The Friends of Sutton Downs (FoSD) formed in the winter of 2020 with the aim of renaturing around the Downs Leisure Centre in Seaford. Coming out of the pandemic the group envisaged this busy outdoor sports and recreational amenity becoming a more welcoming place for wildlife and well-being of the community.
The land is owned by Lewes District Council who have been supportive of the group’s plans and FoSD have built partnerships with other local organisations too. The group has held several community tree planting days over the last two winters, and together with Trees for Seaford, planted 7 trees in spaces among other trees and 12 fruit trees to start a community orchard. This winter they will plant more fruit trees in the orchard and ornamental trees around a seating area to give shade to protect from the scorching sunny days which we’re experiencing more frequently.
Last winter a 50metre edible hedge was planted along a boundary wall. This, along with the new trees have been looked after all year by a hardy bunch of volunteers. Much watering was needed through the long, dry and hot early summer, relying on the generosity of neighbours sharing their water supply.
An important task for the coming year is to establish access to water for the growing project considering all of the ways to capture and store rainwater. This is perfect timing for the next exciting project – a rain garden. This will include capturing rainfall from an area of the leisure centre’s roof and storing it in a large tank with overflows feeding a specially planted rain garden and planters. These green infrastructure solutions will capture intense rainfall that we’re experiencing more frequently and store it for later use. It will also allow rain water to be released slowly into the ground, reducing the amount of water that enters the sewer system.
As a recipient of the National Lottery Community Fund as part of the wider Ouse Valley Climate Action project, the group has so many exciting plans to showcase sustainable gardening ideas to the public. There will also be a compost area and community garden using many unique features to showcase sustainable gardening methods including ways to make a weather resilient garden.
If you’re interested to get involved, contact FoSD through their Facebook and Instagram pages, join one of their regular planning meetings or there is an opportunity to walk around and hear more about the project from a member of the team on the first Tuesday of every month at 10am. Look out on their Facebook page for tree planting or gardening days. At the moment volunteers are called upon for watering and weeding when needed.