Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust South Down Group


Purpose and Aims of the Group

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 Committee

Role Name
Chairman Deryn Hawkins
Treasurer Alan Key
Events Organiser Rosemary Clarke
Newsletter John Vigay
Member Anne Dale
Member Coleen Hayter

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, Merchistoun Oak Jan 2019 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.

Meetings and Speakers

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.


Year Spring Summer Autumn
2013 Newsletter 46 Newsletter 47 Newsletter 48
2014 Newsletter 49A Newsletter 49B Newsletter 50
2015 Newsletter 51 Newsletter 52 Newsletter 53
2016 Newsletter 54 Newsletter 55
2017 Newsletter 56
2018 Newsletter 57 Newsletter 58
2019 Newsletter 59 Newsletter 60

Forthcoming and Previous Talks and Walks

15 November 2023: The Solent Seascape Project

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.

18 October 2023: Saving the Stone Curlew

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.

9 May 2023: A Walk Around the Top of Butser Hill

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.

15 March 2023: Beauty and the Beasts

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.

22 February 2023: The return of the Red Kite and Peregrine Falcon

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. Red Kite and Peregrine

18 January 2023: Rewilding the Knepp Estate

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.

16 November 2022: St Helena - Island of the Fairy Tern

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.

19 October 2022: Fungi and Plants - Working Together in a Changing 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.

16 March 2022: Rural and Wildlife Crime

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.

16 February 2022: Bats: Superheroes of the Night

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.

19 January 2022: The Return of Beavers to Britain

Beavers are looking likely to make a return in wild rivers across England in the very near future, but what can we expect and what challenges still lie ahead?

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. Beaver in River

17 November 2021: Gardening for Wildlife

We heard from Martin Hampton about his work as a wildlife gardener and habitat maker and found out how to increase the biodiversity and abundance of species in our gardens. Martin is a long-time member of HIWWT and many other regional and national conservation organisations.

20 October 2021: Hayling Island Tern Project

The RSPB told us about this EU funded joint Roseate Tern LIFE Recovery Project to secure safe nesting areas for breeding terns and other coastal wetland species. Walkers and cyclists familiar with the Hayling Billy cycle route on Hayling Island will have seen the tern colony, including the simple raft that has been such a success in increasing the success of breeding along that section of the coastline.

Suspension of Talks and Walks

Unfortunately it was not possible to arrange any Talks and Walks while the various Covid restrictions on contact and movement were in force.

19 February 2020: Are there dragons in your garden..?

Dr Tony Gent, who is the Chief Executive Officer of The Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust, showed us how to attract frogs, toads, newts and other amphibians into our gardens.

15 January 2020: Jaguars and Wildlife of the Pantanal in Brazil

Alan Key presented an illustrated Talk about his trip to the Pantanal in Brazil and the jaguars and other wildlife he encountered there in the world's largest tropical wetland.

18 December 2019: Quiz Evening with Drinks and Nibbles

We invited members and non-members to bring friends and family to our Christmas Quiz for a chat and fun evening with mince pies and wine as we looked forward to Christmas.

20 November 2019: Havant Thicket Winter Storage Reservoir Talk

Tracey Viney from Portsmouth Water Company gave us a very informative Talk about the ten year Havant Thicket Winter Storage Reservoir project which has now started and which is designed to help local wildlife.

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. Barn Owl

16 October 2019: Hampshire Barn Owl Project Talk

Kim Boog-Penman from the Hampshire Barn Owl Project and Bird of Prey Hospital which she set up and runs gave us this very informative Talk about these lovely birds which are in decline.

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.

17 August 2019: Butterflies and Flowers at Old Winchester Hill Walk

Meet in the main reserve car park on Hayden Lane/Old Winchester Hill Lane, 10.30am - 3 pm

12 July 2019: Havant Thicket Reservoir Walk

Meet in The Forestry Commission car park off Manor Lodge Road in Rowlands Castle, 1pm - 3pm, 2.5 miles. Walk led by Tracey Viney, Portsmouth Water's Environment and Biodiversity specialist. Booking Essential.

25 June 2019: A Glow Worm Walk in Havant Thicket

May also see Nightjars. Meet at the entrance to the car-park off Manor Lodge Road at 8.30pm. Note: Car Park may close before the Walk finishes at 10.30pm.

13 June 2019: Coulters Dean in Bloom Walk

Park and meet Buriton Pond, 10am - 12.30pm, 5 miles

11 June 2019: Finchdean Valley Walk

Explore the Sussex Border Path and Staunton Way. Meet in Finchdean village square at 7pm

4 June 2019: Creech Woods Walk

Meet in the entrance to the car-park on Bunkers Hill, Denmead at 8pm

30 April 2019: Springtime on Butser Hill Walk

Meet in Limekiln Lane on the approach to the Butser Hill car-park at 7pm Hodgepig

20 March 2019: Help our Hedgehogs Talk

Hedgehog expert Chris Matcham from Surrey Wildlife Trust gave us a very clear and informative Talk covering the history of hedgehogs, the reasons for their decline and how we can all play our part in helping to increase their numbers. Chris was an excellent speaker and he also showed us a feeder he had made for hedgehogs which did not leave food for preditors, as well as houses he had made for them.

9 March 2019: HBic Annual Recorders Forum

Littleton Millennium Hall, 9.30am - 3.30pm

23 February 2019: Meeting with EHDC to view Local Plan

Barton Cross, 10am - 2 pm

20 February 2019: Milton Locks

Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust staff member Jess Parsons gave us a brilliant presentation during the first half of the Meeting about Milton Locks in which she explained the significance and importance of this two-acre grassland and scrub nature reserve adjoining Langstone Harbour which the Trust now manages.

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. Milton Locks

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.

16 January 2019: The Fascination of Fungi

Photographer Rosemary Webb gave us an illustrated and very impressive Talk about the fungi that we might find locally at this and other times of the year. Rosemary was an excellent speaker and very knowledgeable on her subject and her presentation included wonderful photographs of rare and amazing fungi of all types accompanied by an informative commentary. The 27 people who came to hear her Talk thoroughly enjoyed it and clearly learnt alot from it. Milton Locks scrub

21 November 2018: The Enchanting Nature Reserves at Buriton

A Speaker from Queen Elizabeth Country Park gave us an illustrated talk about the wildlife and management of this local nature reserve and also about the Buriton Chalk Quarries which have recently been reactivated.

17 October 2018: Watercress and Winterbournes

Community Catchment Officer Maggie Shelton presented an illustrated Talk about the geology and ecology of chalk streams and winterbournes which are streams that dry up in the summer and reappear during wetter winter months. The Talk also covered The Watercress and Winterbournes Project which Maggie is developing with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund. The purpose of this project, which you may have read about in our Spring magazine, is to protect and improve the headwater streams of the Test and Itchen rivers that are the lifeblood of our chalk rivers.

18th April 2018: Local Wildlife Caught on Camera

A special meeting held in conjunction with Horndean Biodiversity Group at which local naturalists, recorders and photographers showed pictures of amazing plants and animals all seen locally in 2017. Cowslips

21st March 2018: Urban Wildlife and its Conservation

Wildlife Trust ecologist Dr David Rumble presented an illustrated Talk about the value of preserving our local wildlife and countryside and the importance of raising local awareness and involvement in Biodiversity conservation. David referred to a recent UK Wildlife Trust report that urges developers to create nature friendly housing by planting wildlife rich community green spaces, walkways and gardens. He also discussed ways that we can improve our local Biodiversity by creating wildlife friendly gardens and public areas by planting nectar-rich flowers, shrubs and trees, as well as providing bird feeders and creating ponds. He said that even a block paved front garden can be improved for wildlife and made more attractive by adding tubs and containers.

21st February 2018: A Colourful Presentation of Birds Photographed Around The World

Wildlife enthusiasts and South Down Group members Deryn Hawkins and Alan Key showed some of the wildlife photographs they have taken over many years, including those of birds in Asia, Africa, South and Central America and other countries they have visited. Alan filled up every minute available showing about 500 illustrations of birds from the Arctic to the Antarctic and points in between.

17th January 2018: The Butterflies of The Meon Valley

Ashley Whitlock from Butterfly Conservation Hampshire and Isle of Wight Branch presented an illustrated Talk about the Butterflies found in the Meon Valley. Ashley explained how and where to spot some of the less obvious butterflies in our local area, such as Purple Emperor and White Admiral. He also mentioned the work that is being done in specific sites in order to be able to release species back into the wild where numbers have fallen dramatically due to habitat loss resulting from over-grazing among other things. East Meon River Banks He also explained how different habitats attract different butterfly species. The members of the Group at this well-attended meeting learned alot about what we can do to help with the work of Butterfly Conservation.

15th November 2017: The Return of One of Our Favourite River Inhabitants

Elaina Whittaker-Slark, the Lead Ranger (Western Downs) gave us an illustrated Talk about the work the South Down National Park has been doing to reintroduce the Water Vole population into the River Meon which has been devastated by predators, mainly the American Mink. Elaina took us along the River from the sea to its source showing how the plant life along its banks has been restored to provide habitats for Water Voles, and how the American Mink has been caught and removed. It was fascinating to see the before and after pictures showing how different sections of the river have been transformed and how straight sections have altered to vary the flow of the water. It was particularly impressive to see how the concrete-floored section through East Meon has been covered with stone and vegetation to provide a natural environment without affecting the flood protection provided by the channel. The Talk concluded with some wonderful videos provided by David Strutt of voles and other animals seen on the river bank at night taken with motion sensitive cameras.

18th October 2017: Secrets of the Solent

Tim Ferrero, the Head of Marine Conservation for HIWWT, gave us a Talk about the Trust's Marine Team's project describing how they work with communities and sea-users to promote the network of marine protected areas and safeguard our local seas. Tim also told us how we can get involved in helping to enhance our local marine life as well as about Marine Conservation Zones which protect a range of nationally important habitats and species. SongThrush

Further Information

The following websites contain further information relevant to the Group's aims and activities.

Clanfield Bluebell Wood

Wildlife in Portsmouth & Havant

The Sustainability Centre

Freshwater Habitats Trust

Forestry Commission

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.

South Down Group Logo 3