Changing Chalk partnership secures multi-million-pound National Lottery Heritage Fund grant

A multi-million-pound project connecting nature, people and heritage is set to launch across the eastern South Downs and surrounding towns next year.

Made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, Changing Chalk is supported by a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £2.23 million.

Protecting rare chalk grassland

Led by the National Trust, the 10-strong ‘Changing Chalk’ partnership will work with local communities, farmers and landowners to restore and protect the internationally rare chalk grassland, bring diverse histories to life and provide new experiences in the outdoors to those who need it most.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund grant will be supplemented by partners through funding, fundraising, volunteer time and in-kind support.

A series of new jobs, apprenticeships and training opportunities will be created across Brighton & Hove, Eastbourne & Lewes and around 2,500 volunteers will have the chance to learn new skills.

'Tropical rainforest'

The chalk grassland habitat of the South Downs - so rich in biodiversity it’s sometimes referred to as Europe’s tropical rainforest - is in rapid decline with approximately 80% lost since WWII.

Meanwhile, the densely populated urban fringes of the eastern South Downs include some of the most economically-deprived wards in the UK.

Changing Chalk will tackle these issues over the next four years, by bringing the eastern downs and towns closer together.

Eighteen ambitious projects will break down complex barriers to participation in the outdoors, restore and protect nature and wildlife, improve wellbeing and celebrate the heritage that have shaped the South Downs.

Connecting nature, people and heritage

Richard Henderson, National Trust chair of the partnership says: “We’re delighted to have received this support thanks to National Lottery players. The need to connect nature, people and heritage has never felt more important or relevant, and the commitment from our partners to achieve this is truly wonderful.

“The project has an amazing cross-section of activities that will protect and restore the South Downs landscape for people to enjoy, for health and wellbeing, for nature’s recovery and climate resilience into the future.”

Tackling climate change

Councillor Amy Heley, Chair of the Environment, Transport & Sustainability Committee, added: “This funding will play a vital role in protecting and raising awareness of the biodiversity in our city which is essential in our fight to tackle the climate and biodiversity emergency.

“It will enable us to invest in and increase our understanding of our precious chalk downland habitat & species. It will also connect more of our residents and visitors with the incredible natural environment that surrounds and weaves through our city. 

“The special features of our local chalk environment are one of the reasons the Brighton & Lewes Downs region is globally designated as The Living Coast UNESCO Biosphere.  Brighton & Hove City Council are lead partners of The Living Coast and we are fully committed to preserving and enhancing our natural environment for generations to come.”

Improving mental health and well-being

The 18 interconnected projects will deliver Changing Chalk’s vision across three areas: Restoring Chalkland Biodiversity, Connecting Downs and Towns and Hearts and Histories of the Downs.

Stuart McLeod, Director London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said:

“We are delighted to support the ‘Changing Chalk’ partnership and help them to restore the vital chalk grassland habitat of the South Downs.

"Investing in projects that support nature is a key priority for us and now, thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, a wider range of people will be able to enjoy this area so rich in biodiversity, while benefitting from both a mental health and well-being perspective.”

Changing Chalk will kick off in early 2022.

Find out more about Changing Chalk and get involved. 

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