Grid Ref. SU386392
Client: Chilbolton and Wherwell Parish Council
The following details are taken from the client's website.
West Down Nature Reserve is located near Chilbolton, south of Andover, and is managed by Chilbolton Parish Council. The site is open to the public, and there are two small car-parks. The area includes downland, chalk heath, woodland and grassland habitats, and is of nature conservation, historical, and industrial archaeological interest. There are also excellent views across the valley of the River Test, from a section of the Test Way long distance footpath that runs through the area.
West Down was mainly sheep-grazed open grassland until WW2, when the UK Air Ministry requisitioned a huge tract of land south of Chilbolton and built a large airfield. The West Down site then was used for various airfield ancillary buildings (ruins still visible in the woods), until the airfield was abandoned in the 1950s. Both during and immediately after the war, much of the area was also used for gravel extraction. Then in the 1960s and 1970s, the resultant gravel pits were used by Andover Town Council and its successors for disposal of household rubbish.
After the rubbish dumps closed, the area became a Hampshire County Council countryside site and nature reserve. The area is still owned by the County Council, but from 1st April 2014 has been managed by Chilbolton Parish Council who have a 99-year lease.
This complex history over the past 80 years, has resulted in West Down now having a diverse and interesting landscape and habitats. The most important habitat though, is the chalk downland of the west-facing slope above Coley Lane and the Test. This remnant downland is particularly valuable because it's a Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) Priority Habitat - important for nature conservation on a UK and Europe-wide scale. A major priority here, is the control of scrub and tree re-growth that otherwise shades and takes over the chalk slope. Cattle or pony grazing help with this, and both the grazing and other scrub-control work is supported by Natural England through an annual Environmental Stewardship payment.
On our first task here for a long time, lots of ragwort was pulled on a rather warm day with initial help from residents.
Our task in January will be to clear and burn cut material.
Meet at 10am on the Down's central car park (not the re-cycling centre car park). From the A3057 Stockbridge to Andover Road, turn into Coley Lane on a sharp bend. Take the second turning on the right towards a sewage works; pass the sewage works until you come to a car park. Look out for our yellow flags.