The Hampshire Heathland Project is a partnership initiative led by the County Council that has been running since the late 1980's.
The County Council employs a Project Officer based within the Ecology Group's Land Management Team.
Between 2001-2006, the Hampshire Heathland Project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, worked to restore 75% of the degenerate heathland in Hampshire outside the New Forest. The Project also recreated over 300 hectares of heathland and increased the area of heathland managed by grazing animals by 370 hectares. In 2009 the project was awarded a grant from the SITA Trust 'Enriching Nature Fund' to continue this work.
The Project Officer gives advice to owners and managers to secure suitable and sustainable management of Heathland in Hampshire. Particular emphasis will be given to Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation which have been designated for their heathland interest. The Project also works closely with Natural England to ensure effective delivery of Environmental Stewardship Schemes on certain key heathlands in Hampshire.
The Project employs local contractors to undertake restoration works on heathland sites. These works involve many aspects of heathland management and cover areas from one to sixty hectares.
An important factor in the long term sustainable management of heathlands is the attitude and involvement of local people. Unfortunately, heathland management can often be controversial since restoration can involve large-scale tree felling and removal of popular plants like rhododendron that damage heathland.
The Heathland Project aims to promote greater awareness of both the ecological and historical importance of heathlands in Hampshire and the need to actively manage them in order to maintain this interest.
Many project partners actively encourage the involvement of volunteers on their sites, which is beneficial both for the participants and for the wildlife!
Because heathlands have been relatively undisturbed, they often have a rich archaeological record. When undertaking restoration works the Project liaises with the County Council’s own archaeologists and English Heritage.