February 9th, 2023

New plan unveiled to bring Cissbury Fields to life

Thanks to valuable input from the community and specialist partners, a new management plan has been created for Cissbury Fields to ensure the popular space becomes a thriving environment for wildlife and visitors alike.

Over the last year, Worthing Borough Council have been working closely with residents, dog walkers, ecologists, nature groups and others to renature the popular site.

The Fields, located at the foot of Cissbury Ring, were previously farmed by a tenant, but were taken back under the control of the Council in 2021 as part of the Council’s pledge to support biodiversity and help tackle climate change.

Like some of the surrounding landscapes, Cissbury Fields is made up of chalk grassland - an ecosystem which has been described as Europe’s equivalent of the tropical rainforest, due to the rich diversity of life it can hold and support.

Cissbury Fields therefore requires some special attention to bring it back to its former glory, something the Council are looking to achieve by working with the South Downs National Park Authority and National Trust, ecologists and the local people most connected with the site.

One of the bigger changes to the management of the site will be the re-introduction of livestock - a process the Council hopes to get underway in 2024. Local residents believe cows were last let free to graze there 25 years ago.

Following the lead of the National Trust at Cissbury Ring, it’s hoped that using livestock to naturally control vegetation growth will reduce intensive human intervention. In turn, this will promote a greater diversity of wildflower and plant growth on the site, and attract pollinators and wildlife to Worthing’s haven on the South Downs.

Although the Council is looking to encourage new life to the Fields, this won’t be at the expense of the visitor experience. Community involvement in fun activities is also at the forefront of the plan, as well as steps to create dedicated walking paths, entry points and an on-site car park. The Council are also looking at ways to tackle dog fouling in the area.

Cllr Vicki Wells, Worthing’s Cabinet Member for the Environment, said: “Since Neolithic times, the whole Cissbury area has supported people and nature. It is a wonderful and fascinating location because of its archaeological and ecological significance. 

“By creating a plan that balances restoration and 21st century engagement of the fields, we can all support this fantastic and much loved site at a time of biodiversity crisis. Grazing cattle are a crucial element that will naturally help restore the historic chalk grassland, actively re-Naturing Cissbury Fields. 

This plan is a wonderful co-production between the Council and residents who are passionate about the conservation of this space. For everyone involved, this balance has been the key focus.

“We should all be enormously proud of this work. I can’t wait for the exciting community workshops and activities planned to support nature at this special space moving forward.”

Lance Allen, Chair at the Findon Valley Residents’ Association, said: “We’re pleased to help increase awareness of the Borough Council’s re-naturing plans for Cissbury Fields. This agricultural land has lain fallow for many years and is not “open access", but we support the Council’s desire to balance nature with people’s growing recreational needs.

“The intended rare-breed cattle, grazing in just one of the six fields at any one time, will help over time to restore the land from rough turf to downland meadow. Local people will always be able to enjoy the majority of the site, and we would ask everyone to please respect the site, its users and observe the Countryside Code.”

If you wish to view and give feedback on the management plan for Cissbury Fields, it’s currently on display in Findon Valley Library by the Findon Valley Residents Association until Saturday 11th March 2023. Findon Library is open 1pm to 5pm from Monday to Wednesday, and 9am to 1pm from Thursday to Saturday.

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Tags: #LetsSusItOut, Community, Environment Eco, News

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