Flora Locale - Progress to Date



Twyford Down Project

Progress to Date

The three areas of downland restoration, though in different stages of colonisation, are progressing well. On Arethusa A, the first area to be completed, the turf translocations have been very successful so far. In the machine-translocated turf, the average number of downland species per plot dropped very slightly but, as fluctuations are expected, this is not regarded as significant. Orchids are still present and flowering. Even in the hand-translocated turf virtually all the downland species have been maintained, with only a small turnover of gains and losses. In all cases most of the species lost are weeds which one would expect to die out fairly quickly. The three seed mixes are showing a steady improvement and are reaching a stage when nearly all the sown species are represented, providing a fine show of flowers in summer. As expected, weed species were numerous in the first years but are now dying out and the downland species are becoming dominant.

The sown grassland on Arethusa B is maturing more slowly than A with fewer coarse grasses. Although the colonisation is slower it is forming an open-ground, short, slow-growing grassland with an excellent representation of downland species. Much the same picture can be seen on the A33 restoration, although this is a further year behind in growth. The sward is developing well despite the newly germinated plants having to survive very long, hot summer of 1995.

The invertebrate populations are also developing as expected. The initial large numbers of early invasive species are decreasing, to be replaced by the true downland species. Several deep-burrowing species such as the purse web spider successfully moved with the translocated turf, as did many ants nests.

At the Public Inquiry, fears were expressed about the future of the Chalkhill Blue butterfly on the Dongas following the construction of the road. In fact there is no evidence that the population of this species on the Dongas is declining; actually in 1995 it increased, following the national trend. To this can be added a flourishing new population on the Arethusa A area and both the Arethusa B and A33 restoration sites are being colonised. All the colonial species of butterfly that inhabited St Catherine's Hill and the Dongas SSSIs now have discrete additional populations established on the Arethusa Clump restoration area, many at a higher density than on the rest of the reserve.

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