Butser


This Sunday in glorious Summer weather over 5,000 car enthusiasts gathered for the South Hants Vehicle Preservation Society’s annual show.

The events field on the slopes of Butser Hill was filled to capacity as people came to see some 500 classic and vintage machines. These included cars, commercials, motorcycles and military vehicles all polished and looking their best. The oldest was  made in 1903 and the youngest in 1987.

In addition there were over 150 auto-jumble stalls where you could buy, or sell, every thing from a beautifully restored 185cc Suzuki Trials Bike from the 1980s for £3,000, to those all important nuts, bolts and widgets for a few pennies.

For most stall holders the aim is sell more than you buy and to have fun.

A brass band, children’s entertainment and full catering facilities ,including a licensed bar all helped to make for a fantastic day out.

]The South Hants Vehicle Preservation Society is a thriving local club which welcomes new members, with or without a classic or vintage vehicle.

They have a busy events programme including trips abroad, treasure hunts and club runs. For more information go to www.shvps.org.uk

The definition of what represents a classic or vintage vehicle is a contentious point and the challenge is to pick future classics that are currently bangers.

Arguably a ‘modern classic’ is any vehicle considered collectible regardless of age. However HM Revenue & Customs define a classic vehicle for company car taxation purposes as being over 15 years old and having a value greater than £15,000

 

 

 

  

   

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Butser Hill in the Spring is covered in the flowers of the Common cowslip, particularly on the northern and western slopes but also along the A3 verges and the South Downs Way.

The Cowslip’s name is thought to originate from the old English for cow dung as its flowers were commonly seen in grazing meadows. Traditionally the flowers were used to flavour wine and vinegar.

This semi-evergreen perennial is found throughout Europe and Asia although in this country it has been threatened by the agricultural improvement of grasslands.

 

The slopes on Butser have not now been disturbed for 50 years and  as a consequence numbers of Cowslip are growing every year.

Additional benefit from the large numbers comes from the fact that the leaves are a key food plant for the larval stage of the Duke of Burgundy butterfly.

This extremely scarce butterfly is found over much of Butser Hill and we are lucky enough to have what is probably its largest stronghold in the UK.

Over a 24 hour period from 4pm on Saturday the 10th August through to the same time on the 11th, there will be a BioBlitz event at the Country Park. This is open to the public with the simple aim to find as many species as possible across the Park. Last year over 600 were identified. More information at www.hants.gov.uk/qecp

The scrub cutting and the topping of coarse grass and bramble on Butser Hill all stopped at the end of March in order to give our wildlife peace and quiet for the breeding season.

The restoration of the Holt pond was finished in time for the return of the amphibians, and the practical tasks that so dominate the Winter period have nearly all been completed.

An impressive 2km of fencing has been replaced by the Park’s ranger team with help from contractors ‘Leydene Fencing’. The specification used is treated softwood posts with two strands of barbed wire and livestock netting.

This copes well with the largest beef cattle and the smallest lambs. There is also the added benefit of being able to keep dogs on the right side of the fence line.

This year the National Park have kindly provided grant support to replace 10 stiles with kissing gates. These helps improve access to the far-flung corners of the site whilst keeping the livestock in the intended compartments.

The standard design has been customised for the Park to ensure that the gate self closes and that it remains lamb proof thanks to the addition of weldmesh on the lower sections.

The Park welcomes volunteers who are interested in learning practical tasks such as fencing or gate hanging. For more information contact the visitor centre reception on 02392 595040

Throughout the year the Park is a haven for bird life of all sorts whether the familiar residents or occasional migrants. And with 2,000 acres and divers habitats such as chalk downland and beech woods the variety can be staggering.

Regular visitor and one time staff member Mike Wearing has been out and about recently with camera in hand looking at the Park’s birds of prey.

These two species are not easily seen particularly around the main facility areas and visitors will need to get to know the site well or to attend one of the many guided walks that are put on by the rangers or volunteers.

The sparrowhawk is perfectly adapted to hunting other birds in confined species. Having evolved for woodland work this adaptation suits suburban gardens and it is the bird of prey that you are most likely to see at home.

The males are smaller and can tackle birds up to starling size whilst the female is much larger, seen here with an adult wood-pigeon. Unless the hawk has caught something and is on the ground you only generally get a fleeting visit. Often the pile of feathers from the recently plucked prey is the only sign of what has taken place.

The barn owl is much harder to see being less common and largely night flying. Prey species are chiefly rodents and this bird prefers the grassland and open woodland areas.

The most likely place to spot one is if you are taking part in an evening barbecue on the lower slopes of Butser at the Cannonball or Coneyacres sites.  

On Sunday the 12th May there will be a chance to see many of our bird species on the annual Dawn Chorus Walk. This starts at the crack of dawn (4am), and ends with an organic bbq breakfast cooked by the volunteers.

 The walk must be booked in advance from the visitor centre on 02392 595040. Cost £6.00 per person.

 

The plainly titled ‘Concrete pond’ is hidden away on the southern slopes of Butser Hill adjacent to the A3. Once an ancient dew pond it was concreted over at the turn of the last century and  then fell in to disrepair from the 1960s.

One of its last functions was to act as a safe store for all the ordnance ploughed up on the lower slopes during the 1950s when barley was being grown on the hill. Target Valley lies immediately to the south-west and was used as a military range from Napoleonic times.

By the year 2000 the pond was dry and full of spoil. This was all removed and a new reinforced concrete bottom laid. Two thirds of the brick walls were replaced and rendered, and the pond has held a perfect level ever since.

It provides a home to dragonfly and damselfly species, a small number of amphibians, and is used for drinking water by a wide range of wildlife.

The pond contains a great many Ramshorn snails and quantities of these are being removed from the water to be eaten by something. We have no idea what this could be and are appealing for information from anyone who might have seen this before.

Whatever it is tends to select the largest shells which can be almost an inch across, and then keeps a tidy pile of all the arisings. There is no shortage of snails in this pond and our concern is simply to find out what happens to them.

If you can help a small reward awaits.

Work continues on the restoration of Holt Pond which is filling with water and nearly complete. The area will now be fenced off to create a wildlife zone where public access can be managed. The bare earth will be sown with wild flower seed harvested from Butser Hill during last Summer.

Pond weed will be brought across from the ‘concrete pond’ on the other side of the A3. This pond was restored some years ago and has large quantities of Water milfoil and Curled-leaved pondweed.

The Holt Pond has a good population of Palmate newts and these need aquatic plants on which to attach their eggs which are individually wrapped one per leaf.

 

 

The old rotten concrete slabs will be used to create a hibernaculum or reptile refuge. This will be built in a such a way that will allow the Grass snakes, Adders, Slow worms and Common lizards to hide away from the freezing Winter temperatures. And also being South facing they will be able to warm up quickly when the sun does shine. The blocks will be covered in soil and the grass kept short to aid this process.

Much of this work is carried out by the park’s volunteers who meet every Tuesday morning for practical work sessions across the site. More information can be obtained from the web-site at www,hants.gov.uk/qecp

 

Butser Hill is a part of the Country Park and is also the highest point on the South Downs at 270 metres. Regular visitors will have noticed the hang-gliders, paragliders and model gliders all of whom are attracted to the special weather conditions created along the scarp slope.

The Sky-Surfing club covers the first 2 of these activities and has just over 140 members. They have permission to fly from three locations on Butser  and share these with the Meon Valley Soaring Association, a similar sized club that flies model gliders.

Formed in 1974 the Sky-Surfing club is based at the Hampshire end of the South Downs and also has flying sites at Chalton, Harting, Whitewool and Mercury.

The club ensures that flying on the hill is tightly controlled with a code of conduct, insurance, and regular meetings with Park staff. Additionally, each year in June both clubs get together with the Park to run the Festival of Flight. This is an event that celebrates all forms of flying from kites to gliders.

New members who are looking to try this challenging and exciting activity are always welcome and can contact committee members at www.skysurfingclub.co.uk

 

The link below gives an idea of what to expect!

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Iy1GaVEErk4

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