The South Down Group holds talks and publishes a newsletter about environmental matters for members of the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust ('HIWWT') and other people interested in local wildlife and the natural environment in the area between Petersfield and Portsdown Hill. Details of our forthcoming Talks are shown below and the Newsletters that the Group has issued since 2013 can be read by clicking on the titles in the table below.
We have also previously had walks in our area in the summer months organised by members of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.
More information about the Group's activities and matters related to them can be found on the websites listed at the foot of this webpage or by emailing the South Downs Group.
If you have any comments about this webpage or think that anything should be added or changed please email the webmaster.
The Groups activities are organised and managed by the Committee whose members and roles are shown in the table on the left of the screen.
Deryn Hawkins succeeded Peter Leversha as Chairman of the Group in March 2018 handing over her role as Treasurer to Alan Key. Sylvia Leversha also retired from her role as Membership Secretary that month. Rosemary Clarke has been appointed as Events Organiser arranging the monthly Talks and booking the Speakers. The Group is very grateful to Peter and Sylvia for their many years of valued service to the Group, and look forward to continuing to welcome them at future meetings.
We are always looking for new members to join the Committee to bring fresh ideas and to ensure that we have enough people to run the Group effectively. The Committee's duties are not onerous, involving just three Committee Meetings each year and helping to prepare the Hall for Meetings. Please contact any member of the Committee if you would be interested in joining it or want more details about what it would involve. You can do this either by sending them an email by clicking on their name in the table on the left of the screen or speaking to one of them at our next Monthly Meeting.
Our Meetings are held on the third Wednesday of the month from 7.30pm to 9.30pm at St Wilfrid's Church Hall, Padnell Road, Cowplain PO8 8DZ. Padnell Road is opposite the Co-op on London Road in Cowplain and the Church is about 200 metres along the road on the left. There is a large car park at the end of the drive that runs down the left side of the Church building. The Hall is upstairs and is reached through a door on the same side of the building as the car park.
Talks are usually given by a visiting speaker and cover a wide range of topics relevant to our changing environment and the challenges the world faces if it is to protect itself for the benefit of all species, including humans. There is always an opportunity for questions and discussion about the Talks at the end of the Meeting.
We invite people attending Meetings to which non-members are also welcome to make a donation of £4.00 towards the cost of hiring the Hall and refreshments. Details of forthcoming Talks and write ups of previous ones are shown below. We always welcome ideas or suggestions for subjects or speakers for future meetings which you can give us either by talking to our Chairman at one of our monthly meetings or at any time by email.
The Solent Seascape Project is a collaboration with nine other partners to restore seagrass meadows, oyster reefs, saltmarsh and seabird nesting habitat across the Solent as well as to improve the protection and management of existing Solent habitats after securing a $5 million grant from the Endangered Landscapes Programme (ELP). Caitlin Woombs and Emily Stroud, HIWWT Engagement Officers will join us to talk about this exciting new five year partnership project.
We enjoyed this talk by Keith Betton who has been involved in saving this scarce species on the Hampshire Downs for 15 years in his role as the County Bird Recorder in Hampshire. Keith explained how farmers work together to get the habitat just right as well as outlining the birds' ecology. Feedback from the 29 attendees who attended the talk showed that they enjoyed it.
The Local Volunteers of Havant, Hayling, and Emsworth lead an evening walk to the top of Butser Hill to look (and listen) for wild flowering plants and birds. Park and meet in Lime Kiln Lane on the approach to Butser hill top car park (SU710198). Don't use the car park as it may be closed by the time we finish the walk. There were some slopes but we avoided the very steep and long paths. The price for the walk was £4.00.
HIWWT Wilder Garden Champions Steve and Jane Page gave us an illustrated talk about the discoveries, delights and dilemmas they encounter as they make more space for nature in their garden.
We enjoyed a talk by Keith Betton who is the Chairman of the Hampshire Ornithological Society. Keith has studied these conservation successes in detail. The Red Kite is a fascinating and agile bird of prey with an amazing ability to steal food from other birds. The Peregrine is the fastest flying bird in the world, capable of reaching speeds in excess of 200 mph. There was a time when they were both extremely rare birds in Britain. Many were killed by hunters or poisoned but in recent years they have become more common and are doing well in Hampshire. Keith is heavily involved in bird monitoring in Hampshire where he is County Recorder.
We enjoyed a talk by ecologist and safari guide Matthew Phelps about changes to the Knepp Estate which is located just south of Horsham in West Sussex and consists of 3,500 acres owned by the Burrell family for over 220 years. The land, which used to be intensively farmed, has been returned to nature to increase wildlife by a rewilding project which began in 2001, bring in grazing animals and restoring natural water courses.
The rewilding project has seen an increase of rare species in the area, including nightingales, peregrine falcons, turtle doves and purple emperor butterflies.
We enjoyed a talk by Andy Lester who is the Head of Conservation at the Christian charity A Rocha UK about the natural history, landscapes and wildlife of the island of St Helena, a tropical, volcanic island and British Territory in the South Atlantic. It is one of the most remote islands in the world.
Fungi helped plants to colonise land and ultimately dominate it. New findings are changing our views of how plants establish and grow with fungi, with examples ranging from liverworts that carpet the ground to the orchids of the forest understorey and the conifer and broadleaf trees that make up our woods.
We enjoyed a talk by Professor Martin Bidartondo of Imperial College and Kew Gardens where he is an Honorary Research Associate about how plants establish and grow with fungi and the latest research on this amazing partnership.
Wildlife and animal crime takes many forms from hare coursing, trade in endangered species, persecution of protected species to livestock worrying.
We enjoyed an illustrated talk from the Country Watch Police Service to learn about the types of wildlife crime committed in Hampshire and what we can do to help them identify and combat it.
Bats are capable of catching flying insects in total darkness and living up to 25 years.
Nik Knight who is both the Chairman and the County Recorder of the The Hampshire Bat Group which is at the forefront of bat research and conservation told us all about these remarkable but undervalued mammals.
Nik is a retired zoologist who devotes much of his time to the study and conservation of bats.
Pete Cooper from the Derek Gow Consultancy covered the history, ecology and human dimension of having beavers in Britain and the likely impact of their return on biodiversity and the environment.
Unfortunately it was not possible to arrange any Talks and Walks while the various Covid restrictions on contact and movement were in force.
The Reservoir is being built on the grassland site next to Havant Thicket, which sits in between Rowlands Castle, Leigh Park and Staunton Country Park. As well as providing water supplies for the South East, the plans include the creation of a green leisure facility for local communities.
Kim began with a light hearted ‘get to know your owl’ set of questions which she went through during the first part of her talk. She also brought out a ‘rookie’ Barn Owl in order to demonstrate some of the important and unique features of owls. He was slightly nervous and there was only one ‘mistake' on the paper that Kim had thoughtfully laid on the floor.
During the second half of her talk she brought out a beautiful Tawny Owl who sat very quietly on her arm whilst she told us of the work she does with the Bird of Prey Hospital.
She talked without notes and with such passion for her owls that the audience were captivated and would have stayed to listen for a further hour had it not been for the constraints of the hall booking.
Formerly an industrial heritage site which started life as part of the Portsmouth to Arundel Canal in the early nineteenth century, Milton Locks now forms a wildlife haven with an abundance of insects, birds, amphibians including ground lizards and salt marsh plants. Jess was an enthusiastic and clear speaker who projected and interacted very well with audience.
After the break we watched a fascinating film show giving first hand experiences from residents and also telling us more about the history of the area from Old Portsmouth to Arundel Canal, explaining how and why the area became more populated.
32 people attended the meeting, including Melanie Thorne who kindly provided the pictures which she took during a subsequent visit to the Locks, and the consensus was that everyone really enjoyed the evening and they all found it very informative.
Clanfield Bluebell Wood
Wildlife in Portsmouth & Havant
The Sustainability Centre
Freshwater Habitats Trust
Hampshire Biodiversity Information Centre ('HBIC')
The South Down Group works closely with the Horndean Biodiversity Group whose website can be found by clicking on the logo at the bottom of the screen.