Nearly £40,000 of grants will benefit wildlife and young people across the South Downs

New habitat for water voles, educational equipment for a children’s learning centre and a new wildlife corridor are among the beneficiaries of a grants boost from the South Downs National Park Trust.

Thursday, 7th May 2020, 10:20 am

Seven projects across the National Park will receive grants from the charity, which is working to make the South Downs an even better place for nature and people.

Julie Fawcett, chairman of the South Downs National Park Trust, said: “It’s an honour to be able to announce this new round of grants as we know they will make a real difference and have far-reaching impacts.

“Helping these kind of community-driven grassroots projects are what our charity is all about – helping wildlife flourish, allowing more people to access the countryside, and connecting young people with all the benefits of the natural world.”

The South Downs

Some £4,500 has been awarded to Splash Farm, near Arundel, for a project that will allow water voles to thrive on the River Arun and its tributaries.

The rodents are known as ‘ecosystem engineers’ as their burrowing network is vital for a flourishing wetland habitat where plants and other animals can prosper.

Until now, cows have been able to graze vegetation along the water ditches, reducing the amount of available habitat for water voles.

The trust’s grant will pay for new livestock fencing that will allow vegetation to grow, helping to support and increase the existing water vole population.

A water vole on the South Downs. Picture: Dick Hawkes

Just over £10,000 has been awarded to the Goodwood Learning Centre, near Chichester.

Goodwood Education Trust currently gives over 3,000 children a year an experience of the countryside and farming and the new centre will enhance opportunities for learning about the environment.

The grant will help pay for kitting out the centre with equipment and furniture.

Jamie’s Farm, near Lewes, offers educational therapy for disadvantaged young people aged 11 to 16 and will be receiving a grant of just under £5,000.

Julie Fawcett, chairman of the South Downs National Park Trust

The farm has been working to improve biodiversity and the cash will help pay for 430 metres of new hedgerow – providing a wildlife corridor for birds, mammals and butterflies.

Meanwhile, Graffham Down Trust will receive a grant of £4,760 to help replace cutting equipment that helps maintain the precious chalk grassland habitat on the Down.

A total of £4,250 has been awarded to the Ouse Valley Cycle Network Project, which is a community-based group working to provide a safe walking and cycle route to link Lewes and Newhaven and all the villages in between.

Now well on the way to completion, the grant will help pay for new maps and leaflets, maintenance equipment and protective clothes for volunteers.

Meanwhile, a similar off-road pathway scheme to bring people into the heart of stunning countryside will benefit from a grant of £1,500.

The Centurion Way is part of the National Cycle Network, following the old Chichester to Midhurst railway line.

Chichester and District Cycle Forum and the Friends of Centurion Way will now be able to invest in a cycle counter that will help collect much-needed information on usage of the network and also make this data publicly-available.

Finally, just over £9,160 has been awarded to charity The Garden Classroom, which helps to provide outdoor learning experiences for children in inner-city London – many of whom will have never visited a National Park.

All the grants went through the independent charity’s application process and were agreed by the board of trustees.

Julie said: “We’d also like to say a big thank you to all our donors who have made these grants possible.

“These are challenging times for lots of community and charitable organisations and we know some projects will have to be delayed, but we’re proud to be able to bring some good news with these grants.”

The grants are just one aspect of the charity’s scope, which includes ongoing funding to improve access and increase opportunities for young people, as well as the high-profile Bee Lines and Trees for the Downs campaigns.

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