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Downlands Partnership – news and environmental education

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

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

Sarah runs her popular 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. Please refer to the Downlands Partnership's winter task programme (PDF) for the latest volunteering opportunities or call Sarah on 01883 341140 to find out more and to discuss how you could get involved.

Sarah also provides many special, fun and informative family environmental education events and seasonal exploration walks at the SWCA throughout the year.

Dates for your diary coming up in 2019

  • Winter Wonder Walk over Sanderstead Common on Sunday 10 February
  • A family Spring Woodland Detective Explorers session in Ainsley Berry Shaw on Sunday 7 April.

Further event details and how to book your places can be found in the Downlands Partnership's winter task programme (PDF).

Please also see the leaflet attached below for general SWCA information.

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, as well as native hedging plants for Old Lodge Farm.

For the Trust to be a continued success it needs a strong core membership. The Trust currently has over 130 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. 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 directly. You can do this via their website or email: downlandstrust@live.co.uk to further discuss. Many thanks for your support.

Voluntary trustee position available: The Trust is currently looking for an additional voluntary trustee to help with various administration tasks and to be part of the board; if you are interested in local countryside management matters and this sounds like an ideal volunteering opportunity for you, please do get in touch with them directly as above.

Fantastic corporate partnership news: The Downlands Trust is very pleased to have been selected as the "Our Environment" charity partner for Fidelity International for 2019/2020 from 1 January 2019. Fidelity International is based in Kingswood, Surrey and both the Trust and Downlands Partnership are really looking forward to working in partnership with Fidelity staff on fundraising initiatives and welcoming them for employee volunteering sessions at glorious local countryside sites.

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

The Downlands Partnership was very pleased to work in partnership with Striders of Croydon and London Borough of Croydon during 2017/2018. Their work on three new wayfinder running/walking routes in three popular parks/open spaces has helped 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. The volunteers led by the staff were kept busy in the depot workshop and digging in the posts on site over the autumn/winter 2017/18 season. The project commenced in September 2017 and was completed in March 2018 and the routes have been very well received and well used since. Full details of the project and routes can be found on the Striders of Croydon website.

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. It does this 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 Partnership task news and stories

Please have a look at our latest newsletter to find out about our local countryside management work in action.

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