We want to make the countryside more accessible. This means removing barriers, both physical and cultural. In particular, we are promoting access to the Downs directly from the urban fringes with new information and guides. We're helping visitors to find unexplored areas of the Downs and raising awareness of the new Countryside Code.
The projects that under our 'Connecting Downs and Towns' theme are:
Lead partners - National Trust & Railway Land Wildlife Trust
Railway Land Wildlife Trust Chalk Life Rangers
There are two Chalk Life Rangers at the Railway Land Wildlife Trust who work at various sites in East Sussex including: Landport Bottom, outside of Lewes; Butts Meadow near Eastbourne; and Riverside Park, Castle Hill and Drove Park all near Newhaven.
The rangers are running various chalk grassland habitat management projects, working with volunteers. They also organise a range of events and activities aimed at engaging new urban fringe audiences with the wonders of the chalk downland on their doorstep, enabling them to take action to protect it and enjoy the wellbeing benefits it provides. Part of this work involves recruiting local Chalk life / Dog life Volunteers, who help combine their usual dog walks with care of the landscape.
For more information please email the Railway Land Wildlife Trust Chalk Life Rangers or you can read more here.
National Trust Chalk Life Rangers
The two National Trust Chalk Life Rangers run projects on Southwick Hill outside Brighton and at Gayles Farm near Seaford.
Southwick Hill is on the western edge of the urban conurbation that stretches from Brighton to Shoreham. This was long regarded as one of the best chalk grassland sites on the Brighton Downs. However, the biodiverse chalk grassland of Southwick Hill is being rapidly lost to encroaching scrub and rank grasses. Together with the help of volunteers, our Chalk Life Rangers are helping to restore some of the habitat so that the local communicty can continue to enjoy the hill that they have long known and loved. There are a range of volunteer activities and nature walks that run here throughout the year.
Gayles Farm, high on the Downs, above the Seven Sisters Country Park, was once the site of RAF Friston where the skies rang with the sound of Spitfires and Hurricane aircraft. Now it’s a farm again with just the sound of skylarks, lambs and the occasional tractor. This part of the South Downs is famous for its rare chalk grassland habitat with the grassland near the cliffs and surrounding the farm supporting orchids, special chalk grassland plants, and downland butterflies such as the 'blues' and dark green fritillaries.
For many years Gayles Farm has been an arable farm but, as part of the Changing Chalk project, we’ve been changing its use, so it provides a biodiverse stepping-stone for the chalkland wildlife. We have planted the old runways with a meadow grassland mix full of wildflowers. This will help wildlife move across the landscape while the farm provides good food for its animals that maintain the chalk grassland.
July 2023 saw a successful festival that celebrated the nature and history of Gayles. You can read about it on our Events page or, if you'd like more information about Gayles Farm or want to get involved as a volunteer, please contact Chalk LIfe Ranger, Thyone at firstname.lastname@example.org
Summer 2024 will see us celebrating at Southwick Hill. If you want to get invovled with volunteering at Southwick or to find out more, please contact Chalk Life Ranger, Kim at email@example.com