Management of the Hempstead Meadows Local Nature Reserve must not compromise wildlife, the chairman has warned.
Dr Martyn Stenning said in a report, which has gone to the reserve’s owner, Uckfield Town Council, that residents, councillors and those trained in ecology and advise on conservation should assert themselves as “champions for nature”.
He said: “We must never forget that the function of a nature reserve is to be a sanctuary for wildlife amidst a town which exists to be a centre for humans.”
Hempstead Meadows had the unusual virtue of being “accessible from the centre of the town for those humans”.
“Therefore, footfall in the reserve may be quite high, and not necessarily from folk who wish to go there to study the wildlife that lives there.
“Some wish to exercise their dogs, others to take a short cut to the town or railway station, and others to take a drink and socialise.
“As advisers on management, we have to advise on ways to manage footfall so that it does not compromise the wildlife to a detrimental effect but allows access to those who wish to visit the reserve for the right reasons,” he said.
Dr Stenning said the nature reserve was part of the River Uck corridor that runs through Uckfield and perpendicular to the main High Street. It is also a wildlife corridor and we “must work together to ensure that it still functions as one, whatever our vested interest”.
He said: “So if the weather demands that we wear rubber boots to visit it, so be it, just as a suit and tie with smart shoes is de rigour to work in an office.
“The reserve will always flood from time to time, and any attempt we make to civilise it will always be temporary. It and its trees serve the function of spreading the flood-water and helping to minimise the flooding of the town. “
His remarks come at a time when the council is considering the future management of its nature reserves.
*Part of the reserve was under water last week after heavy rain.