At this time of year, wet weather permitting, the ranger team, supported by specialist contractors get stuck into a wide range of practical tasks.

Butser Hill, which is a National Nature Reserve covers some 750 acres and is recognised as the highest point on the South Downs. This is difficult terrain to walk let alone to fence, cut scrub or thin woodland.

The Winter’s work can be broadly split in to three areas; Firstly, cutting the coarse grasses, thorn and dogwood to achieve a balance between the downland sward and scrub communities.

The first tool here is the grazing animals, currently some 300 sheep and 30 beef cattle. The back up is a tractor and topper for the coarse grass, a tractor and the aptly named ‘destroyer’ on the light scrub, and the final resort where the scrub is well on its way to becoming woodland is to use a ‘hand team’ with chainsaw and brush-cutter.

Secondly, there is 1 kilometer of fencing to be replaced each and every year, and finally the woodland blocks are thinned or coppiced on a rotational basis. These last two subjects will be covered by later posts.

Back to the scrub control, this is being carried out in the top of Target Valley on the southern slopes of Butser Hill. This area has suffered from rampant growth by Hawthorn and Ash in recent years and the aim is to bring it back to a stage where the combined efforts of grazing animals and light machinery will be able to keep it under control in the future.

The team is provided by a local company called Natural Land Management which is based at Eames Farm on Thorney Island. NLM is a sister company to Rother Valley Organics, the Farm Business Tenant on Butser.

After this area has been cleared the team will move on to the northern slopes of the hill as part of the ‘Dukes on the Edge’ project funded by Butterfly Conservation.

Target Valley was so named because of its use as a military training area since Napoleonic times. Old ordnance regularly turns up thanks to the efforts of rabbits and badgers. At the end of the valley are two parallel mounds of earth which provided a back stop for the bullets and shelter for those dealing with the targets. These can be clearly seen in the second image.

For more information about NLM go to http://www.naturallandmanagement.com

To find out more about other work priorities the site management plan can be seen on the web-site at www.hants.gov.uk/qecp

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