What is it?
The places where water and land meet and mix – wetlands – are some of the richest places for wildlife in Sussex. The county contains some exceptional wetland landscapes, encompassing vast areas of low-lying land in places such as the Pevensey Levels and the Arun valley. Although heavily modified over the centuries through drainage and the embankment of the river channels, in many places the combination of good water quality, the networks of sensitively managed ditches and the mosaics of wet grassland, reed and scrub mean that large areas of nature-friendly wetlands continue to thrive.
Why is it special?
The best wetlands are superb places to see exceptional wildlife, including many iconic species such as lapwing and snipe. They also support large numbers of rare and unusual species such as cut-grass and the fen raft spider. This last species can grow up to 7cm across and lives in and around ditches on the Pevensey Levels, one of a handful of locations where it can still be found. Wetlands are also important because they help to improve the quality of water before it reaches a river and by reducing the impact of flooding; they are also great places for a walk
How do we manage it?
Informed by monitoring of the status and condition of key habitats and species, the management of wetland nature reserves is based around grazing, the management of scrub and the management of water levels and water flows. Each nature reserve has a ten-year management plan and this provides the framework within which decisions are made.
Grazing is probably the single most important management tool used and on many sites this is by cattle and ponies. While wet winter ground conditions mean that this has to take place over the summer months to avoid damage to the vegetation, the precise timing and numbers of stock are deliberately varied from year-to-year. On-going programmes of cyclical ditch and scrub clearance also underpin the good management of a wetland nature reserve.
The Sussex Wildlife Trust’s wetland nature reserves have interest throughout the year with the stunning landscapes providing a backdrop for some stunning wildlife.