Nature's Recovery - the Sussex story

, 25 May 2023
Nature's Recovery - the Sussex story
Woods Mill Valley Field

By Chris Corrigan

Interim CEO Sussex Wildlife Trust

As I write this, I have many Trust colleagues contributing to the delivery of a powerful vision for a 100 km corridor for nature linking the High Weald to the sea. They are talking to landowners about visions for their land, working with groups of volunteers to undertake interventions on sites for nature, inspiring children from our coastal communities about the wonders of the Sussex coast and sea, and working with marine scientists to secure funding to help us reduce the impact of sedimentation on our returning kelp.

Building functional corridors for nature isn’t just about inspiring people and creating new opportunities for wildlife to thrive (the exciting bits), it is also about the sorry business of stepping in, to challenge, when nature is at risk. While some of my colleagues are out 'inspiring and visioning and getting their hands dirty' others are here in the office - working tirelessly on the statutory policies needed to protect nature, feeding into local council planning and decision making, and talking to our local MPs. Sadly, defending nature still remains a critical aspect of our work to recover nature. Defending nature is one of the most important roles we play, as the expertise to challenge and influence decision making process is a rare skill-set and we are fortunate to employ some of nature's most fastidious advocates.

This vision of the Weald to Waves is for a corridor for wildlife running from the recovering kelp to Ashdown Forest. Having a bold, well communicated vision for people to get behind is vital.

We all want to feel part of something, and the needs of wildlife so often play second-fiddle to economic and other land use demands. We need bold visions like Weald to Waves which we can work together to deliver. We are delighted to play a big part with our work we deliver through initiatives such as Wilder Horsham District and Wilder Ouse (formerly Sussex Flow Initiative). These are natural hubs of activity for the Weald to Waves vision which currently has three geographic strands (I’m sure there will be more in time) and each strand falls into areas where Sussex Wildlife Trust is already working with landowners and communities to these ends. We also have an opportunity to develop our nature reserves in the target area, with sites like Amberley Wildbrooks and Woods Mill providing opportunities for the special wildlife to expand and increase beyond the reserve boundaries as the wider landscape improves.

We certainly feel that we are very much embedded into the Waves aspect of the Weald to Waves vision through our work championing the newly announced Highly Protected Marine area and of course the Sussex Kelp Recovery. This journey to champion our 'waves' has been a rollercoaster and we have been joined by dozens of organisations all working to a shared ambition. Sussex must be one of the most energised areas of the UK when it comes to marine conservation. Our current focus is on the very real threat of sedimentation in Sussex waters. Where does it come from? What impact is it having on the kelp or other species? Can we reduce it? Conversations at this level on sedimentation are catalysed by the kelp recovery as we all want our kelp back. If anything is preventing the recovery then we are determined to work together to change it. There is a powerful engine of individuals and organisations ready to push for systemic change in our seascape and I’m very proud of the Sussex Wildlife Trust playing a leading role working alongside others to make a real difference for both people and nature.

We have been delighted by the Weald to Waves vision and are proud to incorporate the ambition in our own plans to help deliver meaningful change. By working together there is a real prospect of Sussex being a UK leader in how to do large-scale restoration for the benefit of both wildlife and people.

If we are collectively going to meet the '30% of land managed for nature by 2030' ambition held globally and nationally by Governments and by our own Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts, then we want Sussex to be an outstanding example of how it’s done at land and at sea.

Big goals need fresh and powerful plans of action. We know that the environmental charities and agencies are stepping up their games - Wildlife Trust projects and networks of remarkable National Trust initiatives, strong RSPB leadership, powerful Woodland Trust lobbying and some impressive projects from our Rivers Trusts. These given commitments go alongside the contributions from local authorities, protected landscapes and government agencies, businesses as well as our Sussex estates, landowners, land managers and our local communities. This is what working alongside Weald to Waves is about - jointly reaching the ultimate shared goal of Nature Recovered.

Leave a comment


  • Stephen Prior:

    We certainly need rivers in West Sussex to be as good as possible, plus linking in to other natural corridors.

    30 May 2023 08:34:00

  • Alice Tyrrell:

    Fantastic work done and ongoing.
    With the government’s commitment to leaving newly developed sites in a better ecological state than when stared what are your outline plans for when the Wealden House gets started?
    Wealden House , Lewes Rd, Ashurst Wood, East Grinstead obtained Planning Permission this summer for building 15 flats and 43 other hereditaments (houses) on a mainly brown field site.
    The buildings however are due to be built with 15 meters of Ancient Woodland Buffer on its south eastern corner. A fence, I presume, will be built dividing the natural ancient Woodland which eventually goes to Weir Wood reservoir.
    What are your views about this?
    What is going to happen to the wild life including bats, hedgehogs, frogs & toads, badgers and others that live in these woods while building a high dog & cat proof fence?
    The local foxes have already transferred their feeding grounds to East Grinstead so I’m not worried about them.
    The local deer will be even more active by the A22 so motorists look out!
    Please reply directly

    20 Dec 2023 15:30:00

  • Sussex Wildlife Trust:

    Hi Alice. We've forwarded this to the Conservation team, who will be back at work in January.