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We are delighted that Sevenoaks District Council has won funding for the Sevenoaks Greensand Commons Project in Kent. The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded £65,900 to help the council develop plans for increasing public access to the commons and improving them for wildlife.
The council will then prepare a full bid to enable it to bring its plans to fruition.
The society, with Kent Wildlife Trust, the National Trust, local councils and others, has supported the council’s plans over a number of years.
The project focuses on the greensand commons of Sevenoaks and Westerham, two clusters of commons which are entwined with the heritage of all the people who have lived and worked alongside them, but which are now some of the most underused and overlooked areas of wild land in the Sevenoaks area.
The commons cover an area of just under 300 hectares of varied habitats, ranging from high forest to coppiced woodland, and they include habitats which are rare in other parts of the UK, such as wooded heath. They share a rich natural and human history and have been an important resource for the communities for generations. They are owned mainly by two large estates: Squerryes at Westerham and Knole at Sevenoaks, and have been managed by Sevenoaks District Council since 1925 under a scheme set up in 1899 for the benefit of local people. In addition, Sevenoaks Town Council owns and manages Sevenoaks Common.
The commons include Hosey, Farley and Crockhamhill Commons at Westerham and Bitchet, Fawke and Seal Chart and Redhill Wood Commons at Sevenoaks.
The aim of the project is to engage local people by working with pupils at local primary and secondary schools, thereby inspiring children to get involved in ecological surveys and long-term monitoring and to value the commons on their doorstep. It will also recruit and train local people in conservation work and form volunteer work-parties, and it will support the formation of a Friends’ group for each common so that they are cared for as part of the community. In addition, it will develop a Conservators of the Commons Group based on that at Ashdown Forest which gives wood permits for cutting of wood for wood-burning stoves.
Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘We are delighted that the council is seeking a long-term solution for these special commons, so that they can be managed for and by the community while enabling wildlife to flourish.’
The next stage will be consultation with interested parties, when project ideas for each of the commons can be developed for the whole bid. We shall want to ensure that full access to the commons is recognised and addressed.