A project designed to safeguard the future of the South Downs National Park has won the Campaign for National Parks’ 2016 Protector Award.
The Arun and Rother Connections (ARC) project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and has helped residents in the park to become ‘citizen scientists’.
They have created rain gardens designed to reduce flood risks and provide a habitat for pollinators. Individuals living in the river catchment have also used an app developed by the project to record plants and wildlife in their green spaces.
Caroline Quentin, president of the Campaign for National Parks said: “Before the project began in 2013, there were significant landscape issues affecting the Arun and Rother rivers in West Sussex. Pollution, flooding, invasive species and declining wildlife threatened to ruin this important part of the South Downs National Park. However, over the last three years, a partnership between seven organisations and led by the RSPB has worked to promote a rich and thriving river system.”
Over 1,100 local volunteers have restored wetland habitats including floodplain meadows, fen, wet heath, wet woodland and saved three kilometres of globally rare chalk streams. The project has also created about 250,000 square metres of open water habitat for vulnerable birds and wetland species.
Caroline added: “How fantastic to see a project not only making a huge difference to the South Downs right now, but also inspiring everyone to become a conservationist, safeguarding the future of this wonderful area.”
The project beat 25 other nominations to win and representatives were presented with the award by Barry Southwell, chairman of Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust who sponsored the award, at a parliamentary reception to mark the 80th anniversary of Campaign for National Parks.
Barry said, “The project is a worthy winner. Its basic aim, focused on improving the quality of one of life’s fundamentals – the local water quality – is simple and logical. But it has necessitated a complex management strategy, and brought together a diverse range of organisations who had previously not worked together on one project.”
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