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Downlands Partnership – news and environmental education

New Wayfinder partnership project is encouraging Croydon's residents to get active in the great outdoors

The Downlands Partnership has been pleased to be working in partnership with Striders of Croydon and London Borough of Croydon on three new wayfinder running/walking routes in three popular parks/open spaces, to encourage increased fitness and wellbeing of the borough's residents and visitors to the area.

The Downlands Partnership was commissioned to produce and install all of the wayfinder posts - around fifty - so the volunteers led by the staff have been busy in the workshop and digging in the posts on site. The project commenced in September 2017 and will be completed by March 2018.  Full details of the project and routes can be found on the Striders of Croydon website.

Sanderstead to Whyteleafe Countryside Area (SWCA): environmental education, conservation volunteering and seasonal family fun

Downlands Partnership Officer Sarah Clifford works extensively with local schools, scout/cub groups and conservation volunteers of all ages to pro-actively restore and manage the beautiful chalk downland landscape that comprises the Sanderstead to Whyteleafe Countryside Area (SWCA).

Sarah runs practical conservation volunteering task days at the SWCA on Mondays and one Sunday per month throughout the year, in conjunction with the main Downlands Partnership volunteering task programme.

Sarah also provides many special, fun and informative family environmental events throughout the year. This winter 2018 season there is pond maintenance on Sunday 29 January and hedgerow maintenance on Sunday 11 March to join in with, as well as a lovely winter wander on Sunday 11 February. Please refer to the task programme for full details and/or contact Sarah on 01883 341140 to find out how you could get involved. Please also see the leaflet attached below for general SWCA information.

Chalk grassland restoration given a helping hand thanks to Surrey Hills Trust Fund

During early 2017 extensive countryside management work was completed at Quarry Hangers, a Site of Special Scientific interest (SSSI) in the east of the Surrey Hills at Chaldon, near Caterham. Extensive targeted scrub clearance was carried out to improve the landscape and restore the rare and precious chalk grassland, typical of the North Downs.

Chalk grassland is a very diverse habitat where you can find as many as 50 different kinds of plants and wildflowers within a square metre. Common species that are typical of chalk grassland and can be spotted at Quarry Hangers SSSI include bird’s-foot trefoil, common spotted orchid, wild marjoram, salad burnet and wild strawberry. Butterflies such as the common blue, orange tip and dingy skipper can also be seen here. Quarry Hangers SSSI also supports a good number of bird species; listen out for the distinctive song of the skylark.

Active management is essential to maintaining chalk grassland; Quarry Hangers SSSI is managed by the Downlands Partnership on behalf of the landowner, through practical conservation work and grazing with goats.The targeted area cleared through the grant funding is on a very steep gradient, unsuitable for working with volunteers, and desperately needed intensive clearance to give the fragile beautiful landscape a fighting chance. Specialist countryside contractors South East Tree Surgeons were commissioned by the Downlands Partnership to carry out the work and the landscape has been successfully opened so the flora and fauna can thrive.

Debbie Hescott, Surrey Countryside Partnerships Business Development Officer comments “being able to further restore this beautiful chalk grassland gem thanks to this essential funding has been an excellent result. We are looking forward to monitoring how the habitat improves now the invasive scrub has been cleared; for wildlife and for people to enjoy now and in the future”.

All this was made possible by a grant from the Surrey Hills Trust Fund, a fund within the Community Foundation for Surrey which helps to conserve and maintain the fragile environment of the Surrey Hills by awarding grants to support a wide-range of local projects from landscape conservation to community enterprise schemes.  A match funding contribution was also made by the Downlands Trust, the registered charity partner of the Downlands Partnership.

Downlands Trust charity - supporting Downlands Partnership and our local beautiful countryside

The Downlands Trust is a registered charity, run by a small group of dedicated volunteers. The Trust directly helps to support the work of the Downlands Partnership by raising essential funds through memberships and fundraising initiatives.

The Trust, working directly with the Partnership, has already successfully secured funding from Veolia Environmental Trust and the Gannett Foundation. It has also provided essential match funding towards the Partnership's successful SITA Trust grants, previously received for the restoration and creation of various ponds in the Partnership area and for Small Blue Butterfly habitat improvement works.

Lots of essential tools and equipment have been kindly purchased for the Downlands Partnership's practical conservation work. Recently contributions have been made towards the purchase of new livestock and shearing equipment to support the delivery of the conservation grazing programme and tree poppers to support scrub clearance tasks.

For the Trust to be a continued success it needs a strong core membership. The Trust currently has over 150 memberships but more would be very welcome. Please see the Downlands Trust membership form on their website. If you would prefer to make a one off donation there is of course this option as well.

The Trust is pleased to welcome legacy donations, so if this is something you would like to consider to support the management of your local countryside for the continued enjoyment of future generations, please kindly contact the trustees direct via their website or email: downlandstrust@live.co.uk to further discuss. Many thanks for your support.

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