Sowing the seeds for a sustainable community

Edition: March 2023

Wilder Horsham District is a five-year partnership between the Council and Sussex Wildlife Trust, working to deliver a Nature Recovery Network for our District.

The pond after restoration

Nature Recovery Networks create green corridors and stepping stones to allow wildlife to move from place to place through a mosaic of habitats. They provide plants and animals with places to live, feed and breed.

In the first partnership of its kind, we are working with local communities, farmers and landowners to create networks of land that are enhanced to nurture wildlife.

Funding to support Nature Recovery Networks

Wilder Horsham District now has a Nature Recovery Award grant available to support farmers, landowners and communities wishing to implement practical projects to expand and improve networks for wildlife across our local landscape. Projects can involve different sized areas of land and be in urban or rural areas.

Introducing the Nature Recovery Award

Launched in November 2020, the Nature Recovery Award funding is already proving popular.

Here we take a look at Great Barn Farm, near the Chanctonbury Ring, whose founder and co-ordinator, Greg Valerio MBE, is working to create improved environments to benefit wildlife.

Greg Valerio MBE

Greg’s sustainable community

We recently visited Greg Valerio (pictured) on the historic 19th Century farmstead on the Wiston Estate. Greg was one of the first recipients of our Nature Recovery Award funding.

At the outset of the project the Wilder Horsham District team carried out an assessment of the entire ecology of the farm site.

Creating a haven for wildlife

One of the first priorities for Greg was to tackle the problem of an old dried out pond. Water in the landscape, such as ponds, streams and rivers is fantastic for supporting a wide range of plants and animals. A full restoration of the pond at the site was key to creating a more thriving haven for wildlife.

The farm as a classroom

Capturing learning at the farm is another key objective for Greg and the community. He is now gearing up to provide more educational visits at the site. His aim is to provide an ecological learning centre for children and interested community groups alike – breeding the next generation of sustainable thinkers.

Greg maintains that:

If you showcase best practice more people will want to know more and only then does change start to happen.

Greg Valerio

Creating a self-sustaining ecosystem

The community's plan includes creating a forest garden by planting mixed fruits and nurturing traditional woodland trees to improve biodiversity.

The creation of a wildflower meadow will support bees and other pollinators, and the development of a woodland tree corridor for bats and birds will contribute greatly to an improved nature recovery network system.  Greg’s main watchwords are:

  • Go slow
  • Be regenerative
  • No pesticides
Rare breed pigs

Supporting the local economy food chain

Areas of land are being kept as pasture for sheep, cows and pigs, as the promotion of animal welfare is another major feature of the work ethic here. Rare breeds are the main focus. This is agriculture on a small scale. As Greg says: “It’s a value chain, not a volume chain.”

Rare breed cows

Greg will look to supply local butchers and farmers’ markets to feed into the local food chain, supporting the local economy. Any leftover crops or food will be given to local people. What does success look like? We will see the main fruits of all this labour in around nine to ten years’ time – so it’s very much a long term turnaround.

The Wilder Horsham District project and Nature Recovery Award scheme is directly funded by the Council – with the grant scheme being £30,000 a year. Henri Brocklebank, Director of Conservation at Sussex Wildlife Trust said:

Horsham District Council should be really proud of what they have set up here with the Wilder Horsham District project – it is very much the envy of other areas.

Henri Brocklebank, Director of Conservation at Sussex Wildlife Trust
A field of sheep on a sunny day

Get involved and apply now for funds

Do you have a scheme in mind that could help get our landscapes teeming with more wildlife? Applicants can apply for funding for projects of any size up to a maximum of £5,000.

Apply for the Nature Recovery Award

To submit an application go to the Nature Recovery Award’s webpage on Sussex Wildlife Trust's website.

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