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Nature Recovery for communities

Nature Recovery for communities


National Parks sit at the heart of the nation’s nature recovery network; they are places where wildlife flourishes, habitats are maintained, restored, and expanded, and where everyone can experience nature and wildlife at their best.  They will form the backbone of nature recovery.

The National Parks are working together to deliver a collective response to the nature crisis, and as a National Park with our communities at its heart, you can play a key role in helping to deliver on nature recovery and making the National Park a better place for nature as well as a better place to live, work and visit.

While it is important that we focus on the right habitats in the right places, importantly, nature recovery can happen anywhere, at any scale and everyone can help make it happen and turn the tide for nature. We want to enhance and expand our most important designated wildlife sites but also make space for a nature friendly approach everywhere.  This initiative is not just about the rare but nature everywhere, for everone.

The South Downs National Park Authority will support nature recovery at all levels, offering advice and helping to facilitate action.

Helping nature to recover can also have wider benefits, helping to mitigate the effects of climate change, flood alleviation, improvements to soil and water quality and benefits to our health and wellbeing.

Quick step guide to Nature Recovery

The South Downs People and Nature Network (PANN) aims to protect, enhance and create a network of green and blue spaces, which sustainably meet the needs of local communities, support natural ecosystem services and respects the special qualities of protected landscapes by proposing the strategic principles for the planning, delivery and management of natural capital assets in the area.

The PANN identifies broad investment areas.  The nature recovery work will complement the PANN but also looks at the core areas for wildlife and wider opportunities for delivery for nature across the National Park and beyond.

What is in My Neighbourhood/Community?

The first stage in formulating a plan for nature is to understand what is already in your neighbourhood/community.  There are considerable resources available to assist with this:

  • If you have a local neighbourhood or parish plan this may already have some background information.
  • Free online resources include the NBN Atlas NBN Atlas – UK’s largest collection of biodiversity information and the Magic Map
  • More detailed local information can be obtained for a fee from your local biological records centre (Sussex Biodiversity Record centre or Hampshire Biological information centre )
  • Landscape character: It is important to understand the important features and habitats in your local landscape and there is a wealth of information in the South Downs Landscape character assessment here which includes information about Nature Recovery for each of the landscape types in the SDNP – eg river valleys, open downland, the low weald etc. Wherever your town or village is in the SDNP there are ideas and advice in the SDILCA for improving the right nature in the right place for where you live.
  • It is important to consider other potential constraints; these may include cultural heritage issues such as scheduled ancient monuments or important archaeological features. Another consideration will be current public access.  If unsure it is worth seeking advice from county archaeologists or the SDNP access team info@southdownsgov.uk

Planning for the Future

The best results for nature are achieved through having the right interventions in the right place; this might include trees, hedgerows, ponds and species rich grasslands.

A good starting point is to produce a simple habitat map for your parish, you can then plan where best to enhance these habitats and create the connections for a nature network.

The Map can also include smaller spaces, such as gardens, urban greenspace and even streets.  The Map does not need to be too complicated, just serve your needs. Try to capture key features and then build upon this for your future plans.

Your parish council will be able to obtain OS base mapping through their public sector mapping agreement to get OS maps direct free.

For Nature and Nature Friendly

Interventions for nature will focus on the principles set out by Sir John Lawton.  Bigger, better, more and joined up, ( Making Space for Nature: (nationalarchives.gov.uk) . This will mean improved management of existing habitats, expanding and connecting habitats and creation of new areas of priority habitats.  These are areas dedicated to nature.

Nature friendly interventions can take place anywhere, in productive farmland, on road verges, in villages and gardens. Consider how alongside agricultural production you can make space for Nature, Some suggestions are included below;

  • Buffer strips to hedgerows, woodlands and watercourses.
  • Create or restore ponds
  • Introduce pollinator mixes and pollinator strips.
  • Increase species diversity in semi improved and improved grasslands.
  • Provide winter stubbles, bird feed mixes, and arable weeds.
  • Bird and bat boxes


Nature recovery is all about networks, connecting key habitat areas and providing corridors for wildlife.  Consider how interventions can be linked on and beyond your farm, working with neighbours or through a wider farm cluster group.  There may also be wider benefits such as sharing of machinery for some management activities or livestock for conservation grazing.

The SDNPA can provide further advice on mapping for a Nature network.


There are many ways to deliver nature recovery and new opportunities are arising all the time

  • Establish strong local partnerships ensuring that you co-create plans with landowners, farmers and the local community.
  • Community led initiatives schools, parishes etc. on own land or through agreement.
  • Local action, Volunteering, citizen science, gardening for wildlife.
  • Biodiversity net gain from planning.


The funding situation is constantly evolving and it is important to take up to date advice.

The South Downs Trust is also working with the SDNPA on a campaign to help deliver Nature recovery on an ambitious scale. #ReNature

The SDNPA can provide further information on a range of delivery mechanisms and funding opportunities.

Future Management

Whilst some natural habitats look after themselves, others will need a level of future management, Biodiverse-rich chalk grassland, for example, will require a sustainable grazing regime to prevent dominance of tor grass or scrub species.  Newly planted trees may need regular care for the first few years and ponds may need occasional clearance.

There is a wealth of supporting information available, please see the Online Resources section below.

Consider future maintenance requirements at the development stage and build this into the funding required.

The SDNPA can offer advice on habitat management and signpost to other support such as links to sustainable conservation grazing projects

Surveys and Monitoring

Whilst information on current wildlife and habitats will help to inform your decisions on future changes, it is also important to consider future monitoring to demonstrate success. Developing some survey skills can be a continuing project for your community and help you to document changes in local wildlife.

There are a range of voluntary recording groups who may be able to offer further support. Advice and support will be available from local National park staff and volunteers.

Getting Help

The South Downs National Park Authority is supporting nature recovery at all levels, offering advice and helping to facilitate action.

We can offer more information on nature recovery interventions suitable to your local landscape types, mapping for a Nature network, monitoring, and delivery mechanisms and funding opportunities. We can also sign post to other areas of advice.

Contact us on info@southdowns.gov.uk or Naturerecovery@southdowns.gov.uk  through our reception on 01730 814810 or speak to your local ranger.

Online Resources

  • The Woodland Trust – for information on hedgerows, tree planting, woodland planting and community woodlands. RSPB also have advice.
  • Freshwater Habitats Trust – for information on pond creation and management
  • RSPB – for advice on wildlife in your garden and local community.
  • Buglife – for information on pollinators and bees.
  • RSPB – for specific advice on a wide range of information on habitat management including field margins, beetle banks and ditches.
  • The National Allotment Society – information and advice on planting for nature in your allotment.
  • The Lawton report on making space for nature with details of bigger, better, and more joined up habitats.
  • Information on rain gardens.


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