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It is Brighton & Hove's largest Local Nature Reserve (LNR) and has extensive woodland walks and spectacular views over the city. The South Downs National Park extends right in to the city here and important species-rich chalk grassland survive on south and north-facing slopes surrounding the recreation ground and on the roughs of Hollingbury Park golf course. There are also large patches of chalk scrub, grazing fields (popular with seed-eating birds) and a dew pond.
There is controversy over the plans for scrub clearance proposed for the park.
It made the headlines in tragic circumstances on 10 October 1986 when the bodies of two missing nine-year-old girls were found there. A local man called Russell Bishop was charged with their murders and acquitted the following year, though he has been in prison since 1990 serving a life sentence for a sex attack on a seven-year-old girl. In the wake of the double jeopardy law being abolished, prospects were raised of Bishop facing a second trial, but the Court of Appeal ruled out a second prosecution in September 2006.