Cooksbridge, Offham & Hamsey

CHURCH SERVICE: Sunday at St Peter’s Church, 10.15am Sunday School in the church hall, 10.30am Family Communion followed by coffee in the hall.

ADVANCE NOTICE: As I have been asked about the next opening of the gardens at Offham House, I am giving plenty of time for you to put the date in your diary. Sunday June 3 between 1pm and 5pm. Admission £5, children fee. Beautiful garden, flowering trees, arboretum, double herbaceous border, long peony bed. Herb garden and walled kitchen garden with glasshouses, coldframes, chickens, guinea fowl, sheep and a friendly pig. Tea and home-made cake available.

AFTERNOON CLUB: Monday Afternoon Club meet on June 11 in Offham Church Hall at 2pm for tea, chat and a quiz, followed by tea and home-made cakes. All meetings are held between 2pm and 4pm and are open to all retired members of the community. There’s no need to commit to every meeting, feel free to turn up at any you are interested in. You’ll get a warm welcome from us all. If you need a lift, please contact either Judith on 07889 281214 or Caroline 01273 477151.

MORE DEBATES: These are closer to home regarding dog worrying. Each year more than 130 cases of livestock worrying by dogs are recorded by Sussex Police, which is more than the whole of Scotland. The umber is increasing, which is why the NFU’s South East Region pressed East and West Sussex MPs to hold a debate in Parliament about the issue. Lloyd Russell-Moyle, the Labour MP for Brighton Kemptown, succeeded in securing an adjournment debate in livestock worrying in Sussex. He said: ‘Dogs chasing and mauling sheep or other animals are usually involved. The direct attack can cause death or severe injury and, in some cases miscarriage. The stress of the event can cause great harm to the animals, particularly the young’. Maria Caulfield, the Tory MP for Lewes and an urban shepherd Brighton and Hove, said: ‘Many dog owners re unaware of the damage their pets can do. They think that the dogs will not attack sheep. However a dog does not have to attack a sheep physically to worry it. Chasing it can be enough to cause miscarriage or even death, because they are very likely to have heart attacks as well’. Sussex Police recorded 497 cases of livestock worrying from September 2013 to August 2017. In that period, 589 ere killed and 612 were injured, with a cost of £66,089 to farmers. In 13 of the cases, the dog was shot. The owner was not present during more than half of the attacks and more than one in ten had damaged or worried sheep before. Offenders taken to court or were fined a total of £2,254. At the end of the debate, Mr Russell-Moyle urged agricultural minister George Eustice to have an effective public education campaign so that do owners in towns, as well as rural areas, understand the importance of dog worrying. He asked Mr Eustice to consider changing the law so that dog owners have a legal obligation to report livestock attacks. He pointed out that the problem is entirely preventable and urged the minister to enforce a leashing requirement for dogs in fields with livestock and to ensure the police deal effectively with livestock worrying. In his reply, the minister suggested that the police should use powers in the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 to supplement their powers under the more dated Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953. The 1991 act makes it an offence to allow a dog to be dangerously out of control in any place, he said, and it also contains a power for a police officer to enter premises and seize any dog suspected of being dangerously out of control. The 2014 Anti Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act could allow local authorities to keep dogs on leads in defined areas and the 1871 Dogs Act allows magistrates to order ‘anything reasonable’ to keep a dog under control. Mr Eustice said requiring dog owners to report attacks may not work but he thought taking DNA samples where there is persistent worrying so that the dogs responsible can be identified might be a better approach. Following the debate, the NFU said Mr Eustice had been ministerial and had instructed his officials to look at updating the 1953 Act. Scott Pepe, external affairs manager in the NFU’s Westminster office, said the natural beauty of East and West Sussex and their proximity to Brighton and London made them more prone to livestock worrying. The NFU said Mr Pepe, wanted to develop a database for dog DNA and use DNA testing to help identify dogs which attack sheep; dog owners should have a legal obligation to report dog attacks and rights of way law should be flexible enough to temporarily or permanently close footpaths where there are continued incidents of livestock worrying. I am sure there are many farmers who will be pleased that the NFU have set the wheels in motion to deal with this very important issue which causes so much stress for livestock as well as the farmers.

SWALLOWS: On a happier note the swallows started arriving about a fortnight ago and it is lovely to see them once again coming back to their old nesting places. At the moment not as many as last year have returned yet, but the weather may have held some back. The good thing is there are plenty of insects flying around for their morning and evening meals.

CANDLES IN THE WIND: The two red chestnut trees that Derek planted when we first moved into Courthouse look really beautiful this year. With the breeze the blooms look like red Christmas candles swaying gently, and to compliment the two trees right opposite in our fields and on the verges the white hawthorn is fully in blossom and looks wonderful. The only problem is that it has such a strong smell that if I get too near it starts me off sneezing.

MOORHENS: Which come back this year have just produced two tiny chicks which gave me a surprise this morning when I went out to feed the birds. Mother hen had come down to the patio pond and was sitting comfortably on the big patch of water lily leaves. I then spotted the two tiny chicks peeping out. I don’t hold out much hope for their survival as already a couple of magpies are hanging about, as well as the stray cat that comes there every day. The next event will be the parade of the ducklings which no doubt will be hatching soon. I shall have my time cut out trying to keep predators at bay. Oh the joys of the countryside.