South Downs National Park is the newest national park in the UK, founded in 2010 in southern England. The park is home to a range of landscapes, including chalk hills, woodland, yew groves and coastline. This diversity of habitats means that South Downs National Park is home to a rich variety of plant and animal species, many of them rare. Here are four incredible creatures that a wildlife lover can spot on a day exploring the park.
South Downs National Park is the only place in the whole of the UK where all of our native reptile and amphibian species live. Perhaps the most exciting of these is the adder, the UK’s only venomous snake. These wonderful cold-blood creatures can be seen basking in the sunshine of the heathland or woodland glades, an exciting find if you should spot one. A word of caution for dog walkers: make sure they are kept on leads as an adder bite, although extremely rare, could be dangerous for your pet.
Southern England is the last UK refuge for the rare nightingale, which has been in steep decline in Britain for decades. The famous mellow song of this fabulous bird can be heard by lucky visitors to the South Downs National Park, singing eloquently from hedges, scrub and woodland within the park.
Until recent years, otters were thought to be extinct in Hampshire, but the return of their favourite food, eel, to the South Downs National Park has seen a remarkable reversal in their fortunes. In just 10 years, otters have returned to the River Meon, a chalk stream running through the park. There are thought to be at least three breeding females along the river, and numbers seem to be growing – increasing your chances of spotting one!
#4 Silver-spotted skipper butterfly
Another species that once faced extinction in the UK, the silver-spotted skipper has benefited hugely from the South Downs National Park. A dedicated conservation effort to increase the area of chalk grassland, a rare habitat in the park, has led to a resurgence in this humble but beautiful butterfly.
These are just a handful of the species found in South Downs National Park. Barn owls, nightjars, deer, badgers and more can all be spotted, making South Downs National Park an absolute paradise and a must-visit for wildlife lovers.