A good audience heard a very encouraging presentation on the ‘Weald to the Waves’ project, given by one of its leading lights James Baird. The project is to create a series of green wildlife corridors from the borders of Kent and Surrey to the sea. The main corridor is to run from the Ashdown Forest, near East Grinstead, westward across to Ardingly and Horsham, south through the Knepp estate, towards Steyning and then across towards Bury and south to Climping. James Baird owns and farms the large estate at Climping in a two-mile wide Gap down to the sea.
He said the Knepp Estate was a key partner in this project but their commitment to rewilding was not the only way for landowners and public bodies to be part of the green corridors. He and other farmers would continue to cultivate the land and manage livestock but now with an eye to maintaining habitats for wildlife and allowing small animals to move freely from farm to farm, parkland to the downs and from field to forest, along green corridors.
There would be more corridors in future, largely following the river valleys – the Adur and the Arun, and Ferring could very well be part of one, following the Rife and linking the Gaps either side of Ferring to Highdown, the National Park and the Duke of Norfolk’s estate. Conservation Group members were very impressed with his optimism and commitment – a change from the all-too-frequent hand wringing and despair from Conservation campaigners.
The meeting also had a report on local wildlife sightings, including birds on migration, the Grey Seal that is frequently seen off Ferring beach and a Common Seal filmed right up the Arun near Pulborough. Ed Miller gave an update on planning issues: Chatsmore Farm was now under crops again but the threat of more housing estates in the Gaps had not gone away. And changes to the planning system were soon to be announced which would probably make it even more difficult for residents to object and Councils to refuse applications.