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South Downs project wins prestigious national award

The Arun and Rother Connections project in the South Downs National Park has won the Campaign for National Parks 2016 ‘Park Protector Award’.

Caroline Quentin, Campaign for National Parks’ president judged the award and said:
“How fantastic to see a project that is not only making a huge difference to the South Downs right now, but is also inspiring everyone to become a conservationist, safeguarding the future of this wonderful area.”
The award was presented to the ARC project at a special event marking the 80th anniversary of the Campaign for National Parks.

Before the ARC project began in 2013, pollution, flooding, invasive species and declining wildlife threatened to ruin this important part of the South Downs National Park. The Arun and Rother rivers in West Sussex were in a bad way. However, over the last three years, this partnership led by the RSPB in partnership with the South Downs National Park Authority and six other organisations and funded by the HLF has worked to promote a rich and thriving river system.

Over 1,100 local volunteers have helped to restore a rage of wetland habitats including floodplain meadows, fen, wet heath, wet woodland and saved three kilometres of globally rare chalk streams. It has also created over 250,000m2 of open water habitat for vulnerable birds and wetland species.

One of the goals of the project has been to involve as many people as possible ‘citizen scientists’, protecting this precious part of the South Downs. Local residents have created rain gardens designed to reduce flood risks and provide a habitat for pollinators. Individuals living in the river catchment have also used an app developed by the project to easily record the plants and wildlife they have seen in their green spaces.

Chris Corrigan, RSPB Southeast regional director said:
“Winning this prestigious award is brilliant recognition of the efforts of thousands of people to protect the special landscapes of the South Downs National Park for future generations. Through the ARC project over 4,000 local people, including children, have engaged with activities designed to improve their local National Park and the landscape surrounding it. Through teaching them how to maintain these interconnected habitats and encourage wildlife to thrive, we have created a legacy of passionate park protectors.”