Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill Nature Reserve (to the west of Rottingdean)

Beacon Hill Map

Beacon Hill Nature Reserve Stewardship Group

The Beacon Hill Nature Reserve  is owned and managed by Brighton & Hove City Council. The Beacon Hill Nature Reserve Stewardship Group are responsible for assisting with the production of current and future Management Plans. This  Group includes representatives from the Parish Council, the City Council’s Countryside department, the Rottingdean Preservation Society, Ovingdean residents and Preservation Society, the allotments and our specialist recorders. See the Parish Council Standing Orders Section 5 Beacon Hill Nature Reserve Stewardship


Beacon Hill Report 2022
Beacon Hill Stewardship Group 2022 AGM minutes
Beacon Hill Stewardship Group 2021 AGM minutes
Beacon Hill Nature Reserve Report 2020 
Beacon Hill Stewardship Group 2020 AGM minutes
Beacon Hill Annual Report 2019
See minutes of 2018 AGM & public meeting 14 September 2018 
Beacon Hill Annual Report 2019
Beacon Hill - Summer 2019 newsletter
Beacon Hill summer 2019 newsletter
Beacon Hill Spring 2019 newsletter


Beacon Hill was created a Local Nature Reserve (LNR) in 2004 and will fall within the South Downs National Park (the white area bounded by a red line on the above map). The management of this nature reserve is primarily to protect the habitat of the endangered skylarks by supporting a range of plants and butterflies associated with chalk grassland, as well as controlling areas of scrub and investigating archaeological features. Rottingdean’s windmill, which was erected in 1803, is within the boundary of the nature reserve. In 2005, Beacon Hill won the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) Britain in Bloom Conservation & Environment award, and in 2007, the RHS Bloomin’ Wild Discretionary award.

The nature reserve is an area of traditional downland, also known as chalk grassland, designated as typical CG2A specification, which is a priority European habitat. Chalk grassland is the product of centuries of sheep grazing. However, with changes in agricultural practices, most of these areas have disappeared while those that remain have often become isolated and neglected.

Without proper management, the remaining chalk grassland will slowly deteriorate as nutrient levels build up favouring coarser species of grasses plus hawthorn, blackthorn, nettles, brambles etc at the expense of wildflowers such as vetchs and thyme. There is also a large colony of Round Headed Rampion. This plant is specific to Sussex and is known as the Pride of Sussex.

Colourful Blue Rampion Flower



1. The Beacon Hill Stewardship Group met with Nick Lane, City Parks Ranger, on 19 January 2021, to discuss the proposals for the future management of Beacon Hill Nature Reserve. The group were reassured that City Parks understand the concerns raised by people who regularly use the reserve and are willing to continue to discuss the proposals and, where possible, to adapt them to take on board the concerns of people using the Reserve. 

The Proposals 

2. City Parks are currently considering proposals to organise future grazing arrangements for Beacon Hill that will make the best use of available resources, protect the land and wildlife and ensure open access to and across the Reserve. This involves thinking about the timing and organisation of grazing, ensuring grazing sheep have a water supply and are securely penned in during grazing periods and the coordination of sheep grazing across a number of other sites. 

3. The Friends of Beacon Hill have been informed about the proposals.

4. Some of the proposals below are reliant on achieving appropriate funding. City Parks cannot provide a timescale at this time but will continue to liaise with the Beacon Hill Stewardship Group and provide an update on the Beacon Hill Notice Board and via the Rottingdean Parish Council website before any final decisions are made. 

5. In the meantime, if you have any comments about the proposals please email

Grazing Patterns 

6. An agreement was reached in 2010 to graze Beacon Hill Nature Reserve for 3 months each year but in 2017, the LNR was officially extended by 8.15 hectares or 44%, to incorporate the redundant pitch and putt course. To accommodate this added area, the grazing time is proposed to be increased to between 3 and 4 months per year, spread over 2-3 months in autumn and 2-4 weeks in the Spring and with the sheep off the Reserve by mid-May at the latest. This should ensure the land is well managed while preserving wildflowers and protecting wildlife, particularly nesting Skylarks.

7. Over time, the aim is to install permanent troughs to provide water for sheep in respective grazing compartments. This will reduce vehicle movement on the Reserve during grazing periods and staff time required to move, fill and return water bowsers.

8. Reducing and redefining the current system of 6 temporary grazing compartments would mean less staff and volunteer time spent moving enclosure infrastructure such as fencing. It would result in fewer sheep movements, reduce the number of permanent water troughs required, limit the disruption of pipework installation and cut a degree of costs.

9. Several compartment layouts are currently being considered by the site Ranger and the Beacon Hill Stewardship Group.


10. In order to deliver a more efficient grazing arrangement, a permanent stock fence is needed on Beacon Hill, to run between the existing grassland and the North and South woods. A permanent stock fence would reduce staff and volunteer time and the number of materials required to compartmentalise the hill for purposes of grazing sheep 

11. In order to ensure access to and around the Reserve is maintained, there would be a gate at every point where the fence crossed a defined path and gates could be chained open when sheep are not grazing.
12. The proposed fence would be constructed using stock netting and where possible this would be set back into existing scrub undergrowth and installed with the larger, 15cm square holes at the bottom. With this arrangement in place, it will provide an effective barrier to sheep but continue to allow smaller wildlife to pass through while experience on other sites has shown that larger animals such as badgers are quickly able to produce runs underneath.

13. In most instances, the stock fence would quickly become covered with brambles and undergrowth and to most passers-by, a large part of it would become almost invisible for much of the year.

14. With the fence arrangement as described above, the County Ecologist is satisfied that it will not be a barrier to wildlife.

February 2021

Downland History

For centuries the Downs around Brighton & Hove produced sheep and corn. The corn was grown in the valleys on the more fertile soils and the sheep grazed on the hills where the soils were thinner and less fertile.The arable fieldswere farmed in rotation with one field being left fallow each year. The sheep were brought down from the hills each evening by the shepherd and folded (penned) on the fallow field. The Sussex breed of sheep was bred to produce dung at night and thus they manured the fallow field, allowing it to be planted and cropped again next year.

This meant that the fertility of Beacon Hill’s soil was kept low by the continual transfer of sheep dung to the arable fields. Thus, coarser species of grasses etc could not dominate and the downs became rich in a diversity of wildflowers with skylarks, butterflies, and other insects then benefiting from them.

Over the last century agriculture has become industrialised and, with the advent of artificial fertilisers, farmers are no longer dependent on sheep grazing. This has seen 97% of the flower rich downland disappear in the last century. The remaining 3% is under threat from scrub spreading over it, eventually turning these areas into woods. Beacon Hill nature reserve is one of these small remaining areas that is in need of protection if we are to preserve it for future generations.


  • Most of the area of the nature reserve is open access land with some young woods on the east side.
  • Rottingdean Pitch and Put & Miniature Golf Course is on the southern slope of Beacon Hill (01273) 302127
  • Rottingdean Windmill is opened to the public over some weekends during the summer months.
  • Three public bridleways (shown in orange) cross Beacon Hill from Sheepwalk in the south, Hog Plat from the Village and the Recreation Ground to Longhill Road, Ovingdean in the north.
  • There are also several footpaths (shown in green) across the nature reserve.
  • Please keep your dogs under control and stick to these paths so as to minimize disturbing the skylarks.
  • In the sheep enclosure, please keep your dogs on a lead.

Getting there

Plan your journey here

Further information

Contact Us


Council Clerk: Chris Hayes


Parish Council Clerk
Rottingdean Parish Council,
The Gables,
6 Dean Road,
Rottingdean, BN2 7DH

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