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Management: keeping the balance

Martin Down - National Nature Reserve

Yellowhammer on Gorse The mixture of habitats resulting from man's activities in the past must be actively managed to maintain it and prevent it from reverting to woodland.

Grassland is maintained, as it has been for centuries, by sheep grazing. Coarse vegetation, especially some grasses, is grazed and fertility is reduced. This ensures that the array of characteristic chalk plants is not overwhelmed by a few more vigorous species.

Many downland plants, such as cowslips, have a rosette of leaves close to the ground which makes them well adapted to survival under grazing.

Some areas are grazed only in winter, and a long grassland develops, whereas others are harder grazed and remain shorter and more herb rich. Scrub in the grassland is controlled to prevent herb-rich grassland from being lost.

Areas of the larger scrub blocks on the down and in Kitts Grave are coppiced each year in rotation.

In the past, these would have been cut to provide firewood and various construction materials.Hebridean and Beulah Sheep

The cut areas regrow, providing a continuing scrub habitat with a variety of species and stages of growth.

Hawthorn, Dog Rose, Alder Buckthorn, Spindle and Blackthorn