Lewes, Ringmer and the surrounding villages are fortunate to have so many fantastic wildlife areas close by. Within a few minutes walk of the town centre you can encounter wild habitats and some amazing creatures.
Malling Down nature reserve
Stand almost anywhere in Lewes and Malling Down dominates the view to the east, its chalk hills towering up and overlooking the town. It really is worth the climb to the top, if only for the view that takes in the town, the wet meadows surrounding the River Ouse, the South Downs stretching away, or the expanse of the Low Weald farmland. In summer however, there are a thousand things to command the attention. Rare butterflies and other insects thrive in this downland landscape.
This reserve is owned and managed by the Sussex Wildlife Trust and the Trust’s rare breed sheep graze the reserve throughout the year to maintain the short turf which is vital to the survival of many species of plants and animals.
Southerham nature reserve
Beyond Malling Down lies Southerham – another Sussex Wildlife Trust reserve. In many ways Southerham Farm is an extension of Malling Down, for it lies right next to it. Southerham is much more than a working farm however, for it is a fabulous nature reserve in its own right. Within this peaceful valley there are several warm, south-facing slopes which are alive with butterflies in mid-summer.
Mount Caburn National Nature Reserve
Further east the landscape is dominated by The Caburn. Mount Caburn National Nature Reserve is managed by Natural England and is famous for its colony of burnt orchids. From the Bronze-Age Hill Fort on top of The Caburn you can view the line of the South Downs that stretches past Lewes and heads west. A train from will take you from Lewes to Glynde station in 5 minutes and from there you can start your ascent to the summit.
Lewes Brooks Site Special Scientific Interest
Cutting through the South Downs the Ouse Valley provides valuable habitats to a whole new suite of wildlife. The water filled ditches are home to rare amphibians and beetles and the wet meadows provide nesting sites and important feeding stations for bird life. The Lewes Brooks Site Special Scientific Interest(SSSI) encompasses 330 hectares of the floodplain to the south of Lewes.
Here the RSPB own and manage their Lewes Brooks reserve, carefully managing water levels to create breeding and wintering habitats for a number of bird species.
Lewes Railway Land Local Nature Reserve
Closer to Lewes is the Lewes Railway Land Local Nature Reserve which is managed by Lewes District Council and The Lewes Railway Land Wildlife Trust Here, a few minutes from the bustle of Cliffe High Street, you’ll find wet woodland, reedbeds and many other habitats which attract a wealth of wildife.
The Pells, Landport Bottom and Baxters Field
To the north of Lewes lies The Pells an area of marshy scrub which comes alive with migrating warblers in the spring and is a gateway for exploring the Ouse to the north of Lewes.
West of the town is Landport Bottom local nature reserve; forty-four hectares of Downland on the site of the ‘Battle of Lewes.
In the town of Lewes itself you are never far from wildlife. Parks, cemeteries and green spaces all provide homes and vital feeding habitats for birds, insects and other animals. Tythe Copse in Baxters Field
in the heart of Lewes is carefully managed for a wide variety of wildlife.
Just as important as all these wildlife sites is the nature reserve you have just beyond your door. Your garden. Through simple wildlife friendly gardening you can create vital habitats and help bring more wildlife into the heart of your town or village – no matter what size garden you have.
A Living Landscape
All these local sites described above are home to a wide range of wildife – including many species which are now endangered within the UK. For their continued survival we need these sites to be part of a larger functioning landscape which gives nature the room to adapt, the resilience to change and the opportunity to spread.
We need to restore and rebuild the natural environment in the wider countryside and bring wildlife into our towns and cities. This will not just have a benefit for wildlife – it will increase the ability of the environment to protect us from flooding, to soak up carbon dioxide and to provide other ‘ecosystem services’ beneficial to our society.
Increased access to the natural environment helps improve our mental, physical and spiritual health, improving our quality of life. Through a series of wildlife events in the area we hope to give residents the chance to experience the wildlife and the habitats that are on their doorstep.