Hatch Warren and Beggarwood Biodiversity Improvement Zone
The Hatch Warren and Beggarwood Biodiversity Improvement Zone (BIZ) is a pilot project that the council is undertaking to improve biodiversity along verges and open spaces and details about it are below.
During 2020, the areas within the BIZ project were allowed to grow with no cutting and set seed from April onwards. A total of 153 species of herbaceous plant and grasses were found - an excellent variety for a town location. Species included favourites such as creeping buttercups in the spring and dandelions and daisies. Forget-me-not and Speedwell were also common as were clovers and the white flowers of wild carrot and yarrow.
The grassland structure became more varied and species of butterflies, bees, grasshoppers and spiders all benefited from increased food sources and places to live.
In 2021 the areas were cut in spring to help retain the grassland and prevent woody species from establishing. Following this the grassland was uncut and allowed to flower throughout the summer and autumn, before being cut again in the autumn.
The survey in late 2021 showed the following results:
- Plant species increased in 26 out of the 28 areas of the BIZ project
- The number of plant species (grasses and wildflowers) throughout the whole BIZ increased from 152 in 2020 to 194 in 2021, which is an increase of 42 species or 28%.
- The total number of species (including grasses, wildflowers, spiders, bees and wasps) recorded across the 2 year period increased from 152 species in 2020 to 213 species in 2021. This represents an increase of 51 species or 34%.
- Over 25 chalk related species were found within the area including rarities such as clustered bellflower, dropwort, maiden pink and small scabious
- 5 species of orchids were found within the BIZ, white helleborine, violet helleborine, broad leaved helleborine, pyramidal orchid and common spotted orchid.
The spring cut will occur again during 2022, followed by another survey later in the year.
What is the project?
Over the past year a number of towns and cities across the UK have sought to improve habitats for wildlife and flora by managing road verges and open spaces differently. These projects have created a more varied range of plant and flower species that provide better habitats and green corridors for wildlife to travel along from one area to another. They allow bees and other insects to thrive. They also add more colour at certain times of the year from the natural beauty of wildflowers improving the visual appearance.
From April 2020, we are proposing to run a pilot project throughout Hatch Warren and Beggarwood to see how well this might work on borough council owned open spaces. This project which we have called a Biodiversity Improvement Zone (BIZ) seeks to build on the excellent work undertaken by the Hatch Warren Nature Group on an area of land near St Marks School in Danebury Road. Their efforts over a sustained period of time have resulted in an area of grassland improving significantly in biodiversity value, introducing a greater number of species that provide richer habitats.
The work will respond to the Climate Emergency declared by the council and concerns about losses of pollinating insects, wildflowers and other wildlife. It will also provide an opportunity for people to learn about the natural environment.
We will also be working with Hampshire Highways who are responsible for managing and maintaining a lot of road verges in the area. This work would aim to increase the number of wildflowers and increase the wide variety of insects such as butterflies, moths, bees and beetles that can use these areas all year round. The verges will become more interesting visually with bright wildflowers amongst delicate flowering grasses.
We have had discussions with Natural Basingstoke and the Hatch Warren Nature Group and they support the creation of the BIZ and we will be working closely with them as the project progresses.
Why are we doing this project?
There are many open spaces alongside roads owned by the council, but the chalky soil conditions here are favourable for encouraging and establishing wildflowers, and the establishment of a network would link other larger sites such as Beggarwood Park Local Nature Reserve, Old Down and Down Grange. This will be useful for insects but will also help species such as birds, bats and hedgehogs by providing food supplies in urban areas. It will also help bring wildlife to surrounding gardens helping pollinators such as bees spread throughout the area.
Where are we doing this?
We recognise that local residents share the borough’s green open spaces to walk, run, play football and walk dogs. There will still be retained full access to all areas that are within the BIZ where this is presently the case. We want to consult with local residents and interested groups to ensure that the areas selected do not interfere with current usage by local residents. . Subject to the outcomes of this consultation, the project may initially cover the areas below, which are also shown on the detailed maps below:
a) Verges along Beggarwood Lane.
b) Verges along Woodbury Road from the roundabout with Cliddesden Lane to the roundabout with Hatch Warren Lane.
c) Part of open space to north of Danebury Road/Inglewood Drive.
d) Part of open space to the east of Constantine Way.
e) Area to the south of Gershwin Road around Hatch Warren School.
f) Central ‘X’ shaped open space within the Beggarwood estate.
g) Part of Open Space east of Woodgarston Drive (behind Hatch Warren Community Centre)
h) Verges along north side of Gershwin Road, opposite Hatch Warren schools
The extent of the areas included will be reviewed during the project and may be changed depending on how well areas establish.
Site lines will be retained adjacent to the highway where there is a need to do so in order to retain public safety. In addition access for emergency reactive works required for drainage, underground cables and other public utilities will be retained as before.
How will we be doing this project?
The areas identified on the map will be surveyed during April and May to see what species are within those areas. This will be carried out through a walk over survey that will estimate plant species coverage using a nationally recognised method within identified areas and then will be left uncut during spring and summer to allow grassland species to flower and set seed and insects to use the habitats. The areas will then be surveyed again in September prior to cutting to see what changes there have been to plants and wildlife.
When the grass is cut, it will have to be collected. This is because grass mowings naturally enrich the soil allowing the grass to thrive. If the grass mowings are collected, the soil may become less rich over time and wildflowers thrive in poorer soils.
During the growing season between about April and September when they are not cut, the grass will look longer, however this will help other grass and plant species to establish and to create habitats for wildlife.
The survey results will be used to help decide what management of the verges will be needed in the following years. This could potentially include new areas of seed and plug plants, boxes for bugs, birds and bats and signs to inform everybody that the areas are being managed for wildlife.
As well as the initial walk over surveys several 1m square areas will be set up in set locations within the project area . These will be monitored year on year in order to give a more accurate indication of plant species change throughout the project area.
Over time the project will be looking to see an increase in flowering species native to chalk grassland, both in terms of cover and variety, including the following species:
The grassland should also include fine leaved grasses including the following:
Over time these kinds of more delicate species that are not so robust should replace the dominant species that are resilient to continual cutting which include:
The plant variety of these new chalk grasslands should increase over the years, due to the new management regime, which will in turn increase the number and diversity of insects that utilise different plant species throughout all parts of their life cycle.
How much will this project cost?
We do not anticipate that there will be any additional costs associated with this project. Whilst we have invested in new equipment that will used on this project it is already being used on other sites across the borough. Although the grass will be cut less frequently than at present, under the new arrangements each cut will take longer to carry out, therefore we expect this arrangement to be cost neutral.