Artwork commissioned to help save vanishing heaths

An example of Graeme Micheson's work
An example of Graeme Micheson's work

Communities in the Midhurst area are being asked for stories about their history to help inspire new pieces of art, linking seven heathland sites in the South Downs National Park.

Artist and sculptor Graeme Mitcheson has been commissioned as part of the Heritage Lottery-funded Heathlands Reunited project, led by the national park authority.

The sites being considered are Wiggonholt, Iping and Stedham, Lavington Plantation, Short Heath Common, Graffham, Black Down and Woolbeding.

Katy Sherman, Heathlands Reunited project officer, said: “We know people love their heaths and use them for exercise, to walk their dogs, for play and for relaxation. We want to inspire them to get to know their own heaths better, visit and explore other heaths and, most importantly, get involved in caring for these amazingly rich havens.

“Graeme Mitcheson’s work will reflect what each community values about their heath so if you have a story which you think could inspire him, your community and future generations please let us know.”

He has already created public art all over the UK and will begin putting together designs in April after working with trained volunteers who will be collecting oral histories and carrying out archive research.

“I am excited to get to know the sites and work with communities surrounding the heaths to create inspiring and engaging pieces to convey their stories,” he said. “I try to create tactile artworks that engage the viewer on a number of levels and take much inspiration from the natural world.”

Today heathland covers one per cent of the South Downs National Park, mostly separated into small ‘islands’ where isolated plants and animals are more vulnerable to local extinction.

Eleven organisations have joined forces to expand what is left and by creating stepping-stone scrapes and wildlife corridors they hope to create an area greater than 1,200 football pitches over the five-year project.

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