2016 has been an amazing year for East Sussex Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service.

The fox cub that was rescued in Bexhill
The fox cub that was rescued in Bexhill

We have dealt with more than 400 more admissions this year than in 2015 totalling more than 2500 casualties admitted in to our care and over 300 others which have either gone onto other rescue centres or not made it into WRAS’s care.

I am privileged to work with some amazing volunteers and the charity could not operate without them, be it the Feed & Clean shifts, rescue shifts, volunteers on reception, or those helping to fundraise. Kathy, who many people don’t realise is a volunteer, despite working enough hours to be full time, has done a staggering job this year trying to keep on top of everything from the volunteer rota to helping at events and hand rearing baby doves and co-ordinating the hedgehog releases and overwintering. She has also stuck by me through the stressful moments, and had to put up with me being in hospital too! Katie has done a remarkable job taking over from Lindsay as casualty manager and has proven to be outstanding at learning and picking up knowledge and gaining experience, well beyond anyone else we have ever taken on. As for Chris, he has been fantastic support and shown incredible dedication and worked extremely long hours. I owe him big time after my fall this year, it’s a good job he isn’t frightened of water anymore, otherwise, I’m not sure he would have jumped in to help me! If the staff added up all the hours they worked including those done voluntarily they would be getting paid less than £3 an hour! I must say a big thank you to Murrae, Brian and Kathy for the behind the scenes work with the committee, finances, and management issues too, a boring role but essential. Our vets Mike, Chris, and Simon have proven to be extremely valuable this year and we continue to learn a lot from them and help yet more casualties where we can.

This year has seen us open our Charity Shop in Terminus Road, Eastbourne and we look forward to Kim and Lois taking this forward and introducing improvements in the New Year, as well as some exciting events and training taking place at the store too later in the year.

Our expansion over the past couple of years has been thanks to a couple of legacies which came in, but we now need to ensure we can increase our regular monthly income via standing orders to ensure we can continue to afford to run the facilities.

We have undertaken some amazing rescues this year and a few which have been very memorable for me have been the three fox cubs disturbed under a disused fish pond in Eastbourne where the vixen disappeared and Chris and I had to sit at night in a summer house and watch out the window to try and get the three cubs back to their mum. With the householders setting a deadline to work to it was cutting it fine when we had to ask for an extension to our time, but she eventually got the confidence to pick them up and carry them off one by one to safety.

The two deer with their antlers tied together with electric rope proved to be a difficult rescue at Dallington. One entangled deer is bad enough but to have two running round in circles dragging each other is much harder. You have to react to the situation quickly and think on your feet. We honestly thought one of the deer would have to be put to sleep but to our amazement both were suitable for release. These were just one of a number of entangled deer calls, other included rescues at High Hurst Wood and Duddleswell.

Swans have played a major role in rescues this year. We had a large number of calls about the swans at Ditchling Common, sadly both parents died along with most of the cygnets. The final two are now up at the Swan Sanctuary. We are pleased we still have two cygnets at Decoy Pond Hampden Park as we go into the winter. We have put in so many hours there this year checking them and medicating them to try to ensure they are fit enough to withstand the parasite problem. We really appreciate the support Eastbourne Borough Council has given WRAS in dealing with the problem. This is the first time in almost 10 years cygnets have made it to Christmas.

The two biggest rescue of the year involved foxes. Only a day apart, we were called first to a fox cub trapped between two walls in Bexhill which took Chris and I over 3 hours to free. The following day was a fox cub which had fallen down an open manhole cover and wandering along the underground pipes. After 8 hours of trying to locate the fox and get it to within reach, the fox was rescued all with the mum watching from across the garden. The video of the fox rescue when viral across the world.

A similar situation occurred in Heathfield with a fledgling Blue Tit which fell down a drain. Rescuers took a couple of hours trying to get to the small bird. Which had to be flushed along the pipe to safety using warm water.

Our thoughts are with Daryl who is out rowing across the Atlantic, away from his family and friends over Christmas and New Year raising money for WRAS. It is people like Daryl supporting us which is why we can undertake this work. Thank you to everyone who has supported WRAS this year, because these rescues would not be possible without your support both voluntarily and financial. Thank you very much.