One of Wiltshire’s most essential wild landscapes has been delisted as a nature reserve. Fyfield Down, simply east of the well-known stone circle at Avebury, was leased to the Nature Conservancy (a predecessor of Natural England) in 1955 and declared an NNR in 1956. It has been described as the “best assemblage of sarsen stones in England”. The website lies inside the Avebury World Heritage Site and the North Wessex Downs AONB.
The 577 acres comprising Fyfield and close by Overton downs modified palms in 2015 and the brand new house owners, Kingsdown Farm Ltd, served discover in 2019 to activate a break clause within the lease to Natural England as a way to de-declare it as a National Nature Reserve.
Rachel Williams, Wessex Area Manager for Natural England, mentioned: “The land remains a Site of Special Scientific Interest and the de-declaration does not include any changes to public access arrangements. We will continue to work with the landowner to ensure continued protection for the special habitats and archaeological features that the site supports.”
Fyfield Down is a giant chalk grassland with a exceptional, nationally essential geological function: a river of sarsen stones deposited by glacial motion (proven within the picture above). Sarsen stones are giant boulders of arduous silicified sandstone as much as 3.5m throughout, and stones from this location have been utilized in native Neolithic monuments together with Stonehenge and the Avebury stone circle. The stones are famous for excellent assemblages of lichens and the grassland consists of attribute chalkland species such as spherical headed rampion, frog orchid and chalk milkwort. Fyfield Down additionally has essential populations of hares, downland invertebrates and birds such as skylarks and yellowhammers.
As nicely as the wildlife curiosity, there are grazing and taking pictures rights on Fyfield and Overton Downs. Some native strolling teams and naturalists have expressed concern that taking pictures is perhaps prolonged over extra of the previous nature reserve and this might have a damaging impact on present biodiversity and, doubtlessly, entry.
Although Natural England wouldn’t speculate on what actions the brand new landowners may take, it mentioned “a new Countryside Stewardship agreement is now in place to support ongoing management. This includes new interpretation boards designed in conjunction with the World Heritage Site and Historic England.”
Rachel Williams was not out there for additional remark.
BBC Countryfile Magazine is hoping to talk to the brand new house owners for touch upon future plans for this nationally essential website for heritage and wildlife.