Site Management at Danebury Iron Age Hill Fort
When Hampshire County Council purchased the Hill Fort in 1958, the earthworks where covered in beech trees, planted in the 19th century. Sadly most of these trees had reached a stage where they had become unstable due to disease and a long term program of removal began. The decision was made not to replant, as large trees can permanently damage the earthworks, especially if they fall over and the roots rip holes in the ramparts. The most recent large scale tree felling at the fort was completed in 2000, when the inner rampart was cleared, resulting in the wonderful clear views across the site interior and a very popular circular walk. The program of removal will continue into the future, as and when individual trees are identified as a threat to the site or its visitors. We will also remove scrub from the earthworks to stop trees colonising and new growth will be controlled by grazing animals. Due to the popularity of the Hill Fort (Scheduled Ancient Monument ) work has been done to surface the path around the ring and install steps to reduce erosion of this very important feature.
Outside of the earthworks is highly valuable downland habitat, 12.8ha of which is SSSI. This area and the lower fields are grazed by sheep and ponies on a rotational programme. The herb rich grassland which now supports some of our most beautiful blue butterflies and other invertebrates, was developed over centuries by constant grazing. We must assist the grazing regime by controlling the spread of scrub and manage rabbits that are currently causing damage to the SSSI and the SAM.
The above work has been achieved over the last ten years with extra funding through a Countryside Stewardship Scheme, which comes to an end in 2014. We are currently working closely with Natural England, English Heritage and the Forestry Commission to enter into a new Higher Level Stewardship scheme (HLS), which will help us to maintain and improve these nationally important features for another ten years. The HLS will also see further changes to the woodland areas, which will be opened up to encourage ground flora and enable access through the turret and lower copse wooded areas. We will continue to reduce scrub by confining animals in smaller, temporarily fenced areas and introduce cattle to the site at various times. New fencing will be installed at the back of the ring to enable cattle grazing in this area and keep them away from the steeper slopes and potentially poisonous yew trees.
The entire site holds a diverse mix of habitats, that support an entire wildlife eco system and it is our duty as custodians to protect and improve what is there. Visitors will always be welcome at Danebury and we will need to work together to ensure that a conflict of interest does not arise e.g. the dog walking information system will continue and suitable signs will ensure that a safe and enjoyable visit is possible, during our practical management of the site.
Your views are always welcome. If you have any comments or concerns about the management of Danebury or would like further information, please contact us on 01962 860948 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.