Natural England is an independent public body whose purpose is to protect and improve England’s natural environment and encourage people to enjoy and get involved in their surroundings. Natural England is the government’s advisor on the natural environment. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has signed a Declaration of Intent with Natural England (NE) to improve and preserve the natural environment that makes up the Defence estate.
The purpose of the Declaration is to enhance the stewardship of the natural environment, foster biodiversity and safeguard landscape character and archaeological features. The agreement also seeks to facilitate public access to the estate and aims to minimise the environmental impact of defence related activities. It provides a framework for both organisations to work together to achieve this.
Whilst the primary purpose of MoD land is to support military requirements in the interest of national defence, MoD and NE are committed to working together to enable the sustainable management of the rural elements of the Defence estate.
Natural England implement this conservation strategy through the relevant Wildlife Trust who actually do the work on the ground.
SWT have many excellent conservation projects on-going on the Aldershot Training Areas of Barossa, Pirbright and Ash, working to conserve the rare heathland habitat. Much of the work is done by volunteer members or smaller affiliated conservation groups.
An example of this is the Pirbright Ranges Deer Project. Deer that became locally extinct over 200 years ago have been successfully reintroduced to Surrey’s Pirbright heathland. The award-winning project, led by Defence Estates, Natural England and Surrey Wildlife Trust, is a pioneering, landscape-scale, conservation project where red deer are being introduced to protect the vitally important heathland habitat at the MOD’s Pirbright Ranges, near West End Village.
Other work includes maintaining archaeological features, scrub bashing and a number of grazing projects. The cattle, goats and deer eat the young trees and scrub and allow the heather to develop. Bracken is controlled through spraying.
Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT)
As with SWT, the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT) work closely with Natural England to implement the conservation strategy through their staff and volunteers. They are responsible for ten areas in North Hampshire being managed by the Wildlife Trust in conjunction with the Ministry of Defence including Long Valley, Caesars Camp, Minley, Yateley and Hawley. They have a variety of projects active in the Aldershot Defence Estates including many grazing projects and are also responsible for ensuring that the archaeology is protected.
Their primary remit is to conserve the rare heathland habitat and in some cases to regenerate this habitat through felling of scrub forest and grazing. A herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle graze during the summer.
HIWT work with many small local conservation groups such as Hampshire Conservation Volunteers (http://www.hcv.hampshire.org.uk/index.html) to deliver work on the ground such as fencing, boardwalk, bridges, gates , cattle grids , scrub bashing , deer management and wildlife surveys.
Get involved in the North Hampshire Grazing Project
The trust needs eagle-eyed volunteers to help them keep an eye on their growing herds of livestock grazing across the area. If youcycle regularly in the area you could join their valuable team of ‘lookers’ and ‘fence fixers’ who act as the eyes and ears on the ground to keep track of the health and wellbeing of livestock grazing our important heathlands. Full training is given to new recruits and all equipment is provided. Sites in Fleet, Cove, Church Crookham, Upper Hale, Ewshot, and Aldershot including Ancells Farm, Foxlease Meadows, Whitehouse Meadow, Pondtail, Velmead Common, Caesar’s Camp and Long Valley. Please contact Laura Fairs, Grazing Project & Reserves Officer, for further details or to get involved phone on 01256 381190 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Landmarc are the appointed land managers for the Defence Infrastructure Organisation and work on their behalf to ensure that the areas are best suited for use as training sites.