1. Home
  2. Environment
  3. Conservation and wildlife
  4. Wildlife habitats in East Sussex

Wildlife habitats in East Sussex


East Sussex is one of the most wooded counties in England. Much of our woodland is found in the High Weald where its use has been a major occupation for centuries. Much has been cleared over time for agricultural purposes, but this is now less common.


Flower-rich meadows are rare in East Sussex and are usually traditionally managed grasslands. These meadows support rare plants, many butterflies and other insects.

Hay meadows provide a habitat for ground nesting birds. The planting of rye grass or ploughing for cereal crops has destroyed many meadows and grass cutting for silage in May means birds have no time to raise their young.

Chalk grassland

This is a rich habitat and provides a home to many flowers including several varieties of orchid. Only small areas of the South Downs are now chalk grassland because of agricultural changes.

Chalk grassland is fairly hardy and can tolerate a lot of use by walkers, but it needs continuing management if it is to flourish.


Ashdown Forest is one of the largest and most secure areas of lowland heath in England. It is owned by the council and protected by a special Act of Parliament.

Marshes and levels

Natural marshes are uncommon in East Sussex but there are several expanses of drained marshes or levels rich in wildlife. The largest are coastal around Eastbourne, Pevensey and Rye, with others in the river valleys of the Ouse and Cuckmere.

Find out more about the Ouse Estuary project - RSPB.

Rivers and ponds

The county has an important network of rivers. The greatest impact on their wildlife is probably due to intensive agriculture on nearby farmland. Many ponds have been been neglected or filled in because they are no longer used.

Coastal areas

Cliffs, saltmarsh and mudflats, sand dunes, saline lagoons and shingle are all valuable wildlife habitats in the county.

Roadside verges

East Sussex County Council own and maintain many of our roadside verges. In many places these are species-rich and home to some rare and endangered plants and animals. Found out more about what we are doing to preserve and maintain these.

Wildlife verges

The County Council Highways maintains wildlife verges [168.1 KB] [pdf]throughout East Sussex. This document gives further information on why we do this and links to the Highways webpage concerning the creation and management of wildlife verges.


Ragwort is classed as an injurious species and has the ability to poison some livestock and spread over great distances. 

Japanese knotweed

Japanese knotweed is an invasive, non-native species. It’s treatment and disposal must be completed properly to avoid contamination and spread. 

Was this page helpful?

Click or tap the rating which best represents your experience.