photographs of trees and woodland, he covered all the woodland refugee birds that have adopted our gardens, giving us an insight into their individual songs, behaviour, feeding habits and choice of habitat.

Simon’s enthusiasm and passion for nature shone through in his presentation and he certainly got our new season off to a storming start.

(Extract from Enid Burman’s review)


Welcome to our fifth newsletter of the year: this must be a record for the Society.

When committee members took up their roles at the AGM last November little did we know what awaited us. Beverley hadn’t expected to double her normal output of newsletters, Cally hadn’t planned to be sending out members’ wildlife photos and very certainly Liz Kingston, freshly taking on the role of organising our indoor programme, won’t have anticipated becoming skilled in Zoom technology. But, showing remarkable adaptability, she is now arranging with our speakers to offer their talks to our members via Zoom. Liz tells you more in the article following.

We appreciate that some of you don’t have computers and we hope that you might twist the arm of someone who does and join us in that way.

You will see on page 10, notice of the AGM and that we need volunteers for the two significant posts of Chairman and Treasurer. The Society can’t run on a few overworked committee members alone and so we do need, please, for more of you to come forward to help.

Subscriptions are due on 1st September and you will see that in the form at the back of the newsletter we have added a line for donations. Please add to our very modest subscription if you can. The loss of indoor meetings will deprive us of a significant income from sales, raffles and refreshments that made nearly £600 in 2018/19, and go towards our donations to charities. This loss won’t be fully offset by any savings from not hiring the village hall.

Turning to nature, I can’t fail to mention our house martins. Their arrival and daily antics have cheered us and helped make up for the lack of human visitors to our home in the last few months. We had six nests occupied this year. Our first birds arrived on 26 April and the other nests were taken gradually, so that by the first week in June we had four busy pairs of parents feeding young. By the beginning of August they had all gone: none had tried to raise a second brood, as does happen some years. Only on 4 July did we see our final two pairs in action and now, in wet mid-August, young are forlornly poking their heads out wondering when it will be time to be off.

Alan Bowen


Field Mice Laying Waste to Farmland in Germany

I’ve had a soft spot for mice since our young son was allowed a pair as pets. And recently they have come back into my affection as we have found and managed to film a shot or two of a family of wood mice in our rockery. So I read the following article with mixed feelings: principally great to learn of nature coming back when the use of chemicals on farms is reduced, a modicum of sympathy for the farmers involved and concern that the use of chemicals will resume. And I wondered how owls and other raptors were faring.

How do you feel?

Large swathes of Germany’s farmland are being decimated by plagues of field mice, according to the country’s national farming association.

In some parts of Germany, a quarter of the arable land is affected, leading to significant crop losses and calls for compensation, as well as relaxation of the rules governing the use of pesticides. The effects of a succession of dry summers and mild winters have enabled the mice to thrive, leaving an estimated 120,000 hectares (300,000 acres) stripped bare by the rodents. Farmers say that field mice had been tunnelling under the fields and gnawing at the crops for months, with the regions of Thuringia, Saxony-Anhalt and Lower Saxony the worst hit. One option the farmers are considering is to leave the fields unsown for winter to try to starve the field mice.

Some farmers say the reduction in recent years in the use of rodenticides have helped them flourish. The agriculture minister has called for an emergency reappraisal of laws governing rodenticides to cope with what she has called an emergency situation. But environmentalists say endangered species, such as field hamsters, hares, birch mice and migratory birds, could be killed off as a result.

Alan Bowen