Downlands Partnership – Sanderstead to Whyteleafe Countryside Area

Environmental education, conservation volunteering and seasonal family fun

About the SWCA

The Sanderstead to Whyteleafe Countryside Area (SWCA) lies on the border of Purley and Whyteleafe forming part of the North Downs. This beautiful 200 acre area includes downland, fields, woodland and scrub.

Downlands Partnership Countryside Project Officer Sarah Clifford is the dedicated warden for the SWCA and works extensively with conservation volunteers of all ages and local schools and scout/cub groups, to pro-actively restore and manage the special habitats.

The SWCA is home to many rare chalk grassland species, birds including skylarks, and dormice; Sarah has a dormice handling licence and monitors the dormice on site as part of the National Dormice Monitoring Scheme.

SWCA Partnership

The SWCA partnership is hosted by Surrey County Council (as part of the Downlands Partnership team) and its core funding partners are the London Borough of Croydon, Tandridge District Council and the John Whitgift Foundation. The partners all work collaboratively to aim to restore the downland by actively managing the area, with the vital support of the local communities.

The SWCA partnership management aims are:

  • To restore and manage the downland by selective scrub control, mowing and grazing
  • To restore arable fields to grassland and to encourage the survival of uncommon arable 'weeds'
  • To manage existing hedgerows and to plant new ones
  • To encourage public access and community involvement and to provide environmental education

Conservation volunteering opportunities

Sarah runs her popular practical conservation volunteering task days at the SWCA on Mondays and one Sunday per month throughout the year.

This autumn 2021, there are Sunday practical conservation volunteering sessions being held at the SWCA on:

  • Sunday 24 October 2021: clearing scrub and small tree felling at the Dobbin
  • Sunday 28 November 2021: raking up after brushcutting in the Whitgift Field
  • Sunday 12 December 2021: habitat management in the large grazing paddock

Please call Sarah on 01883 341140 or email: to find out more and to let her know in advance if you would like to join in on any specific, scheduled task dates.

The Downlands Partnership's conservation crew also support Sarah with additional tasks at the SWCA throughout the year, and they will be running three task days during mid December 2021, brushcutting and raking up at Whyteleafe Hill.

Sarah also provides many special, fun and informative family environmental education events and seasonal exploration walks in partnership at the SWCA throughout the year. These will be advertised on this page in due course.

Corporate group employee volunteering days are also offered by special arrangement at the SWCA and corporate sponsorship of the conservation work at the SWCA is greatly welcomed. Please contact Sarah as above to further discuss the best options for your specific group size and she will be able to explain the booking arrangements for groups.

Local corporate partner sponsorship from Park and Bailey

The SWCA partnership is very pleased to have Park and Bailey, estate and letting agents (through Caterham-on-the-Hill branch) as a corporate partner. They have been providing significant corporate sponsorship since 2014 for the SWCA through the Downlands Trust, the registered charity partner of the Downlands Partnership, and their generous monthly donations have been put to great use for items such as volunteer supplies, tools and equipment and environmental education materials.

SWCA proud to be part of the South London Downs NNR

In July 2019, the London Borough of Croydon area of the SWCA became part of the newly designated National Nature Reserve (NNR), The South London Downs NNR, which is excellent news for the SWCA partnership. Having designated South London Downs NNR status in this urban fringe area of Croydon, neighbouring Surrey, is very special and highlights how important the SWCA is for biodiversity and wildlife.