South Downs celebrations

The annual anniversary celebration on the South Downs National Park is organised by the Hampshire Ramblers, so it tends to be in the Western Weald: this year it was at Midhurst and I had been invited to speak.  

When we were fighting for the national park we had to mount an additional campaign to get the Western Weald included as there was pressure for a chalk-only park. It is so fortunate that we succeeded, because this part of the park has wonderful qualities, not least its rare and precious heathland.

Tree pipit
I arrived early for a walk around Iping Common, one of these heaths, and was rewarded with an almost instant sighting of two tree pipits and a yellowhammer.  Four years ago, I heard nightjars here at the end of July.


Iping Common

I crossed the road for a brief walk on Stedham Common, where the Sussex Wildlife Trust grazes British White cattle.  They were doing good work on the birch.

Tackling birch

Tackling the birch

At the South Downs Centre the walkers gathered, and Margaret Paren, chair of the authority, gave a talk about the authority’s current work.  Then 36 of us set off on a walk led by Jasper and George Stride.

We followed the River Rother through bluebell woods to Stedham Mill

1 by the Rother

Walking by the Rother

6 Stedham Mill

Stedham Mill







then to Stedham Church with its amazing yew tree

4 Stedham yew

and across the river under the Tudor Stedham Hall.

5 Stedham Hall

Stedham Hall

We then headed to Woolbeding church for lunch,

8 Woolbeding church

Woolbeding church

and returned to Midhurst for tea provided by the South Downs National Park authority.

I spoke briefly about the need to ensure that post-Brexit agricultural funding pays for new and improved access on paths and freedom to roam—public money for public goods—as well as for restoring lost landscapes such as heath and downland.  This change in public funding could be beneficial to the South Downs.

Thinking about my morning visit to Iping Common I pointed out that the South Downs National Park Authority is currently dependent on Heritage Lottery funding to restore its heaths—the Heathlands Reunited project.  Less than ten per cent of the park’s former heathland remains, and what is left is fragmented.  But we should not have to depend on the lottery to achieve this; such restoration should be financed from agri-environment funding.

The access bodies are getting together to lobby for proper funding for access post-Brexit. We hope to ensure that something good comes out of the current mess.

About campaignerkate

I am the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and I campaign for public access, paths and open spaces in town and country.
This entry was posted in Access, Birds, campaigns, commons, National parks, Ramblers, South Downs, walking and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to South Downs celebrations

  1. Very interesting read and I agree wholeheartedly with your comments about access funding. As a British Horse Society volunteer access officer and founding member of Matlock and District Bridleway Access Group (MADBAG) in Derbyshire, I am campaigning to get a network of linking paths throughout our region including Forestry Commission woodland to provide safe off road routes for all vulnerable users. This is certainly no easy task and relies on the goodwill from landowners and of course not all are willing, even the FC (publicly owned land!) is not overly helpful. We really need government incentives.

  2. Thanks Karen and best of luck. We all need to work together on this.

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