Twenty-five key chalk grassland sites across Surrey and South London have been restored through targeted countryside management and an extensive conservation grazing programme under the Old Surrey Downs Project remit.
Raising public awareness of this nationally declining special habitat and encouraging community involvement has been a key objective; the funding enabled the Project to provide new interpretation and infrastructure on many sites, plus produce new walk leaflets and publications.
As well as welcoming many local schools out on task days, the Old Surrey Downs Project produced a Chalk Grassland Teacher’s Pack for Key Stage 3 pupils (ages 11-14). The pack aims to promote the use of chalk grassland by schools and to encourage and promote further understanding of the habitat. Educational chalk grassland species ID keyrings, featuring key butterflies and flowers typical to this habitat, were also produced to encourage exploration, which have proven very popular with all ages. The Project also offered free illustrated talks to local groups to promote chalk grassland and the Project’s work, and will continue to do so going forward as part of the Downlands Project's ongoing community involvement work.
The chalk grassland has been restored by cutting back an extensive amount of scrub that overshadowed the sites. Our sheep, goats, cattle and Dartmoor ponies continue to help to control the growth of the coarse vegetation, which in turn allows the beautiful wild flowers to grow and the butterflies to brood.
Chalk grassland is one of our most beautiful and richest wildlife habitats. Over 50 kinds of plant can be found in a square metre. These plants support a rich and varied wildlife, some of which can only be found here. The North Downs was once covered in flower-rich chalk grassland; most of it has now gone. Only 1% now survives on the Surrey Hills, so it is important that we continue to help this special habitat to thrive.
The Downlands Project continues to manage and promote chalk grassland as part of its remit to ensure the legacy of the success of the last six years of Old Surrey Downs.
One of the final targets for the Old Surrey Downs Project was to commission two beautiful bespoke sculptured oak benches for installation on key scenic sites. Surrey based sculptor Ruth Wheeler (Sculpt it) was produced the special benches. One bench depicting chalk grassland flora and butterflies has been installed on the hillside at Dene Farm on Chipstead Downs; the other depicting snails found on chalk grassland sites (Roman and the rare introduced Trochoidea elegans) is sited at the top of Park Ham, Chaldon. The Downlands Circular Walk passes along the top of Park Ham. Local resident and Downlands Trust member Stuart Billing commented 'a big well done for the lovely natural set at the top of Park Ham bowl; exactly the right spot to locate to enjoy the view and catch your breath'.
Why not go for a stroll and see for yourself?