Whitehawk Hill is an ancient habitat designated a Local Nature Reserve under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. When declaring a LNR the local authority accepts a legal responsibility for ensuring that the special ecological interest of the site is maintained.
The nature reserve includes areas of species-rich chalk grassland which supports many rare and threatened plant and animal species, including colonies of Adonis and Chalkhill Blue butterflies and the Dingy Skipper. Areas of ancient gorse support protected birds like the Dartford Warbler and the complexity of the landscape provides a home for reptiles like adders and lizards. Flowering plants, shrubs and trees on the Nature Reserve support many beneficial pollinators including several species of rare native bees like the Brown Banded Carder Bee.
The Hill is also one of our cities sheep grazing sites, run by volunteer shepherds from the community called ‘lookerers’. Over 97% of the old flower rich grassland has disappeared over the past one hundred years, so the Herdwick sheep were introduced to browse on the the woody scrub and coarse grass, which allows a great diversity of wild flowers and other species like insects to flourish.
The nature reserve is also home to Racehill Community Orchard which has grown to include over two hundred fruit trees and thousands of native hedgerow species.
It’s worth looking at how Brighton and Hove City Council describe Whitehawk Hill its own website:
They call it a ‘vital green lung’ for the city describing the ‘ancient chalk grassland’ as ‘internationally important...one of Britain’s rarest and richest habitats, with threatened species including Adonis Blue butterfly and orchids’.
After a 2012 consultation with the community BHCC said they were ‘looking at ways to conserve the important features of the hill and improve it as a resource for local people. People in the local area were asked to comment on how they’d like to see the hill managed in the future’. They received ‘responses from all over the city, and beyond’ whichwas ‘very encouraging and clearly shows how highly regarded the hill is, and for so many reasons.’
The BHCC ‘seven priorities for the future of Whitehawk Hill’ as stated in the results of the consultation include:
We believe that BHCC should honour the results of the 2012 community consultation and ensure that the statutory responsibility for protecting the special ecological interest of our nature reserve is maintained.