Arun and Rother Connections project in the South Downs wins our Park Protector Award

  • Contributor information: CNP

Over the years we’ve seen some fantastic projects win our Park Protector Award. We’re absolutely delighted that 2016 sees another fantastic winner – the Arun and Rother Connections project in the South Downs National Park.

Before the ARC project began in 2013, pollution, flooding, invasive species and declining wildlife threatened to ruin this important part of the South Downs National Park. The Arun and Rother rivers in West Sussex were in a bad way. However, over the last three years, a partnership between seven organisations and led by the RSPB and funded by the HLF has worked to promote a rich and thriving river system.

Over 1,100 local volunteers have helped to restore a range of wetland habitats including floodplain meadows, fen, wet heath, wet woodland and saved three kilometres of globally rare chalk streams. It has also created over 250,000m2 of open water habitat for vulnerable birds and wetland species.

All images © Photographers Sussex

One of the goals of the project is to make as many people as possible ‘citizen scientists’ by protecting this precious and valuable part of the South Downs. Local residents have created rain gardens designed to reduce flood risks and provide a habitat for pollinators. Individuals living in the river catchment have also used an app developed by the project to easily record the plants and wildlife they have seen in their green spaces.

Caroline Quentin, our new president who judged the award said,

How fantastic to see a project that is not only making a huge difference to the South Downs right now, but is also inspiring everyone to become a conservationist, safeguarding the future of this wonderful area.

Yesterday the ARC project was presented with the 2016 Park Protector Award by Barry Southwell, chair of Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust who sponsored the award at an event marking our 80th anniversary. In 1936, a group of dedicated outdoor enthusiasts set about campaigning to ensure diverse and magnificent landscapes in Britain were preserved for everyone to enjoy. Thanks to their efforts, the Campaign for National Parks was born and 13 National Parks in England and Wales were created over the following years.

Caroline Quentin and Barry Southwell © Campaign for National Parks

Chris Corrigan, RSPB Southeast regional director said

Winning this prestigious award is brilliant recognition of the efforts of thousands of people to protect the special landscapes of the South Downs National Park for future generations. Through the ARC project over 4,000 local people, including children, have engaged with activities designed to improve their local National Park and the landscape surrounding it. Through teaching them how to maintain these interconnected habitats and encourage wildlife to thrive, we have created a legacy of passionate Park protectors.

From left to right – Fran Southgate – Sussex Wildlife Trust, Rachel Carless – RSPB, Margaret Paren – SDNPA, Caroline Quentin, Barry Southwell, Carole Nicholson – Sussex Wildlife Trust © Campaign for National Parks