A beautiful nature reserve next to us

OVER recent weeks there have been several letters questioning the management of the Hastings Country Park and I would like to clear up a few areas of concern.

One of the most significant challenges we have faced is taking over the management of the farmland in 2000.

Our goal has been to reverse the decline in habitats and species that had occurred while the area was farmed commercially. We are working hard to make sure we get the balance right between grazing cattle and providing a sustainable and diverse mix of flowers, birds and other species of animals.

A major area of the Hastings Country Park is designated a Special Area of Conservation, which means we have a legal duty to protect some of the most important and threatened habitats and species in the UK.

This can mean, of course, that sometimes we have to make unpopular decisions. We have fenced off the arable fields to ensure good management and minimise disturbance to birds from people and dogs.

We have had some spectacular results with this method and seen spring flowers and the bird population increase year on year. The previous intensive dairy operation had severely damaged this natural biodiversity, so it is particularly satisfying to see so many more species returning.

Unfortunately, this does mean there is no public access to the farm fields, except where there is a public footpath, but we hope that visitors appreciate that this is a long-term project. Footpaths run all around the park and hundreds of visitors every year tell us how much they enjoy seeing the amazing variety of birds, bees, butterflies and flowers. We are supported by Natural England, the Government’s advisers on nature conservation who also monitor and advise us.

We have a beautiful nature reserve right on our doorsteps and I hope everyone will get chance to see it grow and thrive over the coming years.

MURRAY DAVIDSON

environment and natural resources manager

Hastings Borough Council