On Tuesday 9 August The Living Coast was honoured with a visit from the UK's Permanent Ambassador to UNESCO, Laura Davies.
The Living Coast Biosphere Partnership came together to do a brilliant job showcasing our local UNESCO Biosphere designation to Laura, a team from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development office (who are responsible for the UK’s ongoing relationship with UNESCO on behalf of the UK Government) and the UNESCO UK team, who manage everything to do with UNESCO sites and programmes in the UK.
The delegation spent a whole day in the Biosphere, experiencing the projects and meeting key partners from across our 3 environments of Downs, Towns and Coast.
The tour of the Biosphere started with a visit to Brighton & Hove Buses local depot. This was an opportunity to see first hand how the company have been working to improve the sustainability of public transport across the Brighton & Hove region. The party learned about the company’s electric buses that are already in use in the city – helping to improve air quality on some of the busiest streets – how buses from London are refurbished and repurposed for use locally supporting circular economy principles, and how the company is at the forefront nationally when considering accessibility in public transport. The group also got to experience the technology of the future with a tour of the ground breaking hydrogen powered bus – where the only emission from the tailpipe is water!
Brighton & Hove Buses also very generously provided coach transport for the party around the Biosphere for the day.
After the depot tour the party travelled to Stanmer Park to explore Plumpton College’s newly refurbished OneGarden walled garden and have lunch in the cafe. During lunch the group were able to learn about the Stanmer Park restoration project, the BioCultural Heritage Tourism Project and other sustainable tourism initiatives undertaken by VisitBrighton.
From there the group were met by Lisa-Marie Davies of The Physic Garden at Stanmer Organics to tour some of the 15 projects providing opportunities for health & wellbeing, education, sustainable lifestyles, community horticulture, arts, crafts and ecotherapy at this certified organic site. The group were then treated to a herbal tea and infusion tasting, made on site from plants grown at The Physic Garden, and learned more about organic medicine before taking the opportunity to explore the garden itself.
Next the group met with Sally from the Brighton & Hove City Council Rangers team and volunteers from Brighton & Beyond Wildflower Conservation Society to learn more about the important work the group are doing in propagating local provenance downland wildflowers. These heritage skills are being preserved by the group and shared across the local and regional community through their voluntary work. The flowers the group grow are used in projects across the region to provide habitat and food for our local pollinators as well as stunning displays of native flowers.
The party then had the chance to meet Jess who is Education Ranger for Wilding Waterhall and Greening the Cities, both part of the Changing Chalk project. Greening the Cities will be working with the Wildflower Conservation Society to create new areas of downland wildflower planting across the urban environments of The Living Coast.
After learning so much about our local chalk downland wildflowers, the group then got to see them in their native habitat walking though Stanmer Park. Stanmer Estate Ranger Will and Estate Manager Rob were able to bring to life the year round programme of management for the chalk downland and wider estate, in particularly how they sustainably maintain the downland through grazing with local sheep, as well as caring for some of the oldest trees in the city – alongside thousands of visitors each year!
Finally the group travelled to the ONCA Barge at Brighton Marina to hear about The Living Coast Artist Residency programme from Fabrica and ONCA galleries, as well as meet one of this year’s artists Andrés Saenz de Sicilia and learn about his plans for the residency. The tour of the Biosphere concluded with tea, cake and speeches from Dr Sean Ashworth, Vice-Chair of The Living Coast Biosphere Partnership, Councillor Phélim MacCafferty, Leader of Brighton & Hove City Council and lead partners of The Living Coast Biosphere Partnership, as well as the Ambassador herself. Laura summed up the fantastic day and thanked all Biosphere Partners for their generous contributions, saying:
“Biosphere reserves are about people coming together to reimagine and reinvigorate people’s relationship with their natural environment. From upcycled buses and the renovation of Stanmer Park to the Biosphere’s artist in residence project, it was wonderful to see the commitment and expertise with which The Living Coast partnerships are contributing to make the Brighton and the Lewes Downs region a more sustainable place to live, work and visit.”
Thank you to everyone who took part in showcasing The Living Coast as well as the UNESCO and UK Government teams for coming to visit our Biosphere.
To learn more about the work that UNESCO UK do in supporting all UNESCO sites and programmes in the UK, visit the UNESCO UK website. You can find out more about the role of the Foreign, Commonwealth & development office on their website.
For more information on The Living Coast Biosphere Partnership please visit our webpage.