Environmental Issues September 2017
Table of Contents
During the year there have been have been comments and concerns about cattle overstaying their time on Shawford Down. The clear result has been downland grass kept down, but also many fewer wildflowers, butterflies and bees.
The Parish Council made contact with Pete Durnell, HCC Countryside Ranger Team Manager to express concern and request an explanation. Here is Pete’s reply :-
Thanks for your recent email re the management of Shawford Down. I take your point that the animals probably did stay too long this year, but we were trying to get rid of the dense thatch layer which has built up due to a lack of grazing over several previous years. Most wildflowers are tolerant of summer grazing and it has in fact been demonstrated to improve diversity of grassland as long as it is not too heavy. It does have an impact on the “spectacle” of wild flowers and a knock on impact on some invertebrates, so we would not wish to graze this heavily every year.
Grazing these sites is complicated as there are not many graziers with the right type of animal and these Red Devons are rotated around four different areas throughout the year including Pitt Down and Danebury which are of arguably higher ecological value.
Next year we would hope to do a light spring graze and then put the animals back on in late summer to take off the years growth. I fear we will never be able to achieve the perfect balance between ecological management on a range of sites, public perception and the logistics of moving animals around, but we do our best.
Needless to say, those of us who walk Shawford Down daily and are fiercely protective of its use, will be watching closely and will be ready to respond.
Once again in the warm summer weather, this area became grossly overused and, as ever, copious amounts of litter was left for others to clear. So, a BIG THANK YOU to all who take a bag out when walking that way, who collected the litter and placed them in the seven public bins that the Parish Council has arranged in Shawford. So what further can be done?
Much of this site lies in the River Itchen SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest), yet it is being progressively damaged by copious amounts of dangerous litter, hazardous to people, pets and wildlife, petty vandalism and noise pollution. We shall campaign for official signage at the Lock through HCC, WCC, C&SPC, The Environment Agency, which at least can be pointed to visitors. For example: “This is a Nature Reserve, please respect and protect it. No Litter; No Fires or BBQs; No loud Music or boisterous behaviour; No Camping. Let all enjoy the area.” Please give your support in any way that you can.
Cllr Myra Wilkinson & John Wilkinson (Footpaths & Environment) C&SPC.
The above article appeared in the September 2017 issue of the Parish Magazine
You can find an interactive map of the River Itchen SSSI at http://magic.defra.gov.uk/MagicMap.aspx
Here is are two static screenshots of the area around Compton Lock, showing just the River Itchen SSSI, and the SSSI with colour-coded priority natural habitats.
For more details, follow the link to the Defra site, where you can choose which types of habitats to display and see the key to the colour coding.