Community maintenance & care of orchard & wild space

Engagement, Planning, Repair

An ongoing program of community-led landscape management, for the restoration of a public wild play space, orchard and nature reserve.

Wild About Barcombe was established by a community group in 2010 with the intention of providing a place for people to experience nature and elements of the countryside, regardless of age or ability. In recent years the quality of habitats, recreational features and infrastructure has declined due to a lack of volunteers and organised maintenance.

In collaboration with the Parish Council and with the help of advisors from Sussex Wildlife Trust, Ouse and Adur River Trust and the South of England Hedgelaying Society, we have written a management plan that sets out the requirements for restoration, improvement and maintenance, so that the site can fulfill its original purpose and be sustainably cared for and enjoyed by future generations. We have aimed for a balance between management for recreational use and conservation of the wildlife that is the sites’ defining feature and main attraction.

The challenge was to encourage the upkeep of the site by volunteers, where previous efforts had faltered, and to maintain this enthusiasm in the long-term. We worked with a local community group to organise a program of quarterly clear up days, where volunteers could come along and join in, meet new friends and enjoy a seasonal treat. The management tasks have been explained simply and allowances made for varying abilities and ages. Each event is tied to a seasonal meal or activity, to be enjoyed together.

Projects tackled by volunteers aged 5 – 75 have included: Restoration of orchard trees; Laying a dead-hedge; scrub clearance for more diverse edge habitats; path maintenance; restoration of timber play features; installation of home made owl boxes; building steps and pathways. Local people feel a genuine sense of pride by participating in the care and maintenance of their treasured open space.