Responsible tourism: West Dean bed & breakfast near Chichester, England
All of the heating and hot water needs of West Dean College (and parts of the village) are met entirely, and on a sustained basis, by using wood fuel grown on the West Dean Estate. The biomass district heating scheme was one of the first, and remains one of the largest of its kind, in the UK. Since 2005 the charity Butterfly Conservation has been working closely with the West Dean Estate and the South Downs National Park, to initially conserve, and then increasingly strengthen, a colony of the rare Duke of Burgundy butterflies first discovered on the Estate in 2004. The results achieved so far have been nothing short of remarkable due to focused efforts to satisfy the species’ highly fussy habitat requirements. In November 2011 the Estate’s contribution was recognised by being awarded the Marsh Lepidoptera Award for the Promotion of Lepidoptera Conservation, a national award promoted by Butterfly Conservation. As well as this, West Dean College offers full time courses in the conservation of Books, Ceramics, Clocks, Furniture and Metalwork, Making Stringed Musical Instruments and Visual Arts and also a programme of Building Conservation Masterclasses. These provide training in technical and practical skills in the repair and maintenance of historic structures and objects.
The award winning West Dean Gardens are open and accessible to the public for 11 months of the year. A programme of garden events, courses and talks run throughout the year.
West Dean hosts a number of events for all ages and interests throughout the year, these often give local business the chance to showcase their products to a wide audience or encourage participation in gardening and crafts.
The College has a strong commitment to providing opportunities and access to education, the arts and conservation and therefore offer a range of bursaries for students interested in studying either full or short courses.
There are a variety of volunteer roles available from garden volunteers to assisting with administration, which offer local people the chance to be involved in many aspects of West Dean College and Gardens.
The Shop stocks a variety of products made by local businesses and people. While the Gardens Restaurant serves a variety of locally sourced food.
The Estate contains a variety of habitats. Houses, barns, workshops, studios, sheds, garden and Park walls, church and churchyard all provide urban habitat. Freshwater habitat can be found in the the River Lavant which flows through West Dean and in a few small ponds dotted around the Estate and a relatively new wildlife pond within West Dean Gardens. There is also a variety of woodland habitat with many of the plantations of even age as a consequence of re-establishment after the 1987 and 1990 storms. Hedgerows, shelterbelts, ornamental clumps, parkland trees and specimen trees in the Gardens and Arboretum complement the larger commercial plantations whilst old watered meadows, chalk downland, chalk heath, improved pastures and fields of arable crops provide further variety of habitat.
The diversity of wildlife reflects this variety of habitat. The Estate is rich in fungi and flowering plants, particularly orchids, and lichens, bryophytes and ferns. It also supports a large invertebrate population, including flies, bees, grasshoppers and butterflies. Many species of mammals, small birds and raptors occur on the Estate, notably water vole, badgers, three species of deer, various tit species, ravens, buzzards, kestrels and red kites. Moderate populations of reptiles and amphibians also occur. Many paths in and around the West Dean Estate are ideal for horse riders and walkers of all abilities.