Ancient chalk grassland is a very biodiverse habitat. It is often quoted as having 40-50 species of flowering plant per square metre of turf, which makes it the UK equivalent of the tropical rain forest!
In fact chalk grassland is actually rarer than tropical rain forest. According to the Sussex Biodiversity Action Plan, there are only around 2,600 hectares of chalk grassland now surviving in Sussex and only around 3% of the South Downs is now chalk grassland.
There are three surviving areas of ancient chalk grassland on the Steyning Downland Scheme. These are on Pepperscoombe Bank, Steyning Coombe and the Rifle Range:
This map is actually a bit pessimistic! Thanks to the hard work of the SDS Conservation Volunteers, chalk grassland has also been restored to the north bank of the Rifle Range and is now much expanded across Steyning Coombe. This has been achieved by clearing back the scrub and woodland which had been invading the grassland and by introducing conservation grazing to prevent scrub from reestablishing.