Annual Report 2016

Chair’s report

Welcome to the 2016 Annual report. It is March, and colour is seeping back into the landscape. Our spirits are always raised by the first startling flash of daffodil or crocus and my family has started eating our first foraged meals of the year.

Spring is often seen as a symbol of renewal and new life. For Craggers it is the start of two huge new projects and the renewal of our core activities. More on that later.

The chair’s report is usually written at the end of the previous year, while memories are fresh and our stories can be seen in a wider societal context, but after the dramas of last year I felt that there needed to be a distance so that we didn’t get caught in the trap of using the kind of hyperbole we all seem to have slipped into.

Leaving aside the politics for a moment, most people were touched by the deaths of famous people we had never met. For me the loss of Bowie and Cohen made me realise how profoundly we can be affected by culture. It was the death of two other people who exemplified a moral courage which the rest of us can only aspire to. Mohamed Ali was the most famous man in the world. He exemplified all the clichéd tropes of the American story – rags to riches, obscurity to fame etc. He had everything to lose and he did lose it, when he refused to be sent to Vietnam; his riches, his boxing titles and his liberty were taken from him.

Fidel Castro and a very small group endured incredible hardships to take on the seemingly impossible task of overthrowing a dictator. 

If the previous year has shown us anything it is that there is such a thing as society and shared culture.

This is what it is like to live in Brighton

For socially excluded people in Brighton and Hove the story is very much like that of 2015 – but worse. The number of people sleeping rough in Brighton and Hove has nearly doubled in the last year. For some people living on the streets is a death sentence. A total of 144 people were counted on the streets in one night, as opposed to 78 last year. The news comes after it emerged in November that the city has the worst homeless toll outside London, affecting one in 69 people.

The latest statistics were collected on Tuesday, November 8. Most of the people counted were men, with just 18 women found sleeping rough. The figures recorded on November 3 in 2015 showed 71 were men and seven were women. There were 132 rough sleepers counted in March 2014.

Brighton and Hove City Council, which published the figures, said the rise reflects a national trend. The council said between 50 and 60 per cent of the city’s rough sleepers are not local and do not have a connection to Brighton and Hove. This limits the help they can get from the council. The council said its housing team has helped to prevent 562 households from becoming homeless this year by providing advice and support.

Anyone concerned by people sleeping rough should call Streetlink on 0300 500 0914 or visit


People are often on the streets after failing to keep up payments on their home.

The cost of renting has increased with a one bedroom flat costing £933 per month to rent; a 2% increase on the previous quarter.

Some of the poorest people in Brighton and Hove are actually in work and they face the constant threat of not being able to pay their bills. Brighton depends on the service industry which offers the lowest paid, zero hours contract jobs. The number of people on zero-hours contracts in the UK has hit a record high of 910,000. The figures for the final three months of 2016 represented a rise of more than 100,000, or 13%, compared with the same period in 2015. People on zero-hours contracts are not guaranteed a minimum number of work hours but must be available. Such contracts are widely used by retailers, restaurants, leisure companies and hotels, and have been offered by companies including Sports Direct and McDonald’s.


The table below breaks down into categories those people working and those on benefit.

Claimant count by age – not seasonally adjusted (January 2017)
 Brighton and Hove
Brighton and Hove
South East
Great Britain
Aged 16+2,9751.51.11.9
Aged 16 to 1750.10.00.1
Aged 18 to 245901.41.52.6
Aged 18 to 213351.61.72.8
Aged 25 to 491,6601.51.11.9
Aged 50+7101.61.01.6
Source: ONS Claimant count by sex and age Note:   % is number of claimants as a proportion of resident population of the same age
Working-age client group – main benefit claimants – not seasonally adjusted (August 2016)
 Brighton and Hove
Brighton and Hove
South East
Great Britain
Total claimants20,71010.38.511.3
By statistical group
Job seekers2,1501.10.81.2
ESA and incapacity benefits12,6106.34.46.1
Lone parents1,4200.70.81.0
Others on income related benefits3000.10.10.2
Main out-of-work benefits†16,4808.26.28.6
Earnings by place of work (2016)
 Brighton and Hove
South East
Great Britain
Gross weekly pay
Full-time workers494.2566.0540.2
Male full-time workers514.7611.5580.6
Female full-time workers469.0497.8480.8
Hourly pay – excluding overtime
Full-time workers12.9814.3113.64
Male full-time workers13.0615.1014.24
Female full-time workers12.7113.2012.83

According to a report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, published on 15th. Feb 2017, four million more people over the last six years have fallen below a decent leaving standard, meaning they are struggling to make ends meet.

Who lives in Brighton?

According to the latest census, the largest ethnic group in Brighton & Hove is white 94.3%. This is higher than the national average, which is 90.92% in England & Wales, but slightly below the South East average of 95.1%. Eighty eight percent of the population of Brighton & Hove stated that they are white British, while 1.6% stated that they are Irish, and 4.6% described themselves as other white.

The non-white population in Brighton & Hove has grown from 3.1% in 1991 to 5.8%.

This is higher than the average in the South East, which is 4.9% but much lower than

the national average of 9.7 % for England & Wales. Out of the 5.8% non-white

population, people from mixed origin are the largest ethnic group (1.9%).

The Asian and Asian British community in the city has grown since 1991. It currently

constitutes 1.85% of the population, with those of Indian origin as the largest ethnic

group of 0.9%. In 1991, the Asian community (including Indian, Pakistani,

Bangladeshi) constituted 0.8%, with an Indian community of 0.5%. Despite this the

city has a lower percentage of residents of Asian and Asian British origin than the

South East, where this group makes up 2.33% of the population, and much lower

than the England & Wales average of 4.57%.

The Black and Black British community constitutes 0.8% of the non-white population

in Brighton & Hove. In 1991 the Black Caribbean, Black African and Black Other

population constituted 0.5% of the population. The 2001 England & Wales average

for this group is 2.3% and for the South East it is 0.71%. Finally, Brighton & Hove has

a slightly higher percentage of people of Chinese origin (0.53%) compared with the

South East average (0.42%) and the England & Wales average (0.45%).


Craggers has always believed that we can make a sustained benefit to the lives of children by getting them outdoors and engaged in adventurous activities.

Children who get more exercise may have fewer symptoms of depression than their peers who are less active, a recent study suggests. Researchers used activity trackers to see how much physical activity children got, then interviewed kids and their parents to assess whether kids had symptoms of depression.

When kids got more moderate to vigorous physical activity at ages 6 and 8, they were less likely to have symptoms of major depressive disorder two years later, the study found.

“Our results indicate that increasing physical activity in children may prevent depression,” said study leader Dr. Tonje Zahl, of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim.

More than one in nine children in England have not set foot in a park, forest, beach or any other natural environment for at least 12 months, according to a two-year study funded by the government. Children from low-income families and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) households are markedly less likely than white children and those from higher income households to frequently visit urban or rural wild places, according to the survey conducted by Natural England.

Five ways to engage children with nature

  1. Play outside Today’s children have a largely screen-based lifestyle, with just 21% regularly playing outside compared with 71% of their parents. Let them get outside at every opportunity and start them early – toddlers are very curious about the touch and feel of the natural world, so let them pick things up and get dirty.
  2. Roam free Research suggests that children’s “roaming radius” from home has shrunk by 90% in 30 years. Experts say that as children approach their teenage years, they should be given them more responsibility to walk, cycle or explore wild places on their own.
  3. Climbing trees This is seen as a great way to learn for a child to learn about individual levels of risk. Some reports suggest that half the UK’s children are banned from tree-climbing in case they fall, but data has shown that three times as many children have gone to hospital after falling out of bed.
  4. Building dens When done with friends and family teaches cooperation, resourcefulness, problem-solving and encourages children’s imaginations.
  5. Get up close to nature by catching and releasing butterflies, insects and frogspawn, or collecting and pressing flowers and leaves.

After decades of research, the scientific world is moving closer to pinpointing how exposure to nature seems to promote well-being. A recent US study found that being close to nature might soothe the mind by reducing rumination – when negative thoughts get stuck on repeat, playing over and over in the mind. Brain scans showed reduced activity in an area of the brain linked to risk of mental illness in participants who took a 90-minute walk among oaks, birds and squirrels.

Some cities and nations are already thinking about the mental health benefits of nature when designing urban areas.  The Royal Horticultural Society is trying to encourage the public to bring nature into their own backyard, by replacing concrete with plants. A garden at the Hampton Court Flower Show for the Greening Grey Britain campaign showcased ways to make urban environments rich in both vegetation and nature.

Spending hours staring at screens is a more dangerous pastime than the perilous activities carried out by the children in Swallows and Amazons, academics have said. The author of the first ever full-length study of Arthur Ransome’s classic adventure novel claims too much time surfing the net is far more deadly than sailing at night without a life jacket, because it fails to teach children how to fend for themselves or take risks.

It’s about young people fending for themselves, taking risks, learning from mistakes. There were no mobile phones to summon help at the slightest upset. Julian Lovelock, the former dean of arts and pro vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham, where he lectured on Ransome, saidchildren were spending increasing amounts of time using “gadgets and gizmos” and were not living in the real world.

“Sailing at night without life-jackets, wrecking their dinghy through a foolhardy misjudgement, crossing the stormy North Sea in a small boat, confronting the urban Hullaballoos: today’s health and safety police would have had apoplexy,” he said.

“But it’s worth pondering whether the challenges and dangers of the outdoors are more or less dangerous than surfing the internet, and asking which is the better preparation for life.

“Research suggests children are spending less time than ever playing outside and more time than ever on screens. And how many new tablets, phones, or other gizmos have just arrived as Christmas gifts?

“Children have too much time in front of computer screens and too little freedom to go off exploring. There’s evidence that when children do get outdoors, it boosts their problem-solving skills, cooperation, focus and self-discipline.

“It’s about young people fending for themselves, taking risks, learning from mistakes, and having to sort things out when things went wrong. There were no mobile phones to summon help at the slightest upset.”

Lovelock’s views on screen time were echoed by the University of Buckingham’s  vice-chancellor Sir Anthony Seldon, who is a leading campaigner on mental health.

“The mental health of today’s children is at crisis point,” said Sir Anthony. “They are under enormous pressure and the temptation to spend too much time surfing the net, watching TV or playing computer games is difficult to resist. Playing outdoors regularly with others helps with resilience, leadership skills, building confidence and self-esteem. The children in Arthur Ransome’s stories took some big risks. The younger generation of today face different types of risk – but just as big – because of the amount of time they are spending in front of screens.”

Adventure to Health and Craggers Bushcraft and Survival School

The research above brings us neatly to out two big projects for 2017. Adventure to Health and the Craggers Bushcraft and Survival School both projects will run throughout 2017 and beyond.

Please enjoy the report. Join us, volunteer or support or work through the website

Monthly walk 4th. February

A group of 8 Craggers members, kids and adults met at the Peace Statue on Hove seafront. It was really cold and the sky grey with clouds. We met a 3pm with the intention to walk to Brighton Pier to watch the Starling murmuration. We walked for about an hour but it was cold so we didn’t make it to the pier. However it was lovely getting out and breathing fresh air. If I hadn’t made the arrangement to meet up with other people in Craggers, I would have stayed in. I felt so much better physically and mentally even doing a short walk, and especially connecting with people and saying ‘Hi!’ on such a gloomy winters day. Thank you everyone.


Bushcraft And Survival School Walk and Bivi 18th. March

We had a great adventure over the weekend. Tony, Careg, Brie and Mark with me walked from near Pycombe village to the New Timber Hill across a tremendous mud road and had our lunch at the top of the hill. Than we walked back across the mud ( it was a great adventure and was really nice to see how B. helped M. to get through the mud) and found our sleeping place . The kids pointed out the most beautiful dining room what you can see one picture below . We set up the bashas, and luckily Tony helped me with huge patience when I forgot again and again the special knots. During the trip we learnt a lot about the nature and tasted primrose flowers and young nettle leaves. Tony thought us how to recognise different trees just from the shape and colour of a young sprout. We learnt about the impact of different plants and saw some rabbits at the bottom of the Devil’s dyke’s chalk valley. The weather was over our expectation and at the end we missed our sun glasses. Thank you for the Craggers and especially Tony for this amazing bivi trip.

I would like to echo Henrietta’s thoughts on the walk. Our first stop was the Bronze Age hill fort on Wolstonbury Hill (see below) where, minutes after talking about the wildlife of Transylvania, Henrietta started a conversation with a couple from…Transylvania!

Following a muddy descent we climbed Newtimber Hill (see below) to cook and eat in brilliant sunshine, in what Brae described as ‘the best dining room in the world’ taking in the panoramic view, especially the dramatic steep valley of Devil’s Dyke (see below). We lingered to watch a dramatic sunset as the birds piped up for their evening chorus.

Sunday was glorious and our ‘dining room’ of the previous night was white with a deep frost. Walking a vertiginous path over a chalk pit we descended to Saddlescombe Farm (see below) and had a look at the Donkey Wheel – imaging a massively scaled up hamster wheel and you get the idea – which was used for drawing water from the well. 

Another steep hike took us to Devil’s Dyke where the blue sky was filled with the rainbows of paragliders and the sharp angles of hang gliders. The arrival of the 77 bus signaled the end or a great weekend.


A Late Bronze Age Ram’s Hill type enclosure situated on a clay-with-flints capped, chalk hill which forms part of the Sussex Downs. The north-south aligned, roughly oval enclosure is defined by a ditch up to 5 metres wide and circa 1.2 metres deep which bounds a central area of 2.2 hectares. Part excavation in 1929 and 1995, and a 1993 survey, have shown the ditch to be flat-bottomed and interrupted in places by narrow causeways, interpreted as original features. A bank of dump construction surrounds the ditch, measuring up to 5 metres wide and up to 1.5 metres high, and the ditch is flanked on its south western side by a slight internal bank up to 0.2 metres high. The earthworks have been disturbed in places by late 18th century-early 19th century flint diggings, mainly excavated by the inmates of Hursterpierpoint workhouse. Two gaps at the north and south east of the boundary earthworks have been interpreted as original entrances. The later flint diggings have also disturbed much of the interior of the enclosure, although surveys have indicated roughly north-south aligned curving banks measuring 2-4 metres wide and up to 0.5 metres high. These are interpreted as lynchets resulting from the subsequent cultivation of the interior during the Early Iron Age. Antiquarian sources indicate that the monument may have been used as a cemetery during the later Anglo-Saxon period. Reports in the Gentleman’s Magazine of 1765 and 1806 suggest that the inhumation burials furnished with grave goods were disturbed on the hilltop by flint quarrying and possibly also by the construction of the now dry dewpond situated in the central part of the enclosure. Other finds include worked flints dating to the Neolithic period and the Early Bronze Age and Roman coins and pottery.

We come back down to Pycombe, cross the road and go up to our lovely bivi site…

Newtimber Hill

Newtimber Hill is owned by the National Trust and is situated in the South Downs AONB. Most of the land is included in a large Site of Special Scientific Interest which spreads westwards along the spectacular Fulking Escarpment and Devils Dyke. All the land lies within the South Downs Environmentally Sensitive Area designated in 1986. It is a Grade 2 Nature Conservation Review Site on account of its well developed chalk downland habitat. There is a woodland trail at the foot of the hill (access from Beggars Lane/ A281), and from the hill, you have magnificent views of Devils Dyke and the Downs. The hill is managed as Open Space.

Newtimber Hill is a prominent feature in the landscape, particularly from the north and west of the property. Its land gives the impression of a horse’s saddle, with a north and west facing section of the steep scarp slope of the South Downs along with the summit area and a section of the south facing dip slope which is dissected by a shallow dry combe forming gently along ridge spurs. A dew pond near the summit was restored in 1979.

The calcareous grassland is of outstanding quality including areas of very species-rich sward, especially on the steep, west-facing scarp slope. Horseshoe vetch, orchids, dropwort, autumn gentian and roundheaded rampion are present.

The next morning we will walk down to Saddlescombe Farm (Becci can tell you much more about the farm)

History and environment of Saddlescombe Farm

There is archaeological evidence of the farm being farmed since the Bronze Age with burial mounds and trackways being found nearby. Today there are a number of farm buildings ranging in date from the early 17th century, find out more on the National Trust website. Working with the National Trust we have entered the farm into an environmental project which will help to restore the hedgerows, establish pollen and nectar rich areas, manage species rich grassland and have farm visits for schools.

From there we walk up to Devil’s Dyke…

Myths regarding the formation of Devil’s Dyke

Local folklore explains the valley as the work of the devil The legend holds that the devil was digging a trench to allow the sea to flood the many churches in the Weald of Sussex. The digging disturbed an old woman who lit a candle, or angered a rooster causing it to crow, making the devil believe that the morning was fast approaching. The devil then fled, leaving his trench unfinished. The last shovel of earth he threw over his shoulder fell into the sea, forming the Isle of Wight.

A further variant has it that the Devil’s digging was terminated by him stubbing his toe on a large rock which he kicked in anger over the hills towards the sea, then abandoning his diabolic plans of Weald destruction due to the injuries sustained. The rock landed in the area now known, consequently, as Goldstone valley in Hove. The Goldstone acquired its name from the hints of gold in its makeup. The enormous and mysterious rock now lies in Hove Park in Goldstone Valley, near where it was first discovered. It can be seen at the Old Shoreham Road end of the park and is considered to have been possibly an object of Druid worship.

Another story holds that rather than digging to flood Sussex, he was simply in a huge goat-like form, intending to crush the surrounding area. He smelt the tang of salt water in the wind, and fearing his coat would get damp (for he is vain to the point of sin), he fled leaving nothing but a hoof-print, now known as Devil’s Dyke.

English pagan Black Metal band Old Forest released a song and video titled ‘The Devil’s Dyke’ on their 23 April 2008 ‘Death To Music Productions’ EP release ‘Tales of the Sussex Weald ; Part 1 (The Legend of the Devil’s Dyke)’

I would like to echo Henrietta’s thoughts on the walk. Our first stop was the Bronze Age hill fort on Wolstonbury Hill (see below) where, minutes after talking about the wildlife of Transylvania, Henrietta started a conversation with a couple from…Transylvania!

Following a muddy descent we climbed Newtimber Hill (see below) to cook and eat in brilliant sunshine, in what Brae described as ‘the best dining room in the world’ taking in the panoramic view, especially the dramatic steep valley of Devil’s Dyke (see below). We lingered to watch a dramatic sunset as the birds piped up for their evening chorus.

Sunday was glorious and our ‘dining room’ of the previous night was white with a deep frost. Walking a vertiginous path over a chalk pit we descended to Saddlescombe Farm (see below) and had a look at the Donkey Wheel – imaging a massively scaled up hamster wheel and you get the idea – which was used for drawing water from the well. 

Another steep hike took us to Devil’s Dyke where the blue sky was filled with the rainbows of paragliders and the sharp angles of hang gliders. The arrival of the 77 bus signaled the end or a great weekend.

Dorset March 2016

Doing a climbing/camping trip using public transport is always interesting – running between connections hauling luggage and children is certainly character building.

Still, we had a great turnout – about twelve adults and children. The weather was quite reasonable and so were the badgers. And we managed to do lots of climbing.

Easter holiday Dorset 2016

We travelled to Dorset via train and buses during the Easter holiday in 2016. It was our first Dorset holiday with my 5 years old and found the way to the camp absolutely beautiful. Leaving a noisy city like Brighton and Hove and go into the nature , always has a wonderful impact on my wellbeing and the time when we arrived to the camp , I felt the ultimate happiness of being outdoor and experiencing another county in England. During the week long camp we practised climbing up on cliffs and abseil down. I belayed someone st the very first time of my life and it was a great but scary experience in the same time. I had to focus a lot and keeping my self focused for quite long what was a challenge but worth it. We learnt about edible food and I cooked couple of time nettle teas and enjoyed all the health benefit what it bought to me. My 3years old son particullary enjoyed being engaged with the other kids in creating a king hood , where everyone had a chance to becoming a knight or a cleaner, or a queen or king. The kids also build up their own structure out of pebbles and solid rocks.

We had a couple of showers and it was a last day of Storm Kathrine , the first night was very windy. The second day we have been soaked in water after a very heavy rain and my walking shoes did not dried out until but just the very end of the camp. Thanks Mariam, who lend me his walking boots and wellies , I kept myself reasonable comfortable during our adventure.

It was a great camp and we had a good time together. Thank you Becci, Tony, Andrew and Dan all the hard work what you put into this camp. 


Bushcraft And Survival School walk and bivi 30th. April

We had a great weekend by the Seven Sisters with the Craggers. On Saturday morning we discovered 4 Sisters and had a lovely walk even with a bit of rock climbing at the end. Than some of us went to the Friston Forest to spend the night under bashas. Mark and me got lost for an hour but luckily just when I decided to set up an alternate camp , we found each other. We had enough time to practise the knots and built up a nice cosy place for the night.
On Sunday Tony thought us his to carve a spoon from a piece of wood. That was fascinating as well learning a lots about the plants we mainly tasted as well. I loved the thee cornered leeks. At the end we went back to the coffee shop by the tourist centre with Mark and paid out our bill from the day before. 🙂

Bivi Walk 30th. April – 1st. May

At the end of a perfect day we set up camp in woodland carpeted with the bright white stars of strawberries and the opulence of purple dog violets.

We still had time to play and one of the games was sitting still and silent and listening to sounds of the wood. Who would have thought that kids would have been able to stay silent and still for such a long time.

Eating a well deserved dinner we faced west where the fresh green of new beech leaves stood out against the deep pink of sunset.

The day had started with 14 of us (the youngest not quite three years old) walking from Friston pond towards the famous white cliffs of the Seven Sisters. It was not long before the vista suddenly opened up and Jirshari said “Look you can clearly sea the curvature of the Earth.”

A lot of walking for kids you might think but the reward for struggling up one side of a Sister meant that they could roll down the other side – fantastic.

The kids lead us down a scramble to reach the sea at Cuckmere Haven. At the visitor centre café, enjoying overpriced drinks we bade farewell to some of the group before the overnighters headed off to the forest.

Being spring we ate our fill of free food on the way. These are some of the plants we snacked on:

Marsh Thistle Circium palustra

Primrose Primula vulgaris

Ground ivy Glechoma hederacea

Hogweed Heracleum sphondylium

Ground elder Aegopodium podagraria

Herb Bennet Geum urbanum, also known as wood avens, colewort

Stinging nettle Urtica dioica                                                                                                                                      

White dead nettle Lamium album        

Hedge garlic Alliaria petiolata

Beech leaves Fagus sylvatica

Hawthorn leaves Crataegus monogyna

Cowslip Primula veris

Alexanders Smyrniumalusatrum

Three cornered leek Allium triquetrum                                                                            Gorse Ulex europaeus

We also looked at these but didn’t get round to eating them

Lesser celandine,Ficaria verna,

Dandelion Taraxacum officinale

Burdock,Arctium lappa

Plantain Plantago major & lanceolata

Cleavers Galium aparine

Blackthorn Prunus spinosa

Wild strawberry Fragaria vesca

Dog violet Viola riviniara

Cow parsley Anthriscus sylvestris

Herb Robert Geranium robertianum

Comfrey Symphytum officinale

Silverweed Potentilla arserina

On Sunday morning, after a great nights sleep, we had a leisurely breakfast  and then Brae showed us how to safely use a knife and saw.

All that remained was to take a beautiful route past the Westdean pond and back to the visitors centre to catch the bus back to Brighton.

Hope to see you all on the next walk.