Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust

Chilterns Chalk Grassland Project

Chalk grassland is a very wildlife rich habitat supporting up to 40 different plant species per square metre. But over 80% of this habitat has been lost in past 60 years. This project will improve and restore chalk grassland on 12 of BBOWT's nature reserves in the Chilterns.

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Registered Charity in England and Wales (204330)

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Situation

Chalk grassland is said to be Europe's equivalent of tropical rainforest with the variety of grassland found in the Chilterns being especially wildlife-rich. It supports as many as 40 plant species per square metre, as well as many rare insects and molluscs. But the grasslands are under continuing threat; an estimated 80% have been destroyed in the past 60 years, largely due to changing agricultural practices. General neglect continues, along with specific challenges to its management, such as the availability of grazing stock. A three-year project managed by the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) on 12 of its nature reserves across the Chilterns will span sites from College Lake, near Tring (Bucks) in the north, down to Hartslock, near Goring (Oxon) in the south. A number of the nature reserves that will benefit are home to rare wildlife species. Hartslock Nature Reserve, near Goring in Oxon, is home to the Adonis blue butterfly, small blue butterfly, lady orchid and monkey orchid (which is only found on two other sites in the whole of the UK). New sheep, a stock pen and fencing for this site will help such species. Whilst at Dancersend Nature Reserve, near Aylesbury in Bucks, newly restored areas of grassland will be important for species such as such the Duke of Burgundy butterfly, Chiltern gentian and glow worm. The project will work on several fronts to improve the management of existing chalk grassland and create additional habitat. A programme of scrub removal will focus on opening-up well established areas of scrub. Additional ponies, cattle and sheep, as well as bowsers and fencing, will allow grazing to be expanded and fine-tuned to better meet the individual needs of each site. The scrapping away of top soil at five locations will create new areas of grassland over the longer term. Newly recruited and existing volunteers will receive a variety of training, from brushcutting to conservation grazing, to support such initiatives. And they, and the new Project Officer, will be assisted in their tasks by the provision of equipment including an alpine tractor and cutter-collector, a walk behind mower and new brushcutters In addition to directly protecting wildlife, the project aims to educate and inspire local landowners to take action to help preserve chalk grassland. It will establish the nature reserves as demonstration sites to highlight how chalk grassland can be managed and restored and show just what a stunning habitat it can be. Funding is required to help purchase key equipment for managing the grassland sites and to cover the costs of the Project Officer. Further details are available on request and we would be pleased to arrange site visits where appropriate.

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