The Hatch Warren and Beggarwood Biodiversity Improvement Zone (BIZ) is a pilot project that the council have undertaken to improve biodiversity along verges and open spaces. Working with local volunteer groups and Hampshire County Council highways department the aim is 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.
In 2023 the BIZ area saw a total contrast to 2022 when we had a drought and extreme temperatures which was bad for both wildflower and insect species. This year the changeable days with rain and sunshine has led to an abundance in both. Important species have continued to spread through the BIZ area with an amazing total of over 215 wildflower and grass species recorded within the BIZ by July 2023.
The volunteer seeded meadows at St Mark School and Garlic Lane Roundabout again gave a dramatic show of chalk flora with Cowslips early on followed by the yellows of yellowrattle, kidney vetch, horseshoe vetch and birdsfoot trefoil and the blues and mauves of small and field scabious. Purple common and greater knapweeds also put in a good show and new plant species included a plant called Ploughman’s Spickenard on the Garlic Lane verge.
Many of these chalk species are now spreading along the verges on Beggarwood Lane and Woodbury Road intermingling with the commoner roadside species such as common catsear, daisy, ribwort plantain and creeping buttercup. Orchids are also spreading throughout the area with pyramidal orchids now showing their pink flowerheads on most of the verges and open spaces alongside rare common spotted orchids. White and Violet helleborines both rare plants nationally are to be found under the wooded areas surrounding the grasslands and bee orchid has for the first time turned up next to Gershwin Road.
Butterflies have faired better this year with species such as meadow brown, gatekeeper, marbled white and small skipper forming new colonies on Woodbury Road and Gershwin Road. Common Blue and Brown Argus were evident throughout June and Small Blue a rare species nationally has continued to spread and has now been spotted on five different sites from Gershwin Road to Beggarwood Lane and Garlic Lane feeding on the spreading Kidney Vetch.
Common Field, Common Green and Meadow Grasshoppers all filled anywhere where the grassland sward was longer sending out their characteristic noise on warmer days and bumble, honey and mining bees were utilising nectar species from March right through to the grass cut in late summer.
Sites are being managed as a wildflower meadow to provide vital habitat for pollinators and other invertebrates as well as birds and small mammals. Annual mowing is an essential part of this management.
Wildflower plants thrive in areas with low nutrient levels where faster-growing plants such as grasses and thistles are unable to dominate. To create the right conditions, we mow the grass and remove all the cuttings, reducing the amount of nutrients returned to the soil. We mow late in the summer which gives the wildflowers time to produce and set seed for the following year.
Transporting all the cuttings off site is time consuming and expensive, so we leave them in a designated area which is out of the way to decompose over time. Leaving the cuttings in this way allows any bugs which were accidentally collected during mowing to escape. They also serve as habitat for many animal species themselves.
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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:
The spring cut occurred again during 2022, followed by another survey later that year.
The project responds to the Climate Emergency and concerns about losses of pollinating insects, wildflowers and other wildlife. It also provides an opportunity for people to learn about the natural environment.
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 link a network of other larger sites such as Beggarwood Park Local Nature Reserve, Old Down and Down Grange. This is 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.
The project covers the areas 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.
Area a - Beggarwood Lane 1
Area a and f - Beggarwood Lane 2
Area a and f - Beggarwood Lane 3
Area a and f - Beggarwood Lane 4
Area a b and f - Beggarwood Lane 5
Area b and g - Woodbury Road 1
Area b c and d - Woodbury Road 2
Area e and h - Gershwin Road 1
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 not 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.
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.
We do not anticipate any additional costs associated with this project. We invested in new equipment for use on the project which is also being used on other sites across the borough. The grass is being cut less frequently but each cut takes longer to carry out, therefore this arrangement is cost neutral.
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