Chalk hills will be protected for decades to come thanks to government payout

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UNSPOILT countryside is set to be preserved thanks to a £608,000 grant from the government.

The windfall has been given to the South Downs National Park authority, which is aiming to safeguard chalk downland.

Chalk downland is recognised internationally as an important and endangered habitat, but only about four per cent of the National Park remains in pristine condition.

It supports a variety of species, including the rare Duke of Burgundy butterfly and endangered farmland birds such as corn bunting, lapwing, grey partridge and stone curlew.

Margaret Paren, chairwoman of the South Downs National Park Authority, said: ‘South Downs chalk downland is vital to the survival of rare and endangered wildlife and is relied on by millions of people to provide clean drinking water and valuable green space.

‘The announcement comes just one month before the National Park celebrates its first anniversary and shows what can be achieved when people from across the South Downs join forces.’

The work will involve restoring chalk downland, including introducing flocks of sheep to graze certain areas that have been damaged.

A total of 26 organisations are working on the project, called the South Downs Way Ahead scheme, which will cost £3m in total.