OVER TWO million pounds of funding has been secured for the eastern South Downs in a bid to improve bio-diversity and provide communities with projects in nature.

The project is aiming to work with communities, farmers and landowners to restore and protect the South Downs’ chalk grasslands over the next four years between Worthing and Eastbourne.

Some of the work will include creating “pollinator corridors” on farmland, which allows pockets of diverse wildlife and insects to disperse across the landscape with ease. The work will start early next year.

The project is part of the changing chalk partnership, which is a collaboration between 10 organisations led by the National Trust.

Dan Fagan, lead ranger for the National Trust on the South Downs, said the grant will be extremely “important” in improving the health of the 458 square kilometre beauty spot.

He told The Argus: “There is only about four percent of the South Downs National Park that is chalk grassland so a tiny amount, the rest of it is all farmland or woodland.

The Argus: Devil's Dyke Estate.Devil's Dyke Estate.

“So on farms we will be creating connecting corridors, so wildlife can move between them. We will be working with farmers to create pollinator corridors to connect chalk grasslands together.

“We don’t want to work on these sites in isolation. For them to become resilient and be able to adapt to climate change and external pressures such as development, they all need to be connected together.

“So that’s the main point of this project, we get to work on this landscape scale and connect all these really fragile sites up together.”

“There is some excellent sites but they are fragmented and isolated and we want to connect them. Because they’re fragmented it means they’re at risk, the wildlife on the sites are unable to move within the landscape."

The project will include community schemes such as farm schools for primary school children, as well as “eco-therapy” activities which focus on mental health and wellbeing in nature.

The Argus: Devil's Dyke in September.Devil's Dyke in September.

Dan added: “We know that all our green spaces are so important for that [mental health], we saw that during the pandemic how people wanted to get out and enjoy these green spaces because they felt refreshed and they found it really beneficial for their mental health.

“So there is that people element to it, but also the wildlife element of it where we are going to be restoring these sites. We will be monitoring them and see that impact to wildlife over the four and a half years.”

The project is being funded by the National Lottery heritage fund grant and will provide £2.23 million to the eastern South Downs. The project will start in early 2022.

For more information, visit the National Trust website

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