£3 million project wins Government backing to save precious South Downs chalk downland

Press Release: 27/02/2012

A £3 million plan to safeguard endangered chalk downland in the South Downs National Park has been awarded £608,000 by the Secretary of State for the Environment.

The South Downs Way Ahead project, consisting of 27 organisations led by the South Downs National Park Authority, will trail blaze the Government’s new Nature Improvement Area scheme to protect habitats and the economic and social benefits they bring. The announcement comes just one month before the National Park celebrates its first anniversary.

Margaret Paren, Chair of the South Downs National Park Authority, said,

South Downs chalk downland is vital to the survival of rare and endangered wildlife and is relied on by millions of people to provide clean drinking water and valuable green space.

We are working in partnership with 26 organisations across the National Park to safeguard this precious landscape and encourage people to help secure these benefits for now and future generations. The announcement comes just one month before the National Park celebrates its first anniversary and shows what can be achieved when people from across the South Downs join forces."

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said,

I’d like to congratulate South Downs Way Ahead on becoming one of these first 12 Nature Improvement Areas.  Each of these projects has something different to offer – from the urban areas of Birmingham and the Black Country to the rivers and woods of North Devon; from marshes, coalfields and wetlands to woodland and arable chalkland and grassland.

The exciting wildlife projects are the result of different organisations all working together with a common purpose – to safeguard our wildlife for generations to come.”

Through the South Downs Way Ahead partnership farmers, conservationists, NGOs, community groups, government bodies, research organisations, water companies and the National Park Authority will work together to join up vital areas of chalk downland along the famous South Downs Way National Trail.

The project will support work across the South Downs including:
• Landowners, farmers and water companies working together to improve water quality through appropriate land management.
• Restoring chalk downland for endangered species such as the rare Duke of Burgundy butterfly and farmland birds such as corn bunting, lapwing, grey partridge and stone curlew.
• Getting communities to take an active role in restoring damaged land for example by introducing ‘flying flocks’ of sheep which move between different sites, partly cared for by specially trained volunteer community shepherds.

William Wolmer, a farmer in the South Downs National Park, said on behalf of the South Downs Land Management Group, a SDWA partner,

Farmers and landowners have been managing chalk downland across the South Downs National Park area for centuries, but in today’s commercial environment it is essential to support this kind of work with well-targeted funding. The NIA project and partnership, in which farmers will work closely with the National Park rangers, will help us all do more for nature, and in a more joined-up way.”