Alresford Road, Winchester
Grid Ref SU499294
Client: Butterfly Conservation
See their website for more details.
Formerly the site of Winchester's ancient fair, this steep, south facing chalk hillside was open downland fifty years ago. When Butterfly Conservation took over in 1989 more than half the site had been heavily invaded by scrub.
Much scrub clearance has now taken place, and grazing has been re-introduced. The surviving downland plants such as common rock-rose, chalk milkwort, clustered bellflower and horse-shoe and kidney vetch have benefited greatly. Butterfly numbers have also improved, with notable species such as green hairstreak, marbled white and chalkhill blue increasing in numbers. Some scrub has been retained for shelter and as a valuable nectar source.
Morn Hill lies to the east of Magdalen Hill and was acquired in 1995 and sown with native grasses and wild flowers in 1997. The area is becoming well established and is a real haven for butterflies and reptiles, creating a great addition to its neighbour. In 2003 the first self-sown orchids were found.
Another 55 acres, known as Magdalen Hill Down North, was added in 2004 through a scheme with Hampshire County Council. Formerly arable land, it has mostly been sown with native grasses and flowers. Areas of trees and shrubs have been planted at both ends.
In November we will be carrying out a variety of tasks to help maintain and manage the site for its butterflies. The majority of the work will be cutting and burning.
Meet at 10am in the small car park next to the Masonic Lodge, opposite St. Swithuns School on the B3404 Alresford Road. Look out for our yellow signs.