A management plan for a forgotten woodland hopes to bring the local community and school pupils together to enjoy the unique resource on their doorstep.
Westlain Belt woodland shelters the new Brighton Aldridge Community Academy, the Bridge Community Centre, and part of residential East Moulsecoomb.
The Belt also marks both the boundary of the new South Downs National Park and the boundary of the built-up area of Brighton.
‘…The fallen hulks of two century old beeches; ghostly white root plates of upturned gale-struck trees; slime moulds and shining fungi dating from the primeval swamps; tower blocks for jackdaws, woodpeckers and bats; fossil sponges and shells from the tropical oceans of the dinosaur age; the dens and paths made by generations of local children… …The tranquillity of green glades; the paint box colours of autumn leaf fall; the small wood, timber and twine that nature renders up for our use; the hidden places where we can peer through into the other worlds of nature…’
The woodland of Westlain Belt has grown for over two centuries on the open Downs half way between Brighton and Lewes, planted as an outer part of a galaxy of woodlands centred on Stanmer Park, by its past owners. Many Moulsecoomb and Falmer people will have walked and played there, especially as children or young people.
Dave Bangs, local naturalist and author said “It is time we properly recognised and managed this old and lovely place for what it is truly worth…a place to learn, to have fun, to wonder, to enjoy tranquillity, and to appreciate nature. It is for that reason that this Management Plan has been written. We hope all Westlain Belt’s neighbouring communities will benefit.”
Wilf Nicholls from The Prince’s Trust who funded the report said “The Prince’s Trust is proud to be supporting increasing numbers of disadvantaged young people in the area and this is a fantastic project that offers so much, not only for the young people that have led the project, but for the Academy and its pupils, the environment and the wider community. It will leave a legacy of lasting improvements and increased access to the woods as a natural, leisure and learning resource for the whole community.”
Natasha Silsby from Brighton Aldridge Community Academy said: “The Brighton Aldridge Community Academy is thrilled to have been part of this process. The surrounding woodlands present such rich learning opportunities and health benefits for our students and the local community; we can’t wait to get started.”
Ben Sherratt from Sustrans said: “The Sustrans Bike It Project runs bike clubs in Moulsecoomb Primary and BACA, the young people in these clubs are keen riders and are really looking forward to using the local woodland for their back yard adventures on their bikes.”
There will be a celebratory walk on Wednesday 19th September 3pm
You can see the management plan here