Communicating the South Downs

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Heathlands Reunited

Eleven organisations led by the South Downs National Park Authority have joined forces to expand and connect the existing 1% of heathland left in the national park.

The heaths have separated into ‘islands’ where isolated plants and animals are far more vulnerable to local extinction. This habitat is home to some of Britain’s rarest wildlife including all twelve of our native reptiles and amphibians.

The project is funded by partner contributions and a £1.44 Million Heritage Lottery Fund grant. The total project value is £2.37 million. This will aid heathland management which includes bare ground creation (60% of heathland species rely on bare ground during some stage of their life cycle) and scrub removal. This will create wildlife corridors forming an area of heathland greater than 1,200 football pitches by the end of the five year project.

Heathlands Reunited Project Area Map

The project will run across 5 years, working on 41 sites with 11 partners:

  1. South Downs National Park Authority
  2. National Trust
  3. Sussex Wildlife Trust
  4. Hampshire and Isle of White Wildlife Trust
  5. Ministry Of Defence
  6. Hampshire County Council
  7. Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust
  8. Lynchmere Society
  9. Forestry Commission
  10. Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
  11. Natural England

People Need Heaths

66% of heathland in the National Park is designated as open access land. Heaths are enjoyed by many for appreciating nature, walking, cycling and horse riding. They are extremely important sites for community health and wellbeing as well as being important military training sites. 

The project aims to inspire communities to visit their heathlands, learn more about them and work together to look after them so they can be enjoyed for generations to come.

Heaths are shared spaces that need people.

If heathlands aren’t actively managed by people they will be lost.  Historically these sites were routinely harvested and grazed by commoners. Amongst other things commoners would use Birch to make brooms and cut heather to heat bake ovens.

Heathland is therefore a man made habitat and if it isn’t actively managed it quickly turns to woodland. The lack of management and an increase in development, agriculture and other pressures over the past two centuries is what has lead to its decline. 

We need your help!

Volunteering in the South Downs National Park is a great way to get outside, make new like-minded friends and discover new places. To complete this project we are going to need some help.  There are many opportunities for volunteering which will include training that we can offer as part of this exciting new project.

There are four main roles to get involved with. Read the role descriptions below and see if any of them appeal to you and your interests:

Dog Ambassador
Fixed Point Photography
Practical Management
Wildlife Monitor

We would also like to hear from anybody interested in community heritage.  To express an interest in this area please email heathlands@southdowns.gov.uk

If you have read the role descriptions and would like to officially join our volunteers, please complete our sign up form  and return it electronically to heathlands@southdowns.gov.uk or print this form and send by post to:

Heathlands Reunited
South Downs Centre
North Street, Midhurst
West Sussex
GU29 9DH

Please allow time for a response and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Information for existing volunteers

Please see the attached Practical management timetable and contacts. Please also make sure you have returned the Heathlands Reunited sign up form before contacting partners.

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