GALLERY: Steyning Downland Scheme Gateway launched

A shipping container has been turned into a living building, providing a home for nature and a wonderful introduction to the Steyning Downland Scheme.

Hundreds of volunteer hours have gone into creating the new Gateway building, which is packed with information for visitors to the scheme on the Wiston Estate.

Landowner Harry Goring cuts the natural ribbon to official open Steyning Downland Scheme's new Gateway building. Picture: Matthew Thomas

Landowner Harry Goring cuts the natural ribbon to official open Steyning Downland Scheme's new Gateway building. Picture: Matthew Thomas

It is a very special building because visitors do not go in it, they go around it.

The Gateway was officially opened on Saturday by landowner Harry Goring, who cut a beautiful wildflower ribbon made by two of the charity's volunteers.

The scheme was started in 2007, thanks to Harry and his wife Pip. Son Richard Goring, who now manages the Wiston Estate, said it had gone from strength to strength, with the number of species seen, the improvement of the site and the huge community involvement.

Eleanor Gloster, community manager, said: "The Gateway will make a real difference to the charity's aim to connect people and nature.

"As well as ensuring people get the most out of their visit to this beautiful part of the South Downs, it will enable us to run a wider range of activities, benefiting local schools and the community.

"It is also a living building with homes for local wildlife. The outside is covered in bug hotels and the top is crowned with a wildflower green roof, ideal for bees and butterflies."

The Gateway is a cleverly-converter shipping container, clad in wood, with a roofline shaped to reflect the rolling hills of the South Downs. It is located behind Mouse Cottage, in Mouse Lane, Steyning, at the entrance to the area managed by the charity.

On the front is an 18ft interpretation board, including a map, bitesize timeline and geological information. Thanks to generous donations from Tom Aubrey and the South Downs National Park Authority, this colourful display takes visitors on a fascinating journey through the landscape from prehistoric times to the present day. There are also lift-up flaps giving fun facts about nature.

On the back and side are the bug hotels made by children from 1st Beeding and Bramber Beavers, 2nd Beeding and Bramber Brownies, 1st Beeding and Bramber Brownies, Upper Beeding Forest School and Steyning Grammar School.

Hundreds of students from Steyning Grammar School have helped with conservation work over the years, making it the biggest group of volunteers at the charity.

There is also a bat box on the side, made to the Kent design, and a living roof, sown with wildflower seed.

The Gateway will serve as an outdoor classroom for school nature groups and a meeting point for nature walks.

Eleanor added: "The scheme is particularly grateful to the Wilson Memorial Trust, the Wiston Estate and Gardiner and Scardifield in Lancing, who donated funding and tools and made the Gateway possible."

The Gateway replaces the old NTC hut, which was covered in vine. More funding has been made available to landscape the area around the building and Upper Beeding Primary School pupils recently helped sow wildflower seeds.

The new building and new wild play area, just along Nightingale Lane, were part of the celebrations for the charity's tenth anniversary.

Visit www.steyningdownland.org to find out more about Steyning Downland Scheme events or to get involved as a volunteer.

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