The Work

Land use & wildlife is concerned with the protection and restoration of biodiversity and natural habitats through appropriate land use and integration into the built environment.

Brighton and Hove is a highly managed landscape. It has been changed and adapted by humans for thousands of years. Everything in nature is connected; upsetting one element can have untold effects on another. Conversely, taking steps to improve one particular component can have a positive knock-on effect. The aim for conservationists is to manage and improve the biodiversity and sustainability of the environment. This doesn’t happen by itself; it is the product of hard work, from research, political debate and funding through to actual physical labour.

It is the work carried out by farmers, conservationists and volunteers, often unnoticed by the wider public, which is the focus of this photo essay. From the archaeological dig of a Stone Age monument to the clearance of scrubland and the restoration of precious chalk grassland, humans are the main subject, rather than the flora and fauna, often deemed more worthy of a photograph of this nature (sic).

For it is we humans that subjectively shape the environment to suit our needs and values. How we do that is a matter for us to collectively debate. This is a significant time to be creating a photo essay about land use and wildlife because in June 2014, Brighton and Lewes Downs was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere.

  • Wildflower planting, Craven Wood, Whitehawk Hill. Brighton Conservation Volunteers (BCV) prepare the ground for chalk grassland plants grown at Stanmer Nursery with local ranger, Paul Gorringe.
  • The restoration of the flint wall around the Stanmer Estate is a slow ongoing project. Originally built in the 1760s by Napoleonic prisoners of war to mark the boundary of the estate and to contain livestock, it no longer provides any practical function, but is considered an important visual link to our past and the site’s heritage.

    The restoration is being carried out almost entirely by volunteers and keeps the traditional skill of flint walling alive.

  • The Lewes Road central reservation was sown in February 2010 with a perennial mix of wildflowers to create a nature corridor into the city. This area was previously regularly cut grass, which offers nature nothing.

    This project was one of a number of different initiatives to provide nectar for bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects in urban areas around the city.

  • Race Hill Farm Allotments, Whitehawk. Conservationists are encouraging allotment keepers across Brighton and Hove to plant belts of native wildflowers to provide corridors for wildlife to move around the city.
  • Alfonso grew up on a farm in Puglia, Italy. He’s now 86 years old and has had an allotment for over 30 years. I asked him why he has an allotment.

    “For the food. I grow: tomatoes, broad beans, onions… All the food I need, I grow here… When you plant it yourself you know it’s good, when it’s ready you just pick it and eat it fresh.”

  • Volunteers on a National Trust Working Holiday help the warden construct new fencing on a steep escarpment near Fulking. Fences are needed to manage livestock. In order to maintain the South Down’s precious habitats it’s important to graze the land with cattle and sheep.
  • Devil’s Dyke is a legendary beauty spot on the South Downs. John Constable once described it as, “the grandest view in the world”. In late Victorian times the Dyke became a popular tourist attraction, complete with a fairground, two bandstands, an observatory and a camera obscura, all served by a railway branch line from Hove.

    Today the Dyke is owned by the National Trust and gets about 800,000 visitors a year.

  • Stuart is the fourth generation of his family to hold the tenancy of Bevendean Farm. His son works with him and intends to be the fifth generation. Stuart is currently involved in an Environmentally Sensitive Areas Scheme (ESA), which means he takes specific steps to benefit the wildlife.
  • Christina is from Germany and was at Devil’s Dyke putting up fencing as part of her National Trust Working Holiday.
  • Steve lives in an eco-house in Whitehawk built in the early 1990s as part of the See-Saw self-build housing group. His garden is planted with native trees: Holm Oak, Yew, Apple, Silver Birch, Hazel, Hawthorne, Blackthorn, Pyracantha, Hornbeam, Beech, Spindle, Field Maple and Privet.
  • John Gapper (pictured holding the book) has had a serious interest in chalk downland wildflowers for the past thirty years. When the Brighton and Hove Bypass was built in the late 1980s he noticed the decline in numbers and started harvesting seeds and propagating them at home.

    In 2013 the City Parks Department was awarded a National Improvement Area (NIA) grant for their proposal to plant 180,000 wildflowers across the city over two years, with the aim of enriching ecological diversity and improving the aesthetic value of the city’s council estates.

  • Local artist Tom Benjamin holds regular landscape painting courses at Stanmer Park.
  • Elderflower season runs from late May to mid-July. Chie, who works with Lisa-Marie Davies on the Physic Garden Project, picks elderflowers to make elderflower champagne. The Physic Garden is a medicinal herb garden, which aims to promote and educate people in natural health.
  • Farmers, such as Stuart West, are finding new ways to generate an income from their farms. Over the last couple of years Stuart has partnered with The Bell Tent Company to set up the Wombell Campsite.

    Camping provides people with an opportunity to connect with the natural landscape and scientists have proven that there are significant health benefits too.

  • Moth Trapping, Race Hill, Whitehawk Hill.

    “Moth trapping is a very effective way of finding out which moths occur in a particular area due to the tendency of most moth species to fly to light. Trapping is possibly an unfortunate word as it has overtones of captivity, but in reality the vast majority of moths are released back into the wild once they have been identified." - David Larkin, City Parks

  • As its name suggests, the Poplar Hawk Moth’s caterpillars feed mainly on Poplar trees, although they will feed on a few other species. It is one of our largest moths and survives the winter as a pupa (an insect in its immature inactive form) buried in the ground around the roots of the tree on which the caterpillar fed.
  • A slow worm at Whitehawk Hill. They are not snakes, they are lizards without legs. They are not at all slimy, but have smooth skins. If they feel threatened they are able to shed their tails, so should always be handled gently.

    As with the rest of our reptiles their numbers have declined due to loss of habitat and they are now protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

  • Murray Ballard Murray Ballard Charcoal Burning, Saddlescombe Farm. "If we buy it (charcoal) from abroad we don’t know why they’re cutting, what they’re cutting, how well they’re burning it, how much timber’s being wasted… So from a global conservation view, I think locally produced charcoal from sustainably managed woodland is crucial.” - Charlie Cain, Head Ranger
  • Jim (taking a break), Meadow Orchard, Stanmer Organics. Jim is a self-employed planning and property consultant. He dedicates one day a week to work with the South Downs Volunteer Rangers Group.
  • Kay, a South Downs Volunteer Ranger clears the weeds around the base of a young apple tree. Since the early 1950s there has been a huge decline in the acreage of apple orchards in England. Meadow Orchard has been planted over the last six years and forms part of the Sussex Apple Project.
  • Amaia, originally from the Basque Country in Spain, studied Natural Resources and Landscape at University. She moved to the UK in 2009 and decided to come to Brighton a few years later to further her passion for ecology and permaculture.

    She started volunteering at Special Branch recently.

  • Mark Stonestreet’s Studio, Stanmer Park
  • The Brighton and Lewes Division of the Sussex Beekeepers Association hold regular meetings. They are important for teaching the science and craft of beekeeping, as well as engaging with the wider public.

    Bees are essential to a healthy environment and healthy economy.

  • Beehive demonstration, Preston Manor. A newly collected swarm of bees are transferred to a new hive. The white sheet is used almost as a ‘landing strip’ to tell the bees where to go.
  • Outdoor Meditation, Breathing Space, Stanmer Organics. The Breathing Space provides a garden for meditation, eco-therapy, counselling, environmental art workshops and gatherings of a spiritual and earth based nature.

    The garden is planted with native wildflowers to support biodiversity and local wildlife.

  • Robert (attending to his bees), Hove
  • Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Centre for Applied Archeology UCL have partnered with the Brighton and Hove Archaeological Society to excavate the site of a Neolithic Causeway Enclosure on Whitehawk Hill.

    This 5,500 year old Stone Age ritual monument predates Stonehenge by around 500 years and marks the emergence of Britain’s first farming communities.

  • Murray Ballard: Land Use and Wildlife at Foredown Tower Murray Ballard: Land Use and Wildlife at Foredown Tower
  • Murray Ballard: Land Use and Wildlife at Foredown Tower Murray Ballard: Land Use and Wildlife at Foredown Tower
  • Murray Ballard: Land Use and Wildlife at Foredown Tower Murray Ballard: Land Use and Wildlife at Foredown Tower
  • Murray Ballard: Land Use and Wildlife at Foredown Tower Murray Ballard: Land Use and Wildlife at Foredown Tower
  • Murray Ballard: Land Use and Wildlife at Foredown Tower Murray Ballard: Land Use and Wildlife at Foredown Tower
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The Photographer

Murray Ballard

Murray Ballard was born in Brighton, UK and remains based there. Murray graduated from the University of Brighton in 2007 with a BA in Photography and was selected for ‘Fresh Faced and Wild Eyed 2008′ – the annual showcase of work by recent graduates at The Photographers Gallery, London. In 2011 the British Journal of Photography recognised him as one of the ‘Emerging Photographers of Note’, following his debut solo show, ‘The Prospect of Immortality’, at Impressions Gallery, Bradford. Murray’s work has been published internationally in a range of publications including GEO, GQ, The Guardian, Intelligence in Lifestyle, Wired and the photography journals: 8, British Journal of Photography, HotShoe and YVI. Murray chooses to work on medium and large format cameras mainly and creates highly stylised imagery which lends itself well to documenting innovative science research projects.

Photographer Approach

I’m not a typical wildlife photographer. I don’t own a macro or telephoto lens, the tools usually used to photograph ‘nature’. Throughout the commission I often surprised many people I met with my point of interest. I attended a beekeepers’ day at Preston Manor and, rather than concentrating specifically on the bees, instead I photographed people working on the hives. This approach confused a number of beekeepers and prompted another photographer at the event to ask me, ‘Are you not interested in the bees?’

Of course I was – I’ve always liked bees and I appreciate them even more now - but my approach to this commission was to photograph how humans change and shape our environment and to suggest that much of what we take for granted as being natural is actually the result of sustained landscape management.

I don’t usually like talking about the type of camera I use or to get bogged down in technical details, because I prefer to keep the viewer’s attention on the photograph. However, since this project marks a significant change in my approach, I’ll make an exception. Prior to this commission the vast majority of my work was made using a large-format camera and 5x4 negative film. But as more people switched to digital technology, the format has become increasingly specialised and, consequently, more expensive. It has reached a point where I can no longer justify the expense, so I have also made the transition to digital. These pictures were made using a Canon 5D, most of them with a 45mm tilt-shift lens. Using the movements, each photograph is made up of two images, one for the bottom half and the other for the top half. I then merge the two images together in Photoshop to create a single 5x4 format picture.

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The exhibition

Exhibition Info

Dates: 01/10/2014 - 31/07/2015
Times: Tuesday and Thursdays 10am - 3pm and the last Saturday of the month 10-3pm. Monday, Wednesday and Friday open by arrangement.
Address: Foredown Tower, Foredown Road, Portslade, East Sussex, BN41 2EW
Link: Link

Foredown Tower

Foredown Tower was built in 1909 on Foredown Hill by J. Every, of Lewes, as a water tower to serve the Isolation Hospital which once stood to the south of it. The hospital was demolished in 1990 and the Tower was converted into a countryside centre by Hove Borough Council (later becoming Brighton & Hove City Council).

A large camera obscura was installed enabling detailed views of the South Downs, farmland, spreading urbanisation and the sea coast right along as far as Worthing and the Isle of Wight. The centre was opened
in July 1991 with guided and unguided walks set up to give easy access to the Downs, and camera obscura demonstrations to introduce local geography, geology and history to visiting students and the general public. Although the camera obscura is not used for photography as such, it was, and still is, of particular attraction to photographers, amateur astronomers and artists who are interested in producing and capturing images.

Members of staff have always been keen to help visitors to identify ‘local nature’ and many interesting astronomical events have been observed from here, including solar and lunar eclipses and a spectacular comet.

The north wall of the grounds of the Foredown Tower runs along the southern edge of the National Park and is in a real sense a natural gateway to the Downs and the viewing gallery is an ideal site to study the sky, land and sea.
It is now run by Portslade Aldridge Community Academy (PACA) – Adult Learning.

Access Information

How to get there:

Closest train station: Portslade

Closest bus: 6

Cycle: structures to lock bikes available

Car: car park available

Wheelchair accessible: No


One Planet City: Professional Commissions

Ten photo essays responding to the ten sustainability principles of One Planet Living with ten site-specific installations in public spaces across Brighton & Hove.