Surrey Wildlife Trust is delighted to congratulate the extraordinary local community on the completion of the purchase of Pewley Meadows, 37.5 acres of rare chalk grassland on the North Downs in Guildford, Surrey. The community raised over a million pounds in just three weeks to protect the meadows for nature and hosted a visit from Cel Spellman, actor, broadcaster, passionate environmentalist, and ambassador for The Wildlife Trusts, to celebrate their success.
The meadows, with their spectacular views across the county, are home to nesting skylarks, chalk hill blue butterflies, bumblebees, wild thyme and orchids. Under a 500-year lease to Surrey Wildlife Trust, which also contributed to the purchase of the meadows, a new nature reserve will be created to preserve the land in perpetuity for wildlife and people. The land purchase has also contributed to the Wildlife Trust’s national goal of restoring 30 per cent of land for nature and raising £30 million by 2030.
Cel Spellman said: ‘It has been incredibly inspiring and energising to meet everyone involved in the campaign to save Pewley Meadows, from school children and residents to the wonderful lead donor, Julia. I’ve seen the land that has been bought, which is part of the 30 by 30 and is going to form a special and strategic wildlife corridor in Surrey. And I’ve seen the passion and belief from the local community that they have the power to guarantee a future for these beautiful wild places, for our health and our climate. Pewley Meadows is a beacon of hope and shows what can be achieved when we all work together, people have the power.’
Community groups from Holy Trinity Pewley Down School, the save Pewley Meadows campaign group, Rosamund Community Gardens and Julia Stephenson, lead donor, are to work with Surrey Wildlife Trust to create nature based outdoor learning and volunteering opportunities for people from the local community to restore a rich array of life on the fields now and in for the future.
Julia Stephenson, lead donor, said: ‘I grew up on these beautiful chalk downlands and so I love these meadows as much as the local community. And we shared this same strength of conviction that we knew we just had to do something to protect this wonderful landscape for future generations. To think that we have now achieved that goal feels amazing and gives you a bit of a ready break glow in the morning.’
Julia’s generosity followed in family footsteps, as her mother bought neighbouring chalk downland, now Rosamund Meadows, to save for nature in 1985.
Clare Brunet, head teacher at Holy Trinity Pewley Down School, said: ‘Throughout my teaching career, I’ve been determined to encourage children to wonder and ask questions about the natural world. Research has shown that we are more likely to remember something if we are taught it outdoors, so we’ve established a dedicated outdoor learning classroom in our existing school woodland area.
‘We are now over the moon that an area of Pewley Meadows will become an incredibly special new outdoor learning resource for the school. Our children are already extremely passionate about taking care of nature and our planet; this new space will have a huge impact on their growing understanding. The fields can teach us not only about carbon storage, but also about the wildflowers, bees, butterflies and beetles that live there, how to care for them and help their populations expand. I must extend a huge thank you to our wonderful families and the community who have given so generously to enable this to happen.’
Sarah Jane Chimbwandira, chief executive of the Surrey Wildlife Trust, said: ‘We are extremely grateful to community environmental campaigners in Guildford who have not only raised such a huge amount of money but also restored a missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle in the landscape for natures recovery. Pewley Meadows fills in the gap between Pewley Down Local Nature Reserve and Rosamund Meadows and creates a swathe of 80 acres of precious habitat, which is at the very heart of Surrey’s nature recovery network.’
Jonathan Mitchell, a local resident who leads Pewley Down’s community conservation group, said: ‘These beautiful fields, very close to Guildford’s centre, provide respite and joy to so many people. We need to do our utmost to protect such special places for future generations.
‘Since 1945, the UK has lost 97% of its wildflower meadows, so this is a precious opportunity to reduce this loss and restore the rich biodiversity that can thrive on chalk downland. It’s home to skylarks, and many of our donors spoke of their love for their song, which carries over the neighbourhood. Small numbers of scarce grizzled skipper butterflies and scabious mining bees have been found and careful habitat management will allow such populations to re-connect with isolated ones in the adjoining Nature Reserve. The latter was saved by a philanthropist a century ago, and it’s profoundly moving to see Julia and the community so generously adding to that legacy.’
The skylarks, which nest on the ground in the fields, are renowned for their beautiful and captivating song as they ascend in a vertical display flight. This streaky brown bird has inspired poets and composers, such as Ralph Vaughan Williams, with his famous piece The Lark Ascending. But skylarks have declined dramatically in the UK and so are ‘red-listed’ as a priority species for conservation concern.