December 2010


The warmer weather has melted all the snow and the Park’s car parks, including Butser Hill, are now  open to the public.

The main centre facilities, shop, cafe and toilets will be closed on the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th January.

Snow camp

Snow camp

The cold weather is still here with freezing temperatures and a thick covering of snow across the Park. Butser Hill continues to be enjoyed by snow boarders, skiers and those with sledges. However the top Butser car park remains closed until further notice. The slopes can be accessed from the main visitor centre car park, just off the A3.

The  conditions have brought out the survival skills for one group who constructed this camp in the forest (pictured above). This type of activity, where it involves the use of tools and the cutting down of trees, is  definately not encouraged.    

Camp in Havant Thicket

Camp in Havant Thicket

 This camp, which was found some while ago in Havant Thicket, became a major project for another group, and landed them in big trouble with the police, when they were finally tracked down.

The Park facilities are scheduled to close on Christmas day and then again on the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th January.  The visitor centre car park will remain open.

The Park will be open today with all Santa activities running according the the booked times. There is alot of snow on the Hill but the car park areas can be used with care. The  Centre, cafe and Winter Wonderland will also be open.

The Butser Hill car park will remain closed.

Due to heavy snow falls in the early hours of Saturday the Park will be closed for the day. At 8.30 am there were 4 inches of snow across the site with more falling at an alarming rate. The A3 was down to a single track and both north and south bound slip roads had yet to be cleared of snow.   

All Santa activities will be covered by a refund. Unfortunately there are no alternative dates this side of Christmas.

With regard to Sunday a decision will be taken as early as possible on the day.

Lambs on Butser Hill

Lambs on Butser Hill

This  biggest of this years lambs, born in April and May, are now going off to market as finished animals. Rother Valley Organics, a family run organic farming business from just across the border in West Sussex, have a Farm Business Tenancy on the Hill and such manage the Park’s 250 sheep and their own beef cattle. This is done in a way that both promotes the conservation priorities on the National Nature Reserve as well as maintaining a level of productivity from the livestock. Being able to produce lamb and beef is an important source of funding to add to the grant income recieved from DEFRA and Natural England. 

The site and it’s livestock are registered under the Organic and FABBL (Little Red Tractor) schemes where fertilisers, pesticides and feed are very tightly controlled. The produce is sold from the Park’s shop, via the Rother Valley web-site and, as we are both Hampshire Fare members, through the local farmers markets.

Texel and Hampshire Down rams

Texel and Hampshire Down rams

Each year in November and December the rams are put in with the 250 Beulah ewes. The Beulah is a Welsh Hill breed designed to cope with severe weather and rough grazing. Butser Hill is the highest point on the South Downs and, at 270m or 888ft, the closest thing we have to a mountain in this part of the world.  To produce a saleable lamb carcass the ewes are put to  Texel, Hampshire Down or Dorset Horn rams. These are introduced over a series of three 16 day cycles so that the ewes which become pregnant soonest can be later separated for accurate supplementary feeding. This starts 6 weeks prior to lambing on an increasing rate as the date gets closer. Using  an ultrasound test those carrying twins will be identified and fed accordingly. Organic crushed barley is used as the feed.

All the Park’s ewes are taken off site at this 6 week stage and lambed in a more sheltered location. They are returned in small groups once they have lambed.

Height restricted gate at Halls Hill

Height restricted gate at Halls Hill

Halls Hill is a small car park on the Buriton side of Queen Elizabeth Forest that was originally created to provide the villagers with easy access to the Park. The area is much troubled by car break-ins and fly tipping and as a consequence a height restricted gate has just been installed by contractors. The last major fly tipping incident was back in the summer when a light engineering firm from Emsworth left a lorry load of paints, chemicals and asbestos. As well as being a risk to visitors, clearing up this type of waste can cost a four figure sum.

One other issue in this quiet spot is motorbikes. These tend to be carried to the area in the back of  large vans and then used in the QE Forest or the nearby Buriton Chalk Pits Local Nature Reserve (LNR). Up to 13 at a time have been encountered in the LNR and this level of activity causes a great deal of damage to it’s sensitive habitats.

The Park currently provides ranger cover for the LNR as part of a Heritage Lottery funded partnership with Buriton Parish and East Hampshire District Council. Regular patrols are made to establish contact with all the site’s users.

'Monkey' bikes leaving the LNR

'Monkey' bikes leaving the LNR

 To complete the work at Halls Hill the Park’s rangers have replaced the fencing alongside the car park. Three strands of barbed wire have been used and the area will be grazed in the future by our neighbours beef cattle. 

New fencing at Halls Hill

New fencing at Halls Hill

4WD training

4WD training

This month the Park’s landrover has been used by Hampshire Search and Rescue for off-road training. On each of three days, Andy Phillips, a freelance trainer, together with three different volunteers, use an area adjacent to the main the site called Head Down. This is a Forestry Commission plantation just like Queen Elizabeth Forest but with restricted access. This allows use for more unusual types of recreation such as motorbike trials, field archery and vehicle training.

Hampshire Search and Rescue as the name suggests operates as a back up to the emergency services concentrating on inaccessible areas. During the season they help with marshalling at several QECP events where large numbers of people leave the Park and use the rights of way network.

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