The latest buzz from Waterhall Nature Reserve

20 September 2022

A recent survey of Waterhall Local Nature Reserve shows it’s home to a huge range of invertebrates. The reserve has also now been designated as Open Access Land. Read on to find out what this means and how you can explore this wildlife haven.

Invertebrate Investigations

Between April and September of 2021 expert ecologist Graeme Lyons recorded the range of invertebrates species found across the 90 hectare Waterhall Local Nature Reserve. Invertebrates is a term used to describe animals without a backbone, and includes groups like beetles, bugs, snails, butterflies, moths and spiders. Due to their dependence on a wide range of different plants and micro-habitats, and their importance as a food source for other animals, invertebrates are an incredibly valuable group of animals to record as they can give a good indication of the overall biodiversity of the site.

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A green hairstreak butterfly – one of 25 different species of butterfly recorded at Waterhall in 2021.

A flutter of excitement rushed through the Wilding Waterhall team as the results of our baseline invertebrate surveys came in a few weeks ago. The report showed that the project is starting from a fantastic baseline. The surveys found a whopping 650 different species of invertebrate, 60 of which are of conservation interest. This included 40 different species of bee, 25 different butterfly species and a staggering 202 types of beetle! We were blown away! Despite being managed as a golf course for so long, Waterhall shows real promise as an important area for wildlife already.

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Insects resting on a greater knapweed flower. Image credit: Jess Mead

This is a great place to start from when trying to restore the habitats of this unique landscape. However, there’s still lots of work for the team (and our herbivore helpers!) to be getting on with, as the most biodiverse areas were relatively small patches within the reserve. The Wildling Waterhall project will see expansion of these hot spots, with the aim of improving biodiversity across the site.

Cows at Waterhall

The Waterhall cows are a vital part of restoring this chalk downland landscape. Image credit: Paul Gorringe

Explore Waterhall

Some more exciting news is that Waterhall Local Nature Reserve has now officially been designated as Open Access Land. This means that, in keeping with the wild nature of the reserve, people are free to roam across the site and explore the whole 90 hectares at their leisure. So as well as rewilding the golf course, we hope to rewild some local residents too!

Waterhall Landscape

A landscape to explore at Waterhall Local Nature Reserve. Image credit: David Larkin

We can’t wait to welcome you to the reserve so that you can discover the amazing, globally rare, chalk grassland habitat right on your doorstep. You are now free to leave the footpaths within the reserve to walk, run, picnic, and watch all the wonderful wildlife that calls this space home.

But to make sure there’s room for both people and wildlife to enjoy the reserve, and to keep our livestock and all visitors safe, we ask that everyone follows these simple rules:

  • Please keep dogs on leads at all times.
  • Please bag and bin your dog waste and other litter. If you can’t find a bin then please take it home with you.
  • Please don’t pick wildflowers, they are an important source of nectar for pollinating insects and we need seeds to develop and stay on site to restore the chalk grassland.
  • If you’re cycling or horse riding, please stay on the bridleway.
  • If you’re concerned about the welfare of any of our livestock then please notify us via the phone numbers on the Livestock Action Plan located at each entrance.

The Wilding Waterhall project forms part of Changing Chalk; a partnership of organisations led by the National Trust who are working together for the future of the South Downs. The aim of the project is to reverse the decline of the fragile chalk grassland and to further connect 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 been awarded funding to deliver the project over the next 4 years.

You can get involved in Wilding Waterhall at regular volunteers work days. Visit our What’s On or Volunteers page for next dates.


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By Jess Mead. Education Ranger for Wilding Waterhall.

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