Weald to Waves

As part of our 2017 Whole Estate Plan, we are collaborating with the South Downs National Park and other neighbouring landowners to create nature corridors across the local area. Connecting these fragmented habitats is key to mitigating a changing climate and reversing the biodiversity loss that we have experienced in the UK over the past 50 years.

Weald to waves project

Wiston Estate is a founding partner of the Weald to Waves initiative and with our work with the Steyning Downland Scheme we have already seen the proven success at habitat restoration in this area.

Weald to Waves is a network of farmers, land managers, councils, researchers, wildlife charities, schools, gardeners and community groups. Together we are establishing a nature recovery corridor from the High Weald to the Sussex coast and revived seas, encompassing over 20,000 hectares of contiguous habitat.

We spoke to Richard Goring who told us a little more about how the project started. “About 10 years ago, myself and Charlie Burrell, co-owner of Knepp Estate talked about green bridges in Europe. These amazing bridges allow animals to cross from one side of the road to the other, and we thought – wouldn’t it be great if we could link Knepp to Wiston Estate over the A24. Major infrastructure like roads and railways are one of main blockages to allowing nature to move around the UK, and it would be so good to see these blocks of land connected. It would allow conservation grazing herds from the Weald, which can get really wet, up to the chalk hills where its much drier for these animals to roam.”

Fast forward a few years, and these conversations grew with other landowners. James Baird, who farms down on the coast at Climping Gap is part of a family who have been farming for generations. “James is a wonderful man, farming is in his blood, he loves the land and ecology, and is super passionate about what’s going on in nature!”

Whilst travelling in Borneo, James was shocked by the impact of deforestation, felled to make way for palm oil plantations. When returning to England, and seeing patterns of habitat loss affecting our ecosystems, he wanted to make sure that we didn’t denature the land back home. After reading Isabella Tree’s book, ‘Wilding’, about the Knepp rewilding project, Baird realised the opportunity to connect the projects, and the corridor started to develop.

“James is a real implementer, his energy galvanised a number of us landowners, as well as the National Trust and Ashdown Forest to get involved too. This gathered a sense of momentum of landowners to join up corridors.”

Wiston Estate BNG
W2W maps

In 2010, the UK Government commissioned the ‘Making Space for Nature’ report written by John Lawton, which aimed to review how England’s wildlife and ecological network could be improved to help nature thrive in the face of climate change. In essence the report states that we need more wildlife sites, and that existing sites need to be bigger, they need to be better managed, and we need to join sites together via habitat creation initiatives. Summarised as more, bigger, better and joined up.

“Fundamentally, little nature reserves can’t thrive in tiny pockets, so you’ve got to link this all up in wide corridors, meaning nature can flow and carry seeds which creates habitats for more birds and insects, as well as creating healthy land for food produce etc. The idea is to partner with larger organisations too, and it’s encouraging that corporates are realising that its important to account for biodiversity loss, as well as carbon. When these bigger organisations are looking to invest back into the land, the Weald to Waves Project is a great way to start offsetting the impact of what’s going on in nature.”

The first seven landowners met and signed a memorandum of understanding in 2022. These original landowners formed the first core areas for nature recovery. The corridor started to grow, joining up these landowners with other nature recovery partnerships and stakeholders. By considering Biodiversity Opportunity Areas, Priority Habitats, Nature Reserves and other important areas for nature that lie between these core areas, the Weald to Waves corridor was mapped. The corridor is growing all the time as people and organisations get involved, and the gaps between pledged land get smaller!

Nature recovery requires a collective effort. The shared ambition of the partnership’s founding stakeholders, to support nature recovery through improving habitat quality and connectivity, resulted in a corridor stretching 100 miles, from the Ashdown Forest in the High Weald, following the Arun, Adur and Ouse rivers to the sea at Climping, Shoreham and Newhaven.

W2W. Sussex Bay image
Wiston Estate BNG

These nature corridors are already successful around the country. With super farm clusters in the Cotswolds, and big landscape recovery projects further North in Scotland, such as Wildland Scotland. “Not only is this project a really positive thing for nature, but we are beginning to release what benefits giving back to nature brings to us. One of the smaller projects we’re looking at here at Wiston is recreating wildflower meadows in the land to the west and above Steyning. This will hopefully reduce the amount of water flooding into Steyning town by helping to slow the water down as it finds its way towards the Adur on the eastern side of the town. This is another benefit of allowing nature to come back and restore habitats.”

We asked Richard why the Weald to Waves project is important to him, “One of the great positives this project has for land stewards is the genuine joy of getting outside and seeing wildlife come back to these areas. For instance, what dad [Harry Goring] did in the 80’s – taking 650 acres of less productive land out of arable and putting it into chalk grassland restoration showed huge foresight – these downland valleys are amazing, and come June, they will be a riot of colour and absolutely humming with insects!”

Weald to Waves hope to engage people and communities across Sussex to protect nature so that communities can thrive alongside it. Anyone can sign up to the project, whether you are a farmer, landowner, gardener or want to involve your community.  Find out more HERE.

Wiston Estate BNG

BNG at Wiston Estate