The celebration at Lewes Town Hall to mark the 25th anniversary of the Railway Land Wildlife Trust proved a resounding success.
It began with a specially written song called ‘We are the Future’ sung by children from Rodmell, St Pancras and Wallands Primary Schools who processed into the Assembly Hall followed by Railway Land trustees and the Nature Corridors group of adults with learning disabilities.
The tune, written by John Parry, was offered to the schools and the pupils wrote most of the words – and brought a tear to many an eye.
The newly formed Linklater Ensemble, led by Ian McCrea, also played a live soundtrack to visuals based on three of the major projects of the last 25 years – the bringing of the signal box from Uckfield to Lewes, the creation of Heart of Reeds and the building of the Linklater Pavilion.
Guest speaker was award-winning writer and broadcaster Professor Chris Baines, one of the UK’s leading independent environmentalists. He paid tribute to the longevity of the Trust, saying that environmental groups often tend to focus on an immediate issue and then disperse and that it was a triumph to have kept the project alive and still developing after 25 years. He also expanded the three core Railway Land projects by exploring the value of former industrial sites across the country, the need for creating new habitats in urban areas and a fascinating look to the future through seemingly odd partnerships such as between fisherman and aggregate companies.
The partnership theme was developed in the Corn Exchange with a fascinating mix of displays from local businesses such as Chandlers and Ieko to local groups such as the Friends of Lewes and the Sussex Wildlife Trust and local schools including Priory and South Malling.
Director of the Railway Land Project, Dr John Parry, said: “Our long-standing partnership with Lewes District Council, which owns the site, has steadily strengthened over the 25 years and we pay tribute to the work of the Rangers who play such an important role in managing the site both for wildlife but also keeping the public safe as many of the willow trees are vulnerable in gales.
“And we also pay grateful tribute to the many supporters who have stood by us for all these years and who continue to inspire us to keep going.’’
The event, attended by Lewes MP Norman Baker, was opened by the Mayor of Lewes, Ruth O’ Keeffe, who introduced the Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, Mr Peter Field.