Crowhurst Corner Site of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI) lies on the northern edge of Brighton’s urban fringe and is a Local Wildlife Site with public access. To safeguard the wildlife interest of the site and to compensate for the loss of a small part of the SNCI to development, the Council required extensive habitat creation and the implementation of a long-term management plan.
The Ecology Consultancy was contacted in 2003 and work began with reptile surveys for slow worms and common lizards. Reptile refugia, made from wood and brick piles, were constructed followed by the creation of calcareous grassland on landscaped terraces, formed from excavated chalk.
A bespoke chalk grassland seed-mix was applied, which included a high proportion of horseshoe-vetch to encourage one of the flagship species of the South Downs, the Adonis Blue butterfly. This local and national Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species had been previously recorded on the site. A rich meadow has resulted, containing a wide range of native species alongside more colourful plants that indicate the site’s brownfield history, such as dame’s violet, sulphur cinquefoil, goldenrod, opium poppy and tansy.
Other habitat enhancement includes rough grass banks managed for the benefit of small mammals and invertebrates, and artificial bird and bat boxes. A large green wall, designed to cover a steep cutting, will provide foraging and nesting habitats for insects, birds and bats.
As part of the long-term low-input management, sheep have been re-introduced to graze the reserve for the first time in at least 50 years. The herd includes South Down and Herdwick rare breeds. Grazing is more cost efficient than mechanical cutting and better for the plant communities present.
Redevelopment of the site provided an opportunity to secure the future of its wildlife interest. Through close collaboration with the developers and the council this small area – 1.4 hectares, has resulted in significant gains for biodiversity and a new open green space for local people to enjoy.