Pevensey Marshes is a large, low-lying area of wet grassland. Over 3,500 hectares is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its rich aquatic flora and fauna and we own nearly 150 hectares of land here.
While much of the Pevensey Marshes has been historically drained for agricultural purposes, we try to keep our land as wet as possible to allow wildlife to flourish. We work with local graziers whose cattle graze at low numbers through the summer and, if it is not too wet we graze with sheep in the winter. This keeps the grass at a level suitable for waders such as Lapwing and Redshank to breed.
Wetland features such as ditches, scrapes and pools support a wide range of species. Plants indicative of high water quality such as Water-violet, Tubular Water-dropwort, Flowering-rush and Sharp-leaved Pondweed thrive here and invertebrates are found in abundance. Dragonflies such as Hairy Dragonfly and Variable Damselfly can be seen patrolling the ditches in the summer and the large female Fen Raft Spider stands guard over her spiderlings. The adult spiders can sometimes be hard to find so we monitor the population by counting the nursery webs. The species is doing so well here that some of our spiders have been used in a captive breeding programme to establish new populations in East Anglia. The ditches also support nationally important populations of some rare aquatic molluscs including Anisus vorticulus and Segmentina nitida. We manage the ditches sensitively by clearing them out on rotation so there is always a mix of early and late successional vegetation present and we never clear all of a ditch at any one time.
The Pevensey Marshes is also now one of only a very few places in Sussex where Tree Sparrows breed and our reserve is one of the hotspots. We’ve been working closely with the RSPB to put up nest boxes, supplementary feed and we monitor the population. We hope to boost numbers so Tree Sparrows can move into other areas on the Marshes.