Sussex Wildlife Charity helps rare bats and otters to return to Uckfield

A WILDLIFE charity is hoping to encourage the return of rare bats and otters to their natural habitat - thanks to a £5000 donation.

Sussex Wildlife Trust is making improvements to flood plain woodland habitats along the River Ouse at Sheffield Park Gardens near Uckfield.

The trust is planting new trees to encourage wildlife to return to the area in the gardens, which date back to the 18th century.

The donation, by EDF Energy, has been used to plant 500 metres of hedges and one hectare of rare floodplain woodland with black poplar trees, to link two of the trust’s major ‘Living Landscape’ projects - the West Weald Landscape Project and The Sussex Wetland Landscapes Project.

The improvements are important to encourage local wildlife, including the rare barbastelle bat, which needs sheltered ‘commuting’ routes and rich foraging grounds, as well as helping to encourage otters to Sussex after an absence of nearly 50 years.

Fran Southgate, Sussex Wildlife Trust Wetland Officer, said: “The funding helped to pay for almost 1000 trees to be planted including ninety rare Black poplar trees.

“Not only will the creation of this new woodland help the conservation of key species such as otters, black poplars and bats, in the long term it also forms part of a wider ‘Living Landscape’ network, which creates important links across the countryside between existing ancient woodlands, and which helps store carbon and floodwater and replenishes our underground drinking water supplies.

“We hope that it will also help create a more pleasant and enjoyable wildlife experience for all the visitors to the Sheffield Park site.”

David Sheppard, EDF Energy’s Community Specialist, said: “We’re delighted to be supporting this important Sussex project and help the restoration of the woodland. It was great to see how the woodland is starting to establish itself already.”

Sussex Wildlife Trust looks after many sites in Sussex, covering over 3000 acres of downland, woodland, and wetland.