And the sun shone down

It is now more than 25 years since Lancing’s Widewater Lagoon was granted Local Nature Reserve status. On a glorious autumn Saturday towards the end of September, the local community came together between the lagoon and the beach to celebrate the date in an event organised by local community conservation group World of Widewater and Lancing Parish Council.

Old friendships were renewed, new acquaintances were forged – the Widewater has a vibrant and dynamic population with newcomers mingling easily with longer-standing residents. Few people who come to live here choose voluntarily to leave; locals simply fall in love with the place and stay. History is full of cases studies of residents who leave but are eventually dragged back by the gravitational pull of the place.

Sure the almost ever present breeze blew reliably from the West but the sun shone down generously on the proceedings and much fun was had by all. The Sundowners with their eclectic mix of easy listening and heavy metal ukulele sounds provided the musical backdrop to the event. The resident swans with their 9 cygnets even dropped in for a bop at one point (though admittedly in the absence of any immediate food donations, they eventually meandered off).

Alongside World of Widewater, several other local community and conservation groups shared in the fun including SDOS, the local birding group, FSOB (Friends of Shoreham Beach) and the local U3A group. Mike Richards or as we know him, The Owl Man attracted a lot of interest with his beautiful birds of prey. And thanks to Sussex Catering, there was food and drink. There was also bric a brac, tombola and various visual displays showing the history and beauty of the lagoon and its birdlife.

The treasure hunt was enthusiastically pursued by some of the many children who were there on the banks of the lagoon – so enthusiastically in fact that a rerun was required later in the afternoon.

Jo Procter, chair of World of Widewater talked about the local nature reserve and the work of WoW and the parish council in stewardship of the lagoon over the last 25 years and into the future. That work is to help improve, protect and enhance this unique Local Nature Reserve which is a habitat for rare and specialist species and to ensure a bright future for the lagoon.

Above all, this was an opportunity for the community to get to know more about where they live and the people they live alongside. What can we celebrate next? Surely we don’t have to wait 25 years until the Golden Jubilee.

Written by Frank Fletcher

Photography by Dave Hoggen & Jo Procter