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Conserving Chalk Grassland

The New Year has got off to a great start with important conservation work now complete at Quarry Hangers, a Site of Special Scientific interest (SSSI) in the east of the Surrey Hills at Chaldon, near Caterham.

Extensive targeted scrub clearance was carried out to improve the landscape and restore the rare and precious chalk grassland, typical of the North Downs. Chalk grassland is a very diverse habitat where you can find as many as 50 different kinds of plants and wildflowers within a square metre. Common species that are typical of chalk grassland and can be spotted at Quarry Hangers SSSI include bird’s-foot trefoil, common spotted orchid, wild marjoram, salad burnet and wild strawberry. Butterflies such as the common blue, orange tip and dingy skipper can also be seen here. Quarry Hangers SSSI also supports a good number of bird species; listen out for the distinctive song of the skylark.

Active management is essential to maintaining chalk grassland; Quarry Hangers SSSI is managed by the Downlands Partnership on behalf of the landowner, through practical conservation work and grazing with goats.  The targeted area cleared through the grant funding is on a very steep gradient, unsuitable for working with volunteers, and desperately needed intensive clearance to give the fragile beautiful landscape a fighting chance. Specialist countryside contractors South East Tree Surgeons were commissioned by the Downlands Partnership to carry out the work and the landscape has been successfully opened so the flora and fauna can thrive.

Debbie Hescott, Surrey Countryside Partnerships Business Development Officer comments “being able to further restore this beautiful chalk grassland gem thanks to this essential funding has been an excellent result. We are looking forward to monitoring how the habitat improves now the invasive scrub has been cleared; for wildlife and for people to enjoy now and in the future”.

All this has been made possible by a grant from the Surrey Hills Trust Fund, a fund within the Community Foundation for Surrey which helps to conserve and maintain the fragile environment of the Surrey Hills by awarding grants to support a wide-range of local projects from landscape conservation to community enterprise schemes.  A match funding contribution was also made by the Downlands Trust, the registered charity partner of the Downlands Partnership.

Wendy Varcoe, Executive Director of the Community Foundation for Surrey comments; “Through generous giving by local people, we are able to support another wonderful project that will help preserve and enhance the stunning landscape. We are delighted to continue our work in partnership with the Surrey Hills AONB to encourage local philanthropic giving and help communities from across the county to access and enjoy the Surrey Hills for generations to come.”

To donate to the Surrey Hills Trust Fund, apply for a grant or for further information click here.

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