Country park no longer the jewel in the crown

From: Monty Larkin Clyde Road, St Leonards on Sea

Thursday, 17th June 2021, 2:24 pm

I want to urgently draw attention to the now lamentable state of the Seven Sisters Country Park at Exceat.

Later this year it should be celebrating its 50th birthday, its establishment being brought about by hard-fought negotiations by East Sussex County Council’s then County Planning Officer, Lesley Jay.

The Park was once referred to as the council’s ‘jewel in the crown.’ Sadly, that is no longer the case.

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The Park has now passed through five managing organisations during the past 32 years.

Of immediate concern in this letter is the deplorable collapse of its wildlife biodiversity through a lack of correct grazing management.

Grazing management passed during the early 1990s to the Park’s long-term tenant, who subsequently completely failed the Park’s objectives.

This has been compounded during the last decade or so by a lack of statutory oversight from the government’s wildlife agency, English Nature, (this agency having been emasculated and starved of funding). Fortunately earlier this year, the Park’s grazier finally moved away, the Park at present being ungrazed.

Inappropriate grazing (aided by atmospheric nitrogen pollution) has caused the rampant spread of the invasive Tor grass. This grass (which is of little value to farmers) is steadily eliminating the Park’s rich chalk grassland assemblages of insects and flowers, (think in particular of butterflies and wild orchids).

This infestation, for that is what it is, is even observable to the trained naturalist at some distance while driving along the A259 coast road.

March 2021 saw the Park handed over to the South Downs National Park but so far little appears to have changed on the ground with only obscure reference to improving the Park’s habitats.

A report I submitted to them two months ago has not been acknowledged. Rumour has it they are proposing to lease-out the Park for cattle grazing?

To control Tor grass and to hopefully restore the chalk grassland, close-cropping animals such as sheep and/or hardy native ponies will also likely to be required, together with other additional land management changes.

Unless these actions are urgently undertaken, many of the jewels in that metaphorical ‘crown’ will simply consist of coloured glass.