Although 2018 has been positive in many respects it appears to be drawing to a close on a negative note.
Matthew Dowse our SDNP Ranger for this area left for sunny Spain and has been replaced by Kate Dziubinska. I hope to meet her soon and to find out what plans are afoot for the continued enhancement of Bepton Down in the winter of 2018/19. Rebekah Smith who was also to the fore in this area of the SDNP is to leave to become an Assistant Ranger in the Western Area of the Park. I have enjoyed working with both of them and they have been instrumental in seeing to the organisation of working groups to ensure certain areas of Bepton Down were cleared. I gather from Bekah that she and a group of volunteers were up on the Down in September and managed to clear some of the Hemp Agrimony in the main grassland area before moving to below the three gates to cut back some of the regrowth. Whilst it sad to see people whom one has grown to know and like over the last year leave I hope that the good working relationship with the working parties organised by the SDNP and their volunteers will continue in the months ahead. On behalf of Bepton Down Conservation Group I would like to wish both Bekah and Matt all the best in their future work.
The gorgeous Sussex Cattle are still on the Down and doing an excellent job in the grassy areas of the SSSI that they seem to enjoy. They do not, however, like the areas of brambles, dogwood and dog roses that have sprung up since the spring following the systematic cut and collect of the whole area in late 2017. It was inevitable that growth would happen but we had hoped to see a systematic cut and collect this autumn. However the cut, such as it was, took place in the grassy areas and a few of the ruderal growth areas leaving tracts of rubbish in situ for no apparent reason. This is really upsetting and disheartening as it would appear that these areas are now left for the winter and will, if left unchecked, continue to grow in 2019. All these undesirables stand about 2′ or 60 cm high at present and will double in size next year. In next to no time we will be back to the bad old days of Bepton Down being totally out of control again.
It is hard to understand why those in charge of the management of this SSSI just fail to capitalise on all the hard work undertaken since the end of 2017. Why would anyone work so hard to bring things under control only to let it all go again?
It is my understanding that the cattle will soon be replaced by sheep. These could be the teaser rams that were present last winter or barren ewes…. Watch this space.
The following photographs show the state of the place now with all the rubbish left to take hold.