Changing Chalk – wilding Waterhall

Restoring chalk grassland, improving biodiversity and supporting public engagement on a former golf course.

A surveyor sweep netting around grass and scrub during during biodiversity monitoring work

Surveying at Waterhall. Image credit: Sarah Dobson

Wilding Waterhall is working to ‘wild’ a former Brighton & Hove City Council Golf Course, to restore fragile chalk grassland and improve habitats for multiple species whilst offering a unique opportunity for local residents and visitors to learn more about our internationally important local environment.

This project is being led by Brighton & Hove City Council working closely with many local groups such as The Friends of Waterhall. Wilding Waterhall is part of a bigger project across the South Downs called Changing Chalk.

Changing Chalk is a partnership of organisations working together for the future of the South Downs to reverse the decline of the fragile chalk grassland and connecting local communities to the nationally significant landscape on their doorstep. This project has been developed with the support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund and has recently been awarded funding to deliver the project over the next 4 years.

Microplontus Campestris bug feeding on Ox-eye Daisy - credit Graeme Lyons

Microplontus campestris, a weevil found on oxe-eye daisies. Image credit: Graeme Lyons

Project objectives

  1. To restore the biodiversity of our chalk downland by supporting sustainable land management, and improving the habitat, species richness and connections between chalk grassland areas.
  2. Connecting the Downs and the Towns to inspire residents and visitors to care for and benefit from the local landscape.
  3. To tell the story of the cultural history of the Downs, helping communities to discover, understand and celebrate our local history and spaces.

What’s been achieved?

  • Wilding Waterhall is working with local volunteers to survey the site as it is now to create a biodiversity baseline. This will support site monitoring in the future by showing what positive or negative biodiversity impacts are caused by changes in management technique.
  • Plans are being created to enable different animals to graze on the site. Grazing is needed to restore heritage chalk grassland, meaning many different plants and flowers can grow that aren’t out competed by grasses.

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