Introducing ‘naturegain’


Lewes & Ouse Valley eco-nomics (L&OVe) is a community group formed under the umbrella of Transition Town Lewes.

Our group is looking into the benefits that the local community and the local economy gets from the local environment; benefits like pollination, water purification, flood protection and climate regulation …. to name but a few. Scientists use the term ‘ecosystem services’ to describe these benefits, but we prefer the term naturegain.  We want to identify the most important types of naturegain in the Lewes area, and work with local organisations to enhance and sustain the ecosystems that provide these services.

Our goal is to help improve local people’s wellbeing and the resilience of the local economy by promoting greater recognition of how the natural environment underpins all business and is central to community wellbeing.   We have been running workshops, organising walks, and conducting studies in cooperation with a wide range of  individuals and institutions.  Please join us!

Film of Lewes Neighbourhood Plan: Developing an Ecosystem Approach

Take a look at this film –- a L&OVe production – sweeping shots of Lewes and its surroundings, people enthused, engaged and having fun identifying what Lewes’ landscape does for its residents, businesses and organizations! Then relating this to the Themes and Topics of the Neighbourhood Plan.

We hope it’ll inspire you to get involved.

This film is one of the final outputs from the Chalking up the Benefits project, showing how Colin, Andrew and others from L&OVe have worked with the Lewes Neighbourhood Plan Steering group to encourage them to take an Ecosystem Approach to the Lewes Neighbourhood Plan – with some success!

Adapting to Climate Change in the Ouse Valley

Here is a short film to raise interest in how long term climate change is likely to affect us in the Ouse Valley, and how we as communities might be able to do something about it by planning now.

Please take a look and pass it on to anyone you think may be interested.

The video comes from the Environment Agency’s Coastal Communities 2150 project and was made at the workshop developed for the CC2150 project by Lewes & Ouse Valley eco-nomics Group (Transition Town Lewes), as part of the Group’s Chalking up the Benefits project.

Flood risks and ecosystem services

Screen Shot 2014-01-04 at 22.59.59 PMFlooding has been in the news again, and for many unfortunate people it has been in their homes!  You can use this map to find out the flood risk where you live, and check here for the latest flood alerts. You can also monitor the river level in Lewes at this page.

UK Government policy acknowledges that climate change is increasing the risk of flooding, but are we doing enough to protect the ecosystem services that could mitigate some of this risk?  Here is a quote from a recent report by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:

Natural flood risk management involves working with natural processes to reduce flood
risk and damage. It involves working at the catchment scale and concerns the alteration,
restoration or use of landscape features; mechanisms include storing water using
landscape features, increasing soil infiltration, and slowing water by interrupting and
increasing resistance to its flow. Such measures may be able to reduce the height of
downstream water levels during a flood, or delay the arrival of the peak of the flood. These
measures, applied strategically, may also yield wider ecosystem service benefits such as
enhancing water quality, habitat for wildlife, biodiversity, carbon capture, landscape and
greenspace provision. When these benefits are taken into account, natural flood risk
management may in some cases be the best option.

The full report is here: Defra, 2013, Developing the potential for Payments for Ecosystem Services: an Action Plan

The protection of natural wetlands is one way to reduce flood risks.  You can read more about the benefits of local wetlands, and the threats they face, in this report from The Sussex Wildlife Trust.

World Forum on Natural Capital

Screen Shot 2013-11-23 at 6.59.51 AMThe World Forum on Natural Capital has been taking place in Edinburgh this week. The official website of the event is here.

BBC coverage of the event includes quotes from both Kering, the company that makes Gucci handbags, and the World Development Movement.  Not surprisingly they have different views on the concept of natural capital.  Kering is worried about the sustainability of the leather and precious metals used in its products, while WDM has labelled the idea as the Great Nature Sale.


Online ecosystems course

The Open University has announced a free online course called An Introduction to Ecosystems starting on 18th November. The course description sounds very interesting:

Screen Shot 2013-11-11 at 15.25.00 PMIf we don’t grasp why ecosystems function, it becomes harder to determine possible reasons for when they don’t, and makes it difficult to identify possible environmental threats to humans.

The 6-week course was mentioned at the recent Annual General Meeting of L&OVe, and some of our members decided to sign up.  We plan to have a meeting in December where we will get together to discus what we have been learning and how this applies to the Lewes area.

Anybody else from the Lewes area who joins this course will be welcome to join our discussion, tentatively scheduled for the evening of 17th December. Details of the time and place will be posted here in due course.  Meanwhile, please sign up for the course here.

Caroline Lucas comments on Natural Capital report

The State of Natural Capital Report, published in April this year, was recently discussed in Parliament. Prepared by the Natural Capital Committee, an independent advisory body, the key messages of the report are:

  • Natural capital assets are in decline and these trends should be measured
  • Changes in natural capital should be properly included in national and corporate accounts.
  • Changes in natural capital should be properly valued and those values more effectively included in decision-making processes.
  • Stewardship of natural capital is good for growth

Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion and formerly leader of the Green Party helped to spark an interesting debate in Parliament on 21 October with her comments:

Screen Shot 2013-11-01 at 17.09.32 PM“Oscar Wilde famously spoke of those who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. If valuing nature in the way suggested will halt the current decline of our precious wildlife and habitats, it is to be welcomed, but does the hon. Gentleman agree that we need very strong safeguards, including in the planning system, to ensure that by putting a pound sign on priceless ecosystems such as ancient woodlands we do not inadvertently open the door to their destruction?”

The Hasard transcript of the full debate can be read here, and further information about the work of the Natural Capital Committee is available here.

August update

July has been a very busy month and so was June ….. so lots to report, but also lots to look forward to as a result:

Let’s start with looking forward, eh …..?
So the News for August is:
L&OVe first ‘activity’ meeting! For those of you not going away on holiday, we hope you’ll a-LOAP with us!! we’ve organised our August meeting as (we hope?!) an activity meeting at Lewes Organic Allotment Project (LOAP). Meet at 11 a.m. on Wednesday 14 August at the top gate to LOAP (grid ref. TQ40023 11088) on the path up towards the Old Racecourse next to the track that goes up there. The idea is to work with LOAP for an hour or so and then settle down for a talk about the naturegain we’ve just experienced and start our L&OVe meeting either there on site or agree to repair to the nearest pub to meet instead. An agenda will be posted here in advance of the meeting.

MAPS! We will soon be getting maps of local naturegain. They’ll show us which areas provide our water; where are the areas of most importance for local climate regulation; where pollinators thrive; which areas nearby seem ‘natural’ – in other words, maps of ‘ecosystem services’ provided around Lewes. Here’s a sample of what the maps’ll look like – this one’s from County Durham
Access nature EcoServ eg


Once we get the maps, probably in October, we’ll need people to evaluate how realistic they are …… so we’d love people to come forward to help go out and look at the areas and make some judgements as to whether the maps are accurate – of course, we’ll need to meet first to decide what people need to look for to make this assessment and we may need some analysis of all this – anyone interested in helping?!

Volunteers, please reply here. Continue reading

Plan Bee

Look out for Plan Bee on the ITV Tonight Programme, this evening at 7:30 pm (18 July)

Screen Shot 2013-07-18 at 16.36.23 PMIt’s estimated that bees contribute £500 million annually to the British economy. And it’s not just about honey, because we rely on bees to pollinate around 75% of our food crops. Without bees and other pollinating insects, we’d struggle to produce many of the foods we’ve grown to love – strawberries, apples pears, jams, even coffee.

If you can’t watch the ITV programme, the Sussex Wildlife Trust has some advice about bees in our gardens, while the Co-op has it’s own website for Plan Bee.

June Naturegain Walk

What has Landport Bottom ever done for us? Or An Evening LOAP on top of the Bottom

Wednesday 26th June:  6-8:30 pm – with the option of continuing a ‘naturegain’ discussion in a local pub!

Southdown sheep at Landport Bottom Lewes

Southdown sheep benefitting from and bringing benefits to Landport Bottom’s grassland (Photo: Dan Ross)

Please join us for an early evening walk starting at Lewes Organic Allotment Project (LOAP) and heading off around Landport Bottom.  Experience and appreciate the benefits that the LOAP project brings with guide Sarah Rideout (who runs LOAP), not only to those who ‘garden’ there, but to the wider Lewes Community too.  We’ll then look for other benefits to Lewes residents as we emerge onto the Downs and stroll across Landport Bottom, guided by Dan Ross (who’s responsible for site management) to spot the chalk grassland wildlife delights emerging as his restoration project starts to bloom. We’ll also be looking at some of our interactions with the area and how potential future management approaches may increase the benefits to Lewes and its economy.

Colin Tingle (Lewes and Ouse Valley eco-nomics), Dan Ross (Lewes Ranger), Sarah Rideout (Common Cause Co-op) and Michael Blencowe (Sussex Wildlife Trust’s Community Wildlife Officer) will all be there to answer questions. Michael will point out wildlife features, whilst Colin will focus on the wider ‘naturegain’ from the areas we visit and enjoy.

Meet at 6 pm at the Gate into Landport Bottom Reserve near the junction between the A275 and the lane up to the Race Course (Grid ref: TQ 40246 10931).

LB walk 260613 (1)

For more information contact Colin Tingle on tc09(at) or  call Dan Ross on 01273 484408