This summer saw the launch of a new pilot initiative for visitors to experience the National Park through the eyes of a ranger.
The “Ranger Experience” gave people a real-life glimpse into the work of a South Downs Ranger as they stepped aboard a Land Rover to visit iconic sites, heard extraordinary stories and saw conservation activities in action.
The initiative was aimed at giving people a deeper understanding of the spectacular landscape and its incredible wildlife.
Working closely with local communities, farmers and landowners, the South Downs National Park Rangers play a pivotal role in conserving and enhancing the 1,600km2 of landscape, biodiversity, cultural heritage and the famous South Downs Way.
Following on from the success of the experiences this summer and positive feedback, a number of select dates will be available during the autumn.
The day out begins with one of the most breathtaking views in the National Park – the Seven Sisters cliffs – taking in the majestic scene from Seaford Head Nature Reserve. A guided tour of Seven Sisters Country Park is followed by a visit to the pretty medieval village of West Dean.
People enjoy a picnic overlooking Deep Dean – an amazing chalk grassland valley – before carrying out a butterfly survey and learning more about the rare species in the National Park such as the Adonis Blue Butterfly.
The famous Long Man of Wilmington, “the mysterious guardian” of the South Downs, is another highlight of the experience. People also have the option of visiting the Long Man Brewery to see where they make award-winning beer using barley grown in the surrounding farmland.
Tim Squire, a South Downs Ranger and self-confessed wildlife addict, has been leading the tour.
Tim said: “I feel very lucky to be a Ranger and it’s exciting to be able to show people a different side of the South Downs.
“This is a unique experience and a chance for people to go behind the scenes into the life of a Ranger.
“The South Downs is a very special corner of the world and sometimes visitors only get to see the view, without learning the story behind it. Our Ranger Experience is a memorable day where people can get immersed in the landscape and learn about the story of how it evolved, the humans who have shaped it and how we strive to protect it.”
One guest on the experience wrote: “I understand much more about habitat and how the Park is managed to benefit the wildlife. I will look at things differently next time I am out in the countryside. Very interesting and educational.”
And another guest said: “We saw magnificent landscapes. We saw butterflies. We saw the real Sussex. We learned about the real work of theses rangers.”
Katharine Beer, who heads sustainable tourism in the National Park, added: “Our Rangers have an intimate knowledge of the South Downs, so this is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the wildlife and habitats of the National Park from the experts.
“We’ve been really pleased by the feedback from participants and have a few more dates coming up this autumn. Please check the website for availability.”
Each experience departs at 10am from Seaford Station, East Sussex, returning to Seaford Station by 2.15pm.
Each tour has a maximum of four participants.
The cost of a Ranger Experience per person is £60
For more details visit https://www.airbnb.co.uk/experiences/918179