VIDEO: Rare juniper to be protected

PRECIOUS plants that have survived against all odds in Steyning are to be protected.

One of Britain’s oldest plants, juniper is thought to have been one of the first plants to colonise the country after the last Ice Age.

The female juniper bush at Steyning Coombe

The female juniper bush at Steyning Coombe

The evergreen shrub has since come to provide the key flavour in gin, with all varieties featuring its berries.

No.3 London Dry Gin, for example, prides itself on a ‘robust’ use of the fruit. It was created three years ago by Berry Brothers & Rudd to ‘taste as gin should’, with juniper to the fore.

There is also a long history of juniper myths and legends, for example planting a juniper bush to help stave off witches.

Steyning Coombe, where there is one notable juniper bush, is part of The Wiston Estate and managed by the Steyning Downland Scheme.

The large female bush has managed to produce two tiny seedlings, thanks to a small but rather battered male bush nearby. Now, all four are to be protected.

Matthew Thomas, project manager of the downland scheme, is working with Plantlife, an organisation dedicated to saving wild plants and their habitats, to protect the juniper plants.

He explains on the video the work to be carried out and the importance of the juniper plants.

Work has also taken place on a separate area of juniper plants, at a nearby road verge site, by Bostal Road, under Plantlife’s lowland juniper project.

See Thursday’s Steyning Herald for a special report.