Whiteshute Ridge Project
Whiteshute Ridge Enhancement Project
Open Event 10 October 3pm to 7:30pm
Badger Farm Community Centre
Whiteshute Ridge is an area of valuable chalkland habitat adjacent to Badger Farm. This site is one of the few remaining areas of chalk downland in Hampshire. It is a haven for wildlife and a popular place for people to enjoy, with spectacular views of the city of Winchester. It is bordered to the south by Clarendon Way – part of an old road connecting the Cathedral cities across southern England.
Owned by Winchester City Council, the site is currently managed by the Parish Council, who ensure the grassland is cut annually and undertake essential tree works. However, the site is gradually declining in terms of its wildlife value as cutting and composting the grass is changing the number and type of wild flowers and grasses found in the area. Also the scrub around the edge of the site is gradually encroaching into the grassland, reducing the area that can be used for recreation
The Parish Council and Winchester City Council have been in discussions on how best to manage this site going forward. Whiteshute Ridge has been used as grazing land for hundreds of years and often served as a last overnight camp for shepherds and herdsmen before driving their stock into the City markets.
Not only is it historically important but grazing is still the best way to manage these areas. This traditional method encourages the finer flowers and grasses, whilst discouraging the less desirable plants and scrub. It is also the most sustainable way of managing grassland, as once the initial capital works, such as fencing and installing water, have been undertaken the management costs are less than mowing. Therefore if we were able to graze this site, the City Council is prepared to take the land back into our management to help secure it for future generations.
Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT) are very experienced in this type of habitat management, and it is considered sensible to have them involved with this grazing scheme to utilise their expertise and facilities. If we are to enhance this area via cattle grazing and scrub control it will become part of an important network of fragments of species-rich chalk grassland that landowners and conservationists are gradually linking across the region.
The British White stock that we use to graze are wonderful, docile creatures and they will only be on the site in small numbers and at limited times of the year. There will be gates and access points across the site to allow everyone to continue to walk dogs and go for runs. We are also hoping to encourage the local school to visit the site for educational purposes, and encourage local people to be involved in caring for the site so that future generations understand a little more about this gem on their doorstep.
To tell you more about this exciting project, Winchester City Council will be hosting an open event on 10 October at Badger Farm Community Centre from 3pm to 7:30pm. Please come along and look at the plans and talk to Council officers about the project. The Wildlife Trust will be offering activities for children throughout the event so do bring them along.