Lewes Railway Land Local Nature Reserve
Lewes Railway Land LNR was given the UK-MAB Urban Wildlife Award for Excellence in 1998.
The reserve was declared in 1995. Earlier, the land had been under threat of development but a vigorous campaign by local people who eventually formed the Railway Land Wildlife Trust resulted in Lewes District Council assuming management responsibility for a good portion of the site. The remainder, about a quarter, became a housing estate.
The site is situated on the flood plain of the River Ouse, and consists of 25 acres of mixed habitats, including woodland, grassland, ponds and species rich drainage ditches, former fruit orchards, allotments, and scrub areas. The site was, until 1989, occupied by railway sidings, and the embankment of the former Lewes - Uckfield railway line.
The diverse range of habitats has made the site popular for educational and research purposes and there is a restored signal box that overlooks the flood plain meadows which is used as a bird hide and a small class room.
The District Council has employed a part-time manager of the reserve since it opened, the post being part-funded by English Nature.
The Trust now owns a wet meadow which adjoins the reserve and is effectively part of it. The Trust has always had a strong presence on the Management Committee which also includes representatives from English Nature, the Lewes Chamber of Commerce, the Town Council and the Sussex Downs Conservation Board. The Committee also includes two very young members, from the body which makes the Railway Land unique - its Junior Management Board.
The JMB was established in 1994, is composed of children between the ages of eight and 12 from local schools and has a continuous and proud history of producing creative suggestions and ideas, many of which have been successfully implemented on the reserve. It has won numerous awards.
The reserve is popular and well-used. Facilities include a path accessible by wheelchair. Interpretation is imaginative, but limited and includes a leaflet designed by the JMB and aimed at its peer group.
Lewes District Council,
32 High Street,
Tel: 01273 484408