The speaker at Senlac Rotary’s meeting on 4th October 2023 was Lord Ralph Lucas of Dingwall, a natural historian and a member of the parliamentary Environment and Climate Change Committee, who spoke about the development of Eastbourne’s Jubilee Green Canopy and the challenges it faced. There had been a five mile plantation of ash trees lining the escarpment above Eastbourne but ash die-back killed them all; there had been efforts to clear the dead trees and scrub and replace with new trees. A committee was set up to oversee the project but the council ran out of money and the project was abandoned. The Queen's Green Canopy was her chosen way for the nation to leave a legacy of her Platinum Jubilee - to plant trees and shrubs to celebrate her reign and presented the opportunity to revive the plans for the escarpment. A committee headed by a group of influential people was set up and Eastbourne’s Jubilee Green Canopy charity was formed in 2022 with the aim of creating an avenue of ecologies stretching from Butts Brow at the northern edge of the town to Black Robin Farm near Beachy Head. This would be a 10-year project to regenerate the slopes of the South Downs above Eastbourne, transforming a wilderness of bramble and dead ash into a rich haven for wildlife and a beautiful and engaging experience for everyone. It would be a collaborative venture with a number of local organisations including the council and sponsorship from many sources would be sought.
In 2022 a start was made to plant trees mostly behind the northern section of the Royal Eastbourne Golf Club, above Priory Heights and above Moira House along a rather neglected foot path up the escarpment. Sadly, the council again ran out of money and volunteer numbers were difficult to keep up; thus the challenges were set. One way of attracting volunteers was giving people and schools an interest in what they were doing and an orchard was created in the canopy. So far some 550 trees have been planted and “Paradise Grove” has been created; they are now looking forward to working up the hill from there towards the magnificent viewpoint of the Warren Hill dew pond.
There are hopes for the future; Natural England are leaving a lasting public legacy for people and nature by creating a King’s Series of National Nature Reserves to celebrate the Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III. Over the next five years a total of 25 will be created and it is hoped the Eastbourne area will be one. This would enable, over the next 20 years or so, a bigger plan and bigger ideas to enhance the area. However, money, consistency and carrying the people along with the scheme will be major factors.
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