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The chalk in our ground means the soil is thin and low in nutrients. Surprisingly, this is the perfect situation for many plants and creatures to thrive. For example there are 8 species of orchids which are rare elsewhere in the UK, yet found in many hundreds and thousands here in Croydon. But this kind of species-rich land needs to be managed, otherwise more aggressive plants will take over resulting in the loss of countless wildflowers and creatures – including reptiles, birds and invertebrates – some which are in steep decline.

The benefits of grazing sit on a wide spectrum; being better for insects who can fly away instead of being destroyed by tractors, the big cattle leaving bare ground for wildflowers and invertebrates to have a better chance at thriving, and rejuvenating plants – like horseshoe vetch, which can live up to 50 years on grazed grassland and is critical as the only food source for the Adonis Blue butterfly, the rarest blue butterfly in the UK. 

As a result, though they are “man-made”, these habitats have some of the best biodiversity in Europe. And in 2019, in recognition of the conservation that has been happening here, parts of Croydon were given National Nature Reserve status (NNR), becoming part of the South London Downs National Nature Reserve.

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