Clayton Wood Natural Burial Ground marks 10 years of countryside conservation

Great Crested Newts, a soprano pipistrelle bat and 122 species of plants have all been discovered at a natural burial site in the South Downs National Park.

Opened more than 10 years ago, Clayton Wood Natural Burial Ground has been working with a local wildlife trust to ensure it makes a positive difference to the local environment.

The latest monitoring report of the West Sussex site recorded 122 species of plants across the site over the last two years.

After installing habitat homes for wildlife, there was also a sighting this year of a soprano pipistrelle which was found within a bat box, as well as nesting birds likely to be blue tits and great tits.

Teague Hampson from Clayton Wood Natural Burial Ground said: “Over the years, we have been working hard to fulfil our conservation management commitments at the site. The site’s biodiversity is extremely important to us and our colleagues take particular care to make sure it is protected.

“We realise we are incredibly fortunate to be set in 15 acres of countryside but we have learnt a lot by working alongside the Wildlife Trust and small actions can make a big difference. We hope other local businesses will join us and make a difference to our local community.”

The natural burial ground has a mix of meadows, wooded glades, short mown paths, pond, reed bed and diverse boundary hedgerows.

The meadows, which have been left to grow, provide a habitat for invertebrates such as bees, butterflies and grasshoppers, as well as cover and foraging habitat for small mammals.

Great Crested Newts, which are legally protected under both UK and European law, have also been found on site. They are one of three native species of newt found in the UK and currently under threat in both their aquatic and terrestrial habitats from a number of sources including agricultural intensification, poor management of ponds, disease and urban developments.

In 2018 during the peak breeding period in late spring, the newts were found in a channel leading into the pond with a peak count of six males and five females as well as eggs in the vegetation.

Looking ahead to 2019 and beyond, the team at Clayton Wood is developing plans to further improve the ecological status of this unique natural burial ground.

Sarah Jackson, senior ecologist at Arcadian Ecology who has been working with the burial ground, said: “Working with Clayton Wood Natural Burial Ground to develop a biodiversity plan has shown how every land manager can do their bit, and the importance of on-going to monitoring and advice to ensure actions are having a positive effect for wildlife. If you own a business or look after some land, get in touch to find out how you can help nature.”

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