New era for Seven Sisters to benefit people and nature
Ownership of the iconic Seven Sisters Country Park has been transferred to the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA).
Completing a negotiation process that started over two years ago, management of the 280-hectare site has now been transferred from East Sussex County Council to the SDNPA, ensuring the beautiful site remains in public ownership.
The Authority has committed just under £2m investment to help create a world-class visitor centre, as well as a long-term goal of improving habitats for wildlife.
Trevor Beattie, Chief Executive of the South Downs National Park Authority, said:
“Today marks a new chapter for Seven Sisters – a truly iconic site of international importance that is a gateway to both the Sussex Heritage Coast and the wider South Downs National Park.
We want to build on the work done by East Sussex County Council to create an outstanding habitat and world-class visitor centre that together do justice to the landscape and the location.
“Our significant initial investment underpins the Authority’s long-term plans to conserve and enhance Seven Sisters Country Park, ensuring that it continues to be an iconic, healthy and cherished place for future generations.”
Work has begun this month on refurbishing the visitor centre and toilet facilities have also re-opened, with a full cleaning schedule in place.
The Authority has a number of initial plans that are part of a long-term commitment to improve the site for people and nature:
- Just under £2m of works to improve the current facilities at Exceat, including a refurbished visitor centre, new and accessible toilet facilities, a locally-sourced and sustainable takeaway food service, better signage, as well as renovated accommodation and facilities at Foxholes, allowing more people to spend a night enjoying the dark night skies reserve.
- Better educational signage for the public so they can explore and understand the history and wildlife of the country park.
- Making caring for the landscape easier by having bins available for rubbish and recycling and supporting responsible dog behavior.
- Improving habitat for a wide range of plants and animals including the adonis blue butterfly, skylark, redshank, yellow horned poppy, ringed plover, bee orchid and wigeon.
- The appointment of a ‘Writer in Residence’, Alinah Azadeh, who will be telling stories of and from this special landscape, exploring themes of diversity, climate and resilience. Alinah’s work will run until the end of 2022, and will explore Seven Sisters and the wider Sussex Heritage Coast through a series of writer retreats, workshops, podcasts, walks and live events. This inspiring new project is being supported by Arts Council England.
- A website to help people to plan their visit and better navigate and understand the features of the country park.
As part of the National Park’s wider goal for nature recovery, there will be careful landscape management to improve chalk grassland, grazing marsh and wet meadows to improve biodiversity.
Trevor added: “The site is part of a vibrant rural community and we want to widen the positive local impact of the country park. We want visitors to feel empowered to explore further along the South Downs Way, or the new England Coast Path, to travel on to other local sites, and to enjoy the wonderful pubs, shops, breweries and vineyards that the local community has to offer.”
Cllr Claire Dowling, Lead Member for Transport and Environment at East Sussex County Council, said: “The transfer of the Seven Sisters Country Park to the South Downs National Park Authority is great news for the residents of, and visitors to, East Sussex.
“Protecting our countryside sites for future generations is a top priority for the council and the Authority is an organisation with a great track record of conservation and safeguarding public access to the countryside.
“I am delighted that the transfer, which ensures this iconic Sussex beauty spot remains in public hands, has been successfully completed.”
The dedicated Seven Sisters team are operating an information van seven days a week over the coming months to support visitors to enjoy and care for Seven Sisters.
Peter Cousin, the new Commercial Manager for Seven Sisters, said: “The team and I are thrilled to be onsite and interacting with the public. Everyone we have spoken to have been so positive and supportive of our plans for improving the visitor facilities and also our work to help nature to thrive on the site.”