Downlands Partnership – Sanderstead to Whyteleafe Countryside Area

Environmental education, conservation volunteering and seasonal family fun

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.

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

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

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

  • Sunday 25 July 2021: ragwort pulling in the Tandridge top fields
  • Sunday 22 August 2021: ragwort pulling in the Whitgift Field
  • Sunday 26 September 2021: holly cutting in Ainsley Berry Shaw

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

The Downlands Partnership's conservation crew also support Sarah with additional tasks at the SWCA throughout the year, and will be carrying out livestock catching pen reconstruction work and bench repairs during mid July and early September 2021.

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.

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.

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.