Deacon Hill Land Purchase Appeal
We did it! Thank you for helping us secure the next piece of the jigsaw for a wilder Winchester
Back in Spring this year we were presented with a fabulous opportunity to purchase the site of Deacon Hill Nature Reserve, on the outskirts of Winchester. Following generous gifts in the Wills of two local women, Heather Monie and Shirley Bull, we already had a contribution towards the purchase price and ongoing management costs, but we urgently needed to raise an additional £150,000 to ensure we could secure, protect and enhance the valuable habitats here.
We were delighted when individuals and local organisations and companies answered our call, and we were able to raise just over the target needed through a real community effort.
Deacon Hill is a 10 hectare patchwork of scrub and chalk grassland in the South Downs National Park. It perches at the highest point of the chalk scarp to the east of the city, overlooking the Chilcomb valley. Over half of the world’s chalk grassland is found in the UK, and a significant amount sits right on our doorstep in Winchester. Chalk grassland is widely regarded as one of the richest habitats in Europe, but it is under threat from damaging agricultural practices and invasive scrub, so we are delighted to be able to protect this site into the future.
Site update (Summer 2020)
Since we completed the purchase back at the beginning of May we have started work on the site to improve the habitats for the wildlife that lives here. The ecology team has begun the baseline surveys needed to help determine future work, with the first bird surveys clocking up 21 species, including blackcap, whitethroat, yellowhammer and green woodpecker. Duke of Burgundy butterflies have also been seen on the wing, with eggs being laid across the site. During their visits, the team also came across broomrape, common spotted and pyramidal orchids; as well as lots of insects including bees, butterflies and common green grasshopper.
The reserves team has also been at work, clearing back vegetation from the entranceways to improve access (for both the public and the team), and checking and securing the fence lines. We plan to start more major works, including grazing the site with our own British white cattle this autumn. This will help remove some of the scrub and longer grasses, which will ensure that a mosaic of habitats are created and help the site to support a broad wealth of species.
Longer term vision
The reserves team has spent some time reviewing previous management operations across Deacon Hill and is exploring the development of a new management plan. We are working alongside Butterfly Conservation and the South Downs National Park Authority to develop this plan, which will specifically look to safeguard the future of the butterflies that use the site, particularly the Duke of Burgundy. Our vision is that these butterflies are not only protected here but can, in the future, flourish and recolonise nearby areas where they are currently missing.
Other wildlife and farmland birds which use the site will also benefit from this management. These include bird species such as yellowhammer and whitethroat (which we already know are using the site), and small mammals such as voles and field mice. Together we can add this landscape to our vital network for nature, to create a wilder Winchester and help the area to become a beautiful natural gateway to the South Downs National Park.
Together we have successfully purchased this land for wildlife, most notably the Duke of Burgundy butterfly.
You can still donate to this appeal, any additional funds raised now will be spent on managing the land for wildlife.