A NATIONAL park has hit back after more than 300 people took part in a mass trespass campaigning for the right to roam.

Organised by Landscapes of Freedom, the mass trespass was held on the Brighton Downs on Saturday, July 24.

According to the group, the event was organised to call for a right to roam both locally and nationally, and for the restoration of the chalk grassland landscape across the Brighton Downs.

After gathering at the meeting point at Waterhall playing fields in Mill Road, Brighton, the group of over 300 ventured across the Downs.

A South Downs National Park Authority spokesman said the hills have more than 3,200 kilometres of public rights of way, including the 100-mile South Downs Way National Trail.

“Although it is perfectly legitimate to campaign for more access and have a public debate on the issue, it is worth remembering that the South Downs National Park is one of the most accessible green spaces in the UK,” he said.

“Within the National Park are some very sensitive internationally-important habitats, such as chalk grassland and lowland heath, and it’s important that people help care for these wildlife-rich sites by behaving responsibly.”

The Argus: Over 300 people took part in the mass trespass. Credit: Curtis JamesOver 300 people took part in the mass trespass. Credit: Curtis James

The spokesman said chalk grassland can have up to 45 different species of flowering plants in one square metre and over 20 different species of butterfly on the wing at any one time.

“These habitats rely on livestock grazing to maintain them,” he said.

“Therefore, our focus is on raising awareness and education, encouraging people to stick to rights of way – connecting with nature while also helping to protect biodiversity.”

Co-founder of the Right to Roam campaign, who took part in Saturday’s trespass, said it is a “national scandal” that there is only a right to roam on 8% of England under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act.

Dave Bangs, co-founder of Landscapes of Freedom, said reconnecting people with nature is “crucial for stopping global ecocide”.

“If people cannot be in nature, people can’t defend it. What the eye cannot see, the heart cannot grieve.

“Brighton council must designate all downland under its management as statutory access land.”

The Argus: Mass trespass in Brighton Credit: Curtis JamesMass trespass in Brighton Credit: Curtis James

Organisers of the trespass also are calling for Brighton residents to contact their councillors to designate publicly owned downland as open access land.

The South Downs spokesman said around three quarters of the National Park is farmland – much of which produces local food and drink for the region, with farmers at the forefront to restore nature.

“It’s important that people respect farmland, do not allow dogs to disturb livestock and wildlife, and stick to the extensive network of public paths running across the National Park,” he added.

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