Nature Recovery projects

We help farmers, land managers and communities work together to achieve landscape-scale nature recovery.

Last year we allocated more than £650,000 grant funding for projects benefitting the soil, water, wildlife, historic features – and people – of the High Weald AONB.

Read about some of the successful projects below – perhaps you’ll find inspiration for your next project…

Meadow Makers project – helping two farms move over to regenerative farming methods

Meadow Makers was a national project led by Plantlife that restored over 400 hectares of species-rich grassland across England and involved over 12,000 people in meadow making.

As part of the project, we helped two High Weald farms – Springham and Westdown – move over to a regenerative farming model to boost biodiversity and soil quality, thereby improving their meadows.

Activity included sowing native wildflower seed harvested from a nearby meadow, installation of infrastructure for mob grazing such as electric fencing and water supply, plus supporting and advising the farmers throughout the transition.

The project also included a traineeship for a young ‘Meadow Maker’ looking to start their career in the conservation sector. Our chosen trainee, Charlie, worked with the High Weald team for more than a year, getting involved in a wide range of activities from waxcap surveys and video production to social media and learning to use a scythe!

Watch our video (made by Charlie) to learn more about the project…

Beautiful Boundaries – restoring historic hedgerows

We worked with more than 25 landowners to plant 40,000 trees and shrubs along the National Grid transmission line in the south-eastern corner of the AONB, restoring 13.4km of historic boundaries.

The works were funded by the National Grid’s Landscape Enhancement Initiative. The new planting will reduce the visual impact of the transmission line from nearby lanes and paths and will help nature recover by creating and linking wildlife habitats.

  • Soak up water (reducing flood risk),
  • Capture carbon, and;
  • Provide shelter for grazing animals.

The project has helped land managers work together to significantly improve the area’s environment. Using local suppliers and contractors also benefits the wider economy.

Upper Rother Barn Owl project – creating new nesting sites

In the summer of 2021, nearly 40 new Barn Owl boxes were installed at more than XX farms across the Upper Rother and Dudwell Farm Cluster area.

The project was funded by the Sussex Lund grant programme and  coordinated by the High Weald Land Management team. A local arboreal specialist helped install the boxes to ensure no trees were damaged, and the Sussex Barn Owl Study Group provided landowner training on monitoring the boxes for 3 years after installation.

Recent research has shown that creating more nesting sites is the best way to protect this important species, so the aim was to have at least one Barn Owl box every 2km along the Rother and Dudwell Valley inside the Farm Cluster.

Baby Owls peeping out of owl box in tree

Frog Field conservation area, Beckley

In 2020, Beckley Parish Council successfully applied for a Sussex Lund grant to restore a local wildlife site called Frog Field.

The site was created by the village WI in the 1990s, but over time had become neglected; it needed extensive work to ‘open up’ the habitat, boost biodiversity and make it accessible for visitors.

Work included:

• Expert surveys to establish which species were present at the site
• Clearing of rubbish and debris, removal of selected non-native trees and replanting with native species
• Coppicing/cutting back trees and creating dead wood piles (great habitats for invertebrates!)
• De-silting some of the pond area
• Cutting back and restoring an overgrown ancient hedgerow
• Restoring and clearing the paths around the site, making it accessible for visitors.

Much of the work was carried out by local volunteers with assistance from contractors; ecologist Ralph Hobbs was on hand to advise.

High Weald AONB team member Christine Meadows provided advice on plans for the site and supported the Parish Council in making their grant application.

The project team has run several guided tours since works finished, including one for local residents as part of the village’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations. Beckley now has a beautifully-restored conservation area to enjoy, and the hope is that visitors will try out some of the conservation methods in their own gardens.

A member of Beckley Parish Council project team says: “It was amazing to see the reappearance of lost species once the site had been cleared of some of the excess of trees. Without the invaluable advice we received from Mr Hobbs and several of the team at the High Weald AONB Partnership it is unlikely this project would have been possible.”