June 2023: Tony Juniper, Chair of Natural England visits the Wiltshire Chalk Partnership

Tony Juniper, Chair of Natural England, was hosted by the Wiltshire Chalk Partnership earlier this year to see some of the projects that are already underway to help improve the health of our chalk landscapes in Wiltshire.

It was a great opportunity for the partners to get together and discuss plans for the Partnership and see first-hand how projects are already making a difference for wildlife in these areas.

The Wessex River Trust took us to see their site at Lords Walk just north of Amesbury as they plan their work to enhance the health of the river which includes the restoration of habitats and bypassing weirs which currently limit fish migration.

River with reflections of trees
The River Avon near Amesbury

Many of the rivers in the Wiltshire landscape are in a poor state from centuries of being re-shaped for different purposes. These projects and others led by the Wessex Rivers Trust in this area are helping to restore these rivers and open them up for salmon spawning.

The second part of the visit took us to the RSPB’s reserve at Winterbourne Downs with its impressive butterfly banks. The team there gave us an inspiring tour which enabled us to appreciate the real scale of the work that has taken place at the reserve. We were also given the chance to see stone curlew through binoculars (some had more luck that others).

More than 200ha of new chalk grassland has been created on former arable fields at Winterbourne Downs. The landscape scale area of species-rich chalk grassland acts as a stepping stone for species between Salisbury Plain and Porton Down, two large tracts of semi-natural chalk grassland.

Cowslip in front of a large white, chalk bank
Butterfly bank at RSPB Winterbourne Downs

Finally, Tony was taken to the National Trust’s grassland reversion scheme. By 2025 the Trust will have created at least 170 hectares of new chalk grassland which better protects archaeology, enhances biodiversity, and brings the potential for increased permissive open access.

With the Partnership’s aim to create an additional 2,000 hectares of quality chalk grassland and healthier chalk rivers, these projects already underway highlight the work already happening. We would like more landholders to come forward to join the partnership to help us achieve our ambitions.

Follow our progress on our social media channels or get in touch.