We carry out a diverse range of conservation work to maintain and improve the Common. It all comes under our Management Plan, which is based on scientific research and consultation with local ecologists and wildlife recorders. The Pan is agreed annually with Natural England.
Here is a summary of the work that the Plan covers:
Habitat monitoring: regular surveys of plants, invertebrates, reptiles, birds and mammals to record and map the flora and fauna of the Common. We need this not only to record what is there so we know how to look after it, but also to assess the effectiveness of conservation work photos: left - common orchid, right - bee orchid)
Grassland: grazing is the main way of maintaining the quality of the natural grassland, but some topping can also help to stem the spread of gorse and thistles.
Scrub clearance: gorse is cut back and cleared on a cycle of approximately 5 years, in order to maintain the right total acreage and a mix of ages, densities and heights. In some areas, a ‘mosaic’ cut is applied, which leaves a pattern of small gorse stands that are more conducive to shelter for wildlife. All scrub clearance has to take place outside the bird nesting season.
Heather plot: this is an unusual area where the sandy soil is conducive to heather and other acid-loving plants. It requires special attention and protection (the stock-proof fencing) during its restoration.
Woodland: the woods on the fringes of the Common also need their own management regime. For example, we have a 5-year plan for improvement work in Wardens’ Wood at the far end of West Down (the SE extremity of the Common).
Special projects: for example the current bryophyte experiment (mosses and liverworts).