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Rare chalk grassland restored at Shabden Park Farm
A five year project to maintain and enhance the rare chalk grassland habitat at Long Plantation Meadow (which lies within Shabden Park Farm and forms part of the Chipstead Downs Site of Special Scientific Interest) has been successfully completed. The project, run by Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT) and funded by SITA Trust, has contributed to the Government's Surrey chalk grassland Habitat Action Plan targets.
Chalk grassland is a rare habitat and, itself, supports many rare species. Without careful management scrub can choke the more fragile plants, changing the habitat and making it impossible for many of its animals to survive there. This was the way things were going at Long Plantation Meadow, until SWT (which manages the area on behalf of Surrey County Council) launched this vital project to conserve the relic habitat.
Scrub and trees were removed from the meadow and 36 volunteers helped with coppicing and thinning of trees at the edge of the adjacent woodland. Fencing was installed by Mark Banham, the tenant farmer, and 12 of his Sussex cattle were introduced in September 2010 so they could graze the area and keep the more dominant vegetation at bay.
Botanical surveys have shown the presence of many species of plants specific only to chalk grassland and a low number of the usually dominant (unwanted) plants; this proves the cattle’s grazing is having a positive effect and will help to increase the number of chalk grassland plants. As a result of this improvement in the habitat, invertebrate surveys identified the return of several rare and nationally scarce species. The data will be submitted to the Surrey Biological Records Centre (SBRC), based at SWT's headquarters in Pirbright, and will help inform the future management of Shabden Park Farm and other chalk grassland reserves.
Bob Crompton, SWT ranger, says: “The restoration project at Shabden has enabled SWT staff to work alongside the farm tenants with the backing of the SITA Trust to ensure that this important area, with all of its wonderful wildlife, is protected and enhanced for the future.”
|Date published:||Thursday 12 July 2012|