Shawford Down Cattle
Finally, would you like to be involved with checking on the Highland Cattle on Shawford Down? It has been suggested regular users of the down could check the cattle as often as they liked and get in touch with the HCC Countryside Department, if there appeared to be any problems. One training day aimed at showing volunteers how to correctly check the livestock, has already been organised but others can be arranged for anyone that is interested in helping us to maintain the health of the cattle. If you are interested – call or email Tricia Caffyn.
Highways and Byways
Although not present, Councillor Caffyn had noted in her report that the Rangers are considering several ways of dealing with the increase of Ragwort on Shawford Down. They are testing a spray, but its efficacy is not yet proven. It is likely that the area of the Down most affected will be mown before the return of the cattle. But she has been reliably informed by the Rangers that, contrary to inherited opinion, animals have to eat a considerable amount of the sprayed grass/ragwort before feeling any ill effects.
Discussions have also been taking place with HCC about the construction of a bund on the lower area of Shawford Down opposite the car park. Consideration is being given to leaving enough room between the bund and the road to the Malms for more parking. The chairman, Councillor Campbell-White, indicated that the Parish Council might support this financially but such support would be dependant on the possibility of a small play area being created. HCC seemed very supportive of this suggestion.
Councillor Caffyn reported that David Ball, HCC, had contacted Councillor Campbell-White about the creation of a bund at the bottom of Shawford Down to prevent further camping in this area. Councillor Campbell-White wondered whether HCC would consider taking the bund further back to create some parking in front of it. There was unanimous support for the proposal and Councillor Caffyn agreed to write to David Ball accordingly.
Mr. David Ball, Countryside Services, Hampshire County Council, gave a presentation to the Parish Council on the work being undertaken in Managing Shawford Down. Scrub clearance continues and the footpath across the Down leading to the Railway Station has been resurfaced. Currently there are three Highland cattle grazing the Down, and these will be increased in number to eight by the end of the year.
Car Parking at the bottom of the Down by people using Shawford Railway Station continues to be a problem. Cars are being parked on the grass and are causing significant damage to the ground surface. Accordingly, “Dragons Teeth” have been installed to prevent such Car Parking. However, it is appreciated that this will only serve to exasperate the growing Car Parking problem in Shawford Village.
Shawford Down and Highland Cattle
Representatives of Hampshire Countryside Services attended the meeting and gave a presentation on progress for the Management of Shawford Down. Grants have been received and quotations for the necessary fencing are being obtained. This fencing will encompass the grassland areas of the Down, excluding the woodland areas. Numerous gates will be installed allowing free access to the Public. There will be no restrictions on dogs, which will be allowed to run free as at present. All fencing will be installed in the most unobtrusive way as possible, mainly on the edge or within existing shrubbery. With the fencing installed, six highland cattle will graze the Down for two months per year, between October and March. As the project moves closer to fruition, greater details of the proposal will be publicised through the Press, Parish Magazine and by notices on the Down.
Councillor Patricia Caffyn reported that work on some scrub clearance on Shawford Down had commenced. A summary of Residents’ Comments on the management of Shawford Down had been prepared and submitted to the Countryside Services Department, Hampshire County Council. We are informed that this will be very useful in determining the priorities of the work to be done.
It was reported that, after making enquiries within Hampshire County Council, County Councillor Charlotte Bailey had established that they are optimistic that funding for the management of Shawford Down will be obtained from DEFRA. Any funding from DEFRA will be matched by Hampshire County Council.
The first part of this month’s Parish Council meeting consisted of a presentation by Charles Cuthbert and David Ball of The Countryside Service, Hampshire County Council, on their Management Plan for Shawford Down. A draft Management Plan was circulated to Parish Councillors and the presentation consisted of explanation of the different elements. Ultimately, it is anticipated that the Down will be kept under control by the grazing of cattle. Preparatory to this, there will be extensive scrub clearance together with some further grass cutting. The constraint of limited funds to undertake this work has been alleviated to a limited extent by certain monies being made available from the Malms development. In addition, funding from DEFRA is being sought by application under the High Level Stewardship scheme.
In order to support such an application, the views of local residents together with the Parish Council are being sought. To this end, an article will be appearing in the Parish Magazine outlining the Management Plans for the Down. Any feedback should be to Councillor Patricia Caffyn who will be co-ordinating the feedback to Hampshire County Council. The result of this feedback will be the redrafting of the Management Plan so that ultimately the plan will be acceptable to as many interested parties as is possible.
Discussions were undertaken concerning the Management of Shawford Down. County Councillor Charlotte Bailey has yet to raise the matter of adequate funding for the Management of the Down with senior officers within Hampshire County Council. Concern was expressed in that the residents of the Parish pay their local Council Taxes, part of which go to Hampshire County Council, for provision of services including the management of the Down, but such funds are not being used to maintain the Down in a state acceptable to the Parishioners. It was concluded that continued pressure on the appropriate Authorities would need to be maintained in order to achieve an acceptable outcome. It was noted that a partial cutting of the grass on the Down has commenced, this being an interim measure pending a comprehensive Management scheme being put in place. Charles Cuthbert and David Ball from Hampshire County Council, have offered to present the completed Management Plan for the Down at the December Parish Council meeting.
The Chairman, Cllr. Adrian Walmsley, welcomed members to the First Parish Council meeting after the Summer recess. In addition, he welcomed Mr Charles Cuthbert and Mr David Ball, both of the Countryside Service, Hampshire County Council, plus twelve members of the Public.
The first main item on the Agenda was the presentation given by Mr. Charles Cuthbert and Mr. David Ball on the Management of Shawford Down. The Down is the responsibility of the Countryside Service, and significant concern had been expressed by Parishioners over the neglect of the Down. The grass has not been cut for some five years, and plans to graze Highland cattle there had not come to fruition. Scrub is seriously encroaching over the grassland areas and urgent action is needed to prevent the loss of this natural down land resource.
Charles Cuthbert and David Ball both emphasised the importance of Shawford Down as a habitat for rare species of flora and fauna together with the need for urgent action. However, the Countryside Service has a limited budget with which to manage some fifteen similar sites within Hampshire. They are actively pursuing funding from DEFRA, but this is a slow process. Despite this, the meeting was advised that half the grassland areas will be mown within the next couple of weeks, and the contractors will remove the cut grass. It was clearly pointed out that total mowing would be disastrous to the insect life currently on the Down. Following on from this, a gradual clearance of the encroaching scrub will be undertaken over the Winter months. It was pointed out that these plans are only short-term solutions to the overall problem of Managing Shawford Down, the long-term solution being the grazing of Highland cattle, which will be implemented when funds become available.
The question of a lack of funding for what is seen as a responsibility of Hampshire County Council is of significant concern to the Parish Council. Accordingly, County Councillor Charlotte Bailey was requested to escalate the matter within Hampshire County Council and report back to the Parish council. At the same time, the Parish Council will endeavour to obtain from the Countryside Service their definitive five-year plan for Shawford Down.
Significant discussion concerning the management of Shawford Down was held. Recent correspondence with the Countryside Service, Hampshire County Council, who are responsible for managing the Down, has only resulted in confirmation that Hampshire County Council do not have sufficient budgets for the satisfactory management of the Down. A meeting with the Countryside Service is to be held later this month, but this is not expected to significantly improve the situation. Accordingly, County Councillor Charlotte Bailey is to raise the matter with County Councillor Margaret Snaith, the executive member for Recreation and Heritage at Hampshire County Council. It was felt essential that the whole issue of managing the Down should be escalated to the highest levels possible in order to ensure the Down is managed properly.
Highways & Byways
Cllr Patricia Caffyn reported upon the response that had been received from the Countryside Service, Hampshire County Council, in respect of the maintenance and management of Shawford Down. Little, if any, work on keeping the down free from encroaching scrub and grass had been done due to the absence of Budgets and/or funds. It was concluded that this excuse is not acceptable in that Residents fund Hampshire County Council through the Council Tax and as such are entitled to expect Hampshire County Council to Manage those areas for which they are responsible. This argument concerning the lack of Budgets and Funds has been put forward for a number of years and is now no longer accepted. The matter will be escalated within Hampshire County Council.
Questions from the Annual Parish Assembly
At the Annual Parish Assembly, questions were raised as to the state of Shawford Down and the fact that significant overgrowth of grass, shrubs and brambles had occurred. The previously reported proposal of grazing Highland Cattle on the down had not as yet come to fruition and it is now understood that the Countryside Service, Hampshire County Council, who are responsible for managing the Down, have had problems in arranging the necessary funding. It was agreed that it is regrettable that progress has not been achieved, but this did not absolve the Countryside Service from maintaining the Down in the meantime. Strong representations to the Countryside Service will be made with a view to having the Down properly managed pending the cattle grazing issue coming to fruition. The longer the Down is left in its present condition, the more difficult and costly it will be to cut the significant growth of vegetation that is currently encroaching over many parts of the down.
General discussion was undertaken on the proposal to graze Highland Cattle on Shawford Down. The information on the proposals put forward by the Countryside Service, Hampshire County Council, was deemed insufficient to make any definite decisions on the subject. Whilst in general terms, the concept of grazing Highland Cattle is seen to be attractive when compared against alternative forms of management of the Down, negative comments received to date would appear to arise from not being fully conversant with all the issues involved. Further details of the proposal are being sought, primarily in respect of the proposed fencing and its permanence together with the possibility of only committing to a Trial Period. Additionally, it is apparent that a wider public consultation will necessarily have to be held in order for all interested parties to gain a detailed understanding of the proposal.
Highland Cattle on Shawford Down?
The Countryside Services, Hampshire County Council, who own Shawford Down, gave the Parish Council a presentation concerning the future management of the Down. It is proposed to erect fencing around the northern part of the Down in order to graze Highland Cattle there for two to three months of the year. At risk species include the Chalkhill Blue butterfly, horseshoe vetch and the pyramidal and common spotted orchids. The reasons supporting this proposal are to protect the flora and fauna there in the most environmentally protective way possible. Cutting the grass on the down is considered not to be so effective and environmentally friendly as the grazing of cattle. It should be noted that the grazing of animals on the Down is something that historically has always been done. It is envisaged that by this means, the most effective management of the Down can be achieved.
Whilst this proposal requires a fence to keep the cattle in, the rights of the public to freely roam across the Down will be maintained by the installation of gates and styles in the proposed fencing. The only restrictions would be the need to keep dogs on a leash when inside the cattle enclosure.
These proposals are in the early stages of development and the support of the Parish Council and the Community at large is being sought. Leaflets, questionnaires and public meetings on the issue will be developed in due course. It is hoped that, subsequent to further consultations, work on erecting the required fencing could start in October 2005. Precise details of the size of the proposed enclosure and the location of the fencing are still open to discussion.
Cllr. Mr. George Beckett reported on correspondence received from the Countryside Service, Hampshire County Council. This was primarily to do with Shawford Down, which is owned by the Countryside Service. The Parish Council has been advised that “Dog Bins” are to be installed in appropriate places on the Down to encourage dog owners to clean up any mess. Also, it is proposed to install Height Barriers at the entrance to the car park at the top of Shawford Down, this to deter any further re-occurrence of the Travellers camping in that car park. This met with mixed views, the main concern being that such prevention may move the problem elsewhere, possibly to an area where the result will be far more detrimental.
Cllr. Nick Campbell-White reported on yet another spate of vandalism on the Stone War Memorial on Shawford Down. This third act of desecration is abhorred by the Parish Council and all Parishioners. Further publicising of this mindless vandalism needs to be undertaken, in the hope that the perpetrators will be shamed into ceasing their activities. Repairs to the memorial are hoped to be completed before Remembrance Sunday in November.
War Memorial Vandalism
Cllr. Nick Campbell-White reported on two incidents of vandalism to the stone War Memorial on Shawford Down. It appears that somebody has tried to remove the stone tablet bearing the names of those killed in the Second World War. All that has been achieved is the breaking of the stone, not to mention the desecration of the memories of those who gave their lives. The police have been informed.