Fwd: Damage to Henfield Common archaic grassland: Football pitch project

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Fwd: Damage to Henfield Common archaic grassland: Football pitch project


Dear all,

Can you help please with some quick survey work? The site is horribly obvious when you get close...brown and dying...

I sent the letter BELOW to the Henfield Parish Council clerk today. I only heard of this football pitch project today in the WSx County Times. Apparently it has been planned for a while and the plans passed and part-funded by Horsham DC and other funders.


This is truly dreadful. The Parish Clerk had no memory, when I spoke to him, of any EIA or survey work.

We must try and get this work stopped. Full construction is due to start on May 30th.

I think the site (TQ 221/2 155, just NW of the cricket pavilion and part-hidden by a wing of woodland) needs urgent survey by better botanists than me, and also by bryophyte and insect experts.

A gramicide seems to have been applied and the other herbs still seem to be clinging on.

Can you help?

Dave Bangs

From: David Bangs

Field naturalist and author

[hidden email]

T: 01273 620 815


To: Mr Kevin Wright, Henfield Parish Clerk

Dear Mr Wright

Damage to archaic species-rich grassland at Henfield Common

Thank you for speaking to me on the phone today.

I re-visited the Common after our phone chat and was appalled.

The football pitch project area sprayed by herbicide/gramicide takes in well over half of the area in which Chamomile, Chamaemelum nobile, is present. This is a rare and steeply declining species and the number of Sussex sites where it naturally occurs is now very small.

Its presence in quantity is one of the core nature conservation features of the Common.

The area sprayed displays (in my short visit today) a number of high nature value scarce plants, including Chamomile, Heath Spotted Orchis and Southern Marsh Orchis, Adder’s Tongue Fern, Marsh Pennywort, Common Yellow Sedge, Oval Sedge, Hairy Sedge, Devil’s Bit, Tormentil, and Heath Speedwell.

In a single brief visit to the pitch project area in 2013 I recorded six significant old meadow fungi species: two Fairy Clubs, a Pinkgill and three Waxcap fungi. I suspect a properly conducted survey for this group would record many more.

As I said to you, Henfield Common is largely an SNCI (Site of Nature Conservation Interest). The area of the cricket pitch and the old ball pitches (which are the subject of HPC’s project) was anomalously excluded from the designated SNCI only because the appropriate surveys there had not then been carried out. Subsequently, a survey of the cricket pitch for old meadow fungi was conducted (about 15 years ago) and the cricket pitch proved to be the richest site for old meadow fungi on the Common and one of regional value in nature conservation terms for this assemblage.

Can you please tell me whether any Environmental Impact Assessment was made of the football pitch project? If it was, would you be so kind as to forward it to me?

I understand that drainage works are to undertaken (and ditch ‘cleaning’ has recently taken place). Given that the core nature conservation feature of the Common is its archaic acid marsh vegetation, further drainage could be very detrimental.  

Furthermore, the highly acidic Folkestone Beds surface geology of the Common is what gives it its individual character. Semi-natural ‘moor’ vegetation on the local Wealden Folkestone Beds is now very rare, and the loss of this surface geology to new imported soils will thus damage the character and sense of place of the whole Common.

I ask you, please, to secure the cessation of all further activity pertinent to the football pitch project until  these issues of nature conservation have been addressed. This is a matter of urgency,

With best wishes

Dave Bangs