Thirty local people gathered at Lynchmere Cricket Pavilion on May 9 for a walk and talk volunteering event to find out how they could help maintain rare lowland heath and wildflower meadows.

It was organised by The Lynchmere Society, a charity which is the largest community-based landowner in the South Downs National Park.

Local people visited and learned about a 17th-century barn whose walls contain some Normandy stone.

They heard about the nearby community orchard containing 36 traditional apple trees including the West Sussex Crawley Beauty and Egremont Russet, and discovered why and how Belted Gallows cows graze the fields and commons in ways that improve wildlife.

Following the tour Christopher Tibbs, who chairs the society’s land management committee, described 3,000 years of history of lowland heath, from its creation, neglect and decline to its being rescued today.

He emphasised the importance of controlling alien and native invasive species such as rhododendron, western hemlock, scrub and bracken to enable the heather to thrive.

Local organic farmer Edwin Brooks explained how the cows’ conservation grazing of the commons kept invasive birch and bracken under control, and how their nibbling gorse and heather stimulated biodiversity and enhanced wildlife.

Botanist and ecologist Bruce Middleton set out how he would create a “botanical baseline” of the commons and meadows, building on the society’s 40-year habitat records.

He will organise workshops to train volunteers about how to find and record a diverse range of flora, fauna and fungi, as well as the birds, mammals, insects, reptiles and amphibians which depend on this habitat.

Society chairman Mike McCart said: “The evening was a great success. We plan to hold more volunteer events during the summer and autumn to build wider community involvement to conserve this precious habitat.”

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