National Reserve status granted for Coulsdon’s Farthing Downs

Croydon will get its own National Nature Reserve later this month, as more than 1,000 acres of chalk downland across Riddlesdown, Farthing Downs, Happy Valley, through to Kenley Common, Sanderstead and Whyteleafe will be formally declared by Natural England as the “South London Downs”.

The City Commons-managed downland around Coulsdon and Kenley has been recognised asa NNR

As Inside Croydon reported back in April, the City of London Corporation, which manages large parts of the downland bordering Croydon and Surrey, applied for the NNR status to bring together Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), including the rare flower-rich chalk downs, and other sites of value to wildlife.

NNR status also affords additional planning protection from development.

Comprising 1,030 acres, and beloved of walkers, runners, cyclists and the home for cattle, sheep and goats to help manage the natural eco-system, Happy Valley and Farthing Downs sit between Coulsdon and the Surrey Hills, which is already designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty. The South London Downs will be London’s third National Nature Reserve, joining Richmond Park and Ruislip Woods.

There are 224 National Nature Reserves across England include the Derbyshire Dales, Dawlish Warren in Devon, Dungeness and Lindisfarne island. These site’s features are of national and often international importance. “NNRs are the very best places to experience the natural world at first hand,” according to Natural England.

Even NNRs are subject to 21st-century problems, like the burnt-out van left in Farthing Downs car park this week

The South London Downs area includes SSSIs at Riddlesdown (calcareous grassland, vascular plant assemblage and scrub), and at Farthing Downs and Happy Valley (lowland grassland, calcareous grassland, greater yellow rattle and woodland).

In a press release confirming their decision this week, government agency Natural England said, “The new NNR will be at the heart of recovering nature across South London, improving and connecting areas that will benefit wildlife and people. It seeks to enhance the management of the area for wildlife, while creating a site where people can enjoy, learn and engage with the natural world. With its location on the urban fringe, the NNR opens up opportunities for recreation and access to nature for the 385,000 Croydon residents and beyond.”

There is to be a “South London Downs Discovery Day” on July 25 at Farthing Downs, as part of the National Park City Festival. Activities will include guided walks, meet the sheep, citizen science, outdoor yoga and other nature activities for all the family.

A declaration ceremony will be held at 3pm, involving speeches from various suits, while there are guided walks, meet the sheep, citizen science, outdoor yoga and other nature activities for all the family planned from 1pm to 5pm that day.

Delighted: Natural England’s Marian Spain

“I am delighted that we can now formally declare the South London Downs as London’s third National Nature Reserve,” said Marian Spain, the interim chief executive of Natural England.

“The new NNR will make a huge difference to south London’s wildlife and the lives of Londoners by giving them access to some of the country’s very best wildlife in beautiful open spaces right on their doorsteps, demonstrating why London is indeed a National Park City.

“The declaration ceremony at Farthing Downs will be a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the beauty of the NNR and its importance for nature with the local community. It will also give us the opportunity to celebrate the hard work of our partners who have helped to make this a reality.”

Graeme Doshi-Smith, the chairman of the City of London Corporation Commons Committee, said: “We are very proud to be part of London’s new National Nature Reserve – recognising the importance of these open spaces to nature and the environment. This site will be celebrated for years to come as an iconic natural sanctuary in south London, a haven for wildlife and a centre for learning.

“These precious sites are a natural resource for Londoners and visitors from across the UK. Together we are ensuring that they are protected and conserved for generations to come.”

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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