Cliff Gardens

The aim:

To turn a neglected and mis-used site into an attractive, biodiverse, community garden. This will be educational and awareness–raising, demonstrating and addressing the effects of climate change on the environment. It will use individual plots to show how plants adapt to their environment, enhance biodiversity by encouraging wildlife. Its use will be as an outdoor classroom and educational site to demonstrate these features to students and the public.
See below for the latest news on real progress

How it’s tackled:

The garden will have two distinct parts.

Firstly an attractive demonstration garden will stretch the length of the unmade-up road from the exposed seafront to the more sheltered Cliff Gardens made-up road. It will feature several different garden plots showing how plants come together in communities – from isolated plants able to survive the hostile conditions of strong salt-bearing winds and a virtually soil-less chalk base to a simple Chalk grassland meadow.

Two further gardens will demonstrate the effects of drought and flooding on these plant communities such as could happen with climate change predicted if we don’t act quickly enough to reduce carbon dioxide levels.

To encourage local gardeners living by the sea, we will create a garden of plants adapted to current climatic conditions which they could grow in their own gardens to increase biodiversity, attract pollinators and bees and provide food for butterflies, moths, birds and wildlife. With appropriate and creative signage this will be an informative garden for both the general public and for schools.

The adjacent Pump Field is already a meadow. We hope to improve in its biodiversity to become similar to the ancient Sea Meadows that used to exist in this area. It will be an outdoor classroom for students to observe and identify plant and animal species, to monitor change and again to study features of the curriculum in biology, geography and other subjects. The emphasis is practical work to complement the theory-based work in the classroom and to encourage young people to embrace an understanding of how Nature works and our effects on it.

What we have done so far:

  • The Project team has consulted with residents and Seaford Head School to produce a User Requirement for the garden.
  • We have sought, from landscape architects and others, an Expression of Interest in designing the garden. We have selected local designers Gabby Tofts and Christian Funnell to progress the design of the garden. They have much local knowledge and experience (such as the Shoal and Birling Gap Garden) and have some innovative and exciting ideas and designs which we aim will be sponsored by the public.
  • We have also sought professional advice from the Lewes Railway Land Trust on translating school curricular topics into garden design
  • Advice from Wakehurst Place for construction of the raised beds and soil requirements for our chosen habitats has been sought.
  • We have started on the formalities for changing the use of the unmade-up road into creating the vision.
  • We plan to set up a Friends of Cliff Gardens group and we will be sharing our proposals with the public as our plans develop.

Seaford Community Partnership presented the plans submitted to Lewes District Council and discussed:
WHAT: A climate change and diversity garden for local schools and colleges, and as a tourist attraction for the many visitors to Seaford.
WHY: As a community led project initiated by local residents and to raise awareness of the issues of climate change and what we can do about them.
WHERE: On the rough, pot-holed and unmade-up road between Cliff Gardens and The Esplanade – see picture.
HOW: With Christian Funnell and Gabby Tofts who designed the Plan, the garden will  be created and maintained by volunteers.

And how you can help:
1.  By supporting the application to LDC Planning. Visit LDC Planning, and enter LW/22/0796 as the reference. Add  your comment there. Or you can email the Case Officer James Emery directly: quoting LW/22/0796, your name and address and your reasons for supporting the application.

2. By volunteering to help in the construction, planting and maintainence of the garden.
Contact us – click here.

On a cold December morning this week in Seaford, Pupils from Seaford Head School Eco-Club joined forces with Cliff Gardens project members (part of Seaford Community Partnership) and volunteers from Southern Water/Cappagh Browne Utilities Ltd for a day of very hard work in the Pump Field, the furthest East of the Martello Fields. Over the course of the day they planted up 50m of native hedgerow along the perimeter fence between the field and Southern Water’s Pump Station adjacent to the field.

Seaford Community Partnership is part of the Ouse Valley Climate Action project – promoted by South Downs National Park Authority and part funded by the National Lottery Climate Action Fund. Climate change themes of global warming, rising sea levels and extremes of weather including floods and droughts are extremely important to Seaford with its 41/2 miles of South-west facing shingle beach sometimes battered by surging storms and very high seas. We all know the efforts of the Environment Agency shoring up our beach all winter long. Loss of biodiversity is associated with climate change as plants and animals have to adapt to changing conditions.

And why this unusual mix of people? Cliff Gardens project has been developed from the original idea of a group of residents of Cliff Gardens to turn an ugly, potholed and unmade-up road into a community garden. Weaving together this community aspiration and the aims of the lottery bid, SCP has designed a two-part educational garden: partly a formal garden demonstrating how plants colonise hostile environments and create plant communities and then alongside it, a meadow area in the Pump Field where students can study what grows there, how things change over time, using techniques of observation, measurement, recording and topics central to biology, geography and science syllabuses. The aim of this project is to work to mitigate effects of climate change, with it’s associated loss in biodiversity as habitats change.

And Southern Water’s/Cappagh Browne Utilities Ltd’s involvement in all this? Well, we approached them to ask if they would like to sponsor this environmental project and in return they offered support and hands-on participation from their staff – who all volunteer to help with community projects. And how we valued their expertise and physical hard work. Our original idea of hiding the Pump Station from view developed into a realisation that the activities of Southern Water in distributing water to all homes and then removing all domestic waste water and storm run-off for eventual treatment in their sewage plants – had huge educational implications: how we use water, how sewers get blocked, what happens when we have torrential rain or droughts. Recent events have given them bad publicity but we all need to change some practices to cope with future environmental threats. They have an active education department. And Cappagh Browne Utilities? Well they maintain and repair the sewers and pipe work as contractors for Southern Water and have a thriving Ecology team.  Good reasons to work together here!

Planting this long hedgerow of seven attractive native species is just a start in trying to increase the biodiversity of the Pump Field. It will serve two purposes. Firstly, the plants are all native English species that will provide shelter and food for a whole host of pollinator insects, bees, butterflies, moths, birds and small mammals. In the fullness of time not only will the hedge increase the biodiversity of Pump Field, but also residents will be able to appreciate it as they stroll through the Pump Field and revitalized Cliff Gardens area.

SCP are in the process of applying for planning permission for the garden designed by Christian Funnell & Gabby Tofts who designed the popular Shoal Project nearby. It will have seven large bedding areas, a purpose built meander path for walkers, strollers, mobility scooters and a cycle path the length of the garden (as part of the existing C2 cycleway). As in the Shoal there will be ample opportunity for sponsorship and plaques – to raise awareness of climate change issues and what we can do about it as well as to raise funds. We will then apply for a stopping up order for the road. We are planning public consultation meetings early next year which will be widely publicised, to discuss the plans, to engage and seek support and to look for volunteers to help with the construction of the garden.


What you can do:

We still need to consult widely with the public, schools and stakeholders and our hope is to create a vibrant ‘Friends of Cliff Gardens’ group for long-term maintenance of the garden and its use as an educational facility.

If you would like to be involved in this project, we would love to hear from you. Please contact us  – click here and we’ll get in touch with you.