Wilding Waterhall – pioneering nature recovery

Wilding Waterhall - Brighton & Hove’s project to restore rare chalk grassland on a former golf course – is featured in a national report about nature, published today.

UK100’s Powers in Place: Nature study shows how councils across the UK are pioneering nature recovery in their areas to deliver health, wellbeing and climate benefits.

Wilding Waterhall is featured as an example of best practice in the section about managing land for nature enhancement.

The report highlights how local councils are using their powers innovatively to protect and restore nature and calls for a consistent national policy framework and long-term investment.

Nature recovery in the city

Councillor Tim Rowkins, chair of the city environment, South Downs and the sea committee, said: “We’re pleased to be included as a case study in UK100’s report, and very proud of the work being done at Waterhall.

“The team at Wilding Waterhall is sensitively managing the landscape to restore rare downland habitats and the wildlife they support, for the enjoyment of all the city’s residents.

“We are part of The Living Coast – the only UNESCO urban biosphere reserve in the UK – so I’m acutely aware of how precious our landscape is and the urgent need to protect it.

"Brighton & Hove is surrounded by the South Downs, much of which is publicly owned, as well as beautiful coastline. We are working with partners and residents to restore rare chalk grassland as part of our wider work across the Downland Estate.

“Other local chalk grassland regeneration projects include the maintenance of the 19 existing butterfly and bee banks across the city as well as the creation of new ones in the coming months, as part of the Greening The Cities project.

“On 14 September we’re launching our City Downland Estate Plan, which aims to enhance biodiversity, protect the aquifer, accelerate progress to Net Zero, improve public access to nature and move farming towards a more sustainable model.”

Working in partnership

‘Wilding’ the Waterhall landscape means letting nature take the lead by restoring natural processes so that it can withstand future change and increase biodiversity. It is not about abandoning a site as it involves active management. At Waterhall, cows and sheep help maintain habitats by grazing on grassland and shrub.

Friends of Waterhall volunteers contribute to conserving the site and the Waterhall rangers arrange visits, events and educational opportunities.

The report shows how the UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, with 97% of species-rich grasslands destroyed or degraded and 26% of mammals at risk of extinction. One in nine children had not visited a park, forest or natural environment in the previous year.

Christopher Hammond, UK100 Chief Executive, said: “Councils are the key to the revival of our vital wildlife and green spaces and the inter-related fight against the climate crisis, but they desperately need more support."

The Powers in Place: Nature report was produced for UK100 by researchers who gathered information from local authorities across England and reviewed legislation, powers and duties relating to the natural environment. 

Wilding Waterhall is supported by the council’s Carbon Neutral Fund and The National Lottery Heritage Fund. It forms part of the Changing Chalk partnership led by the National Trust

More information

Watch the latest film of Wilding Waterhall

Explore the City Downland Estate Plan

Find out about some of our other projects in the city:

Read the Powers in Place: Nature report on UK100’s website.

Delivering our Council Plan to protect and enhance the city's natural environment.

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