Residents in Brighton & Hove are being invited to join a week of free celebrations to mark the creation of the city’s newest nature reserve.
From Saturday 28 May, visitors to ‘Wilding Waterhall’ can enjoy a wide range of family friendly events, from a wildflower walk and dawn chorus experience, to bat and bug hunts and storytelling sessions.
The events have all been designed to encourage people to explore the 90Ha (220-acre) site and learn more about its unique chalk grassland landscape along with the benefits of rewilding.
Bats and moths!
Organised by Brighton & Hove City Council’s Rangers, the programme kicks off on 28 May, with 2 performances of ‘Rewilding Cinderella, a unique, rewilded adaptation of the classic fairy-tale, performed by the Storytelling Choir as part of the Brighton Festival.
This will be followed, later in the evening, by ‘Creatures of the Night’, a chance to explore the site after dark, discovering bats and moths.
Reptiles and amphibians!
Over the following week, which is also the school half term break, families can join members of the Sussex Reptile & Amphibian Group to discover ‘what's so great about a Great Crested Newt’ or join local ornithologists for an early morning stroll looking and listening for birds of the South Downs, town, farms and coast!
Mammals and minibeasts!
Other walks and activities will be led by archaeologists and experts from Butterfly Conservation, the Living Coast, Sussex Mammal Group, Kew, and the National Trust, exploring the history and geology of the site as well as its wildflowers, mammals and minibeasts.
Carbon Neutral 2030
Wilding Waterhall, a former 18-hole golf course on downland to the north of the city, is a key part of the council’s response to the Biodiversity and Climate Emergencies and contributes to its Carbon Neutral 2030 programme.
The newly rewilded site will also provide a great location for children, adults and families to enjoy a dramatic landscape and diverse array of wildlife and habitats.
Cattle arriving soon
Rewilding plans include the introduction of cattle, (owned by a local tenant farmer), to graze the site and help retain and enhance the mosaic of habitats that already exist.
Funding for the project has been secured from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and players of People’s Postcode Lottery, as part of the Changing Chalk partnership, led by the National Trust.
Changing Chalk is a partnership of organisations working together for the future of the South Downs by reversing the decline of the fragile chalk grassland and connecting local communities to the nationally significant landscape on their doorstep.
The partnership connects nature, people and heritage and is restoring lost landscapes and habitats, bringing history to life and offering new experiences in the outdoors.
Additional funding is being provided by Brighton & Hove City Council’s Carbon Neutral Fund and through a Countryside Stewardship agreement.
Overall, the funding will cover the cost of grazing cattle using the innovative 'NoFence' GPS collars as well as the installation of perimeter fencing, and water supplies necessary for the cattle’s welfare. It will also fund an Education Ranger and on-site interpretation as well as habitat improvements.
Councillor Jamie Lloyd, co-chair of the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee, said: “We are looking forward to welcoming residents from across the city to Waterhall to join the launch events and discover more about our exciting rewilding project.
“Waterhall is a fantastic site of unique biodiversity, and we are delighted to be working with so many brilliant experts to enhance the natural habitat and preserve the species rich chalk grassland for generations to come.
“We welcome the support of the Changing Chalk partnership, The National Lottery Heritage Fund and National Lottery players, and players of People’s Postcode Lottery, and with this support and the experts we have to help, Waterhall is set to become a haven for wildlife and within easy reach of all residents of Brighton & Hove.”
Summer events planned
Demand for these events is expected to be a high, but further events will be running throughout the summer and beyond. To find out more, join the Friends of Waterhall’s Facebook page and look out for updates on our Living Coast ‘Wilding Waterhall’ web page.