Making space for nature at South Hole

Wildflowers at sunset

The National Trust purchased South Hole in 1994 as part of the Enterprise Neptune Scheme. Since its purchase in 1994 we have managed the land with conservation and restoration as our focus.

The land was nutrient rich, so we needed to reduce these nutrient levels to allow the plants and animals associated with this type of habitat to thrive once more. Since 1994 and working closely with our tenants and Natural England we have successfully completed two ten years Stewardship Agreements and have just entered into a new one for the next ten years.
 
To reduce nutrient levels, we do not allow any fertilizers on the land, which will stop unwanted grasses from competing with more delicate plants associated with this type of habitat. We also graze the area but are very careful about the intensity of grazing we allow.

Wildflowers bloom
Wildflowers bloom
Wildflowers bloom

We had come a very long way over the last 20 years, and with very few species present at first, we had gradually improved the land for plants to re-colonise. Species you can now find include Common Cat's-ear, Common Knapweed, Red Clover, Bird's-foot trefoil, Greater Bird's-foot trefoil 2008, Meadow Buttercup, Eyebright, Germander Speedwell, Ribwort Plantain, Yarrow Tormentil, Betony, Common Sorrel, Bladder Campion, Wild Carrot, Kidney vetch, Heath bedstraw, Wild thyme, Common dog violet, Pignut, Common Bent, Sweet Vernal, Crested Dogs Tail and Red Fescue.

Wildflowers in June
Wildflowers in June
Wildflowers in June

This in its self was a great success. However, with a few tweaks this field can be a fantastic environment specially for the local plants and animals. It will also allow us to harvest our own seed with a good providence to use elsewhere on sites we are restoring and making better for nature. As part of the new agreement with Natural England that started in 2019, we were offered the opportunity to over sow one of the fields with wild flower seed. The South Hole field was very species rich but not species diverse; this means there were lots of plants are few different species. Working with the Devon Wildlife Trust the field was oversown in September 2019 with a locally harvested seed mix. This work has:
 
- increased the diversity of plant species
- increased the area of species rich grassland within the holding
- improved connectivity of species rich grassland in the landscape by reducing the distance between areas of similar habitat, ideally aiding future species migration and colonisation

Visit from May-July to see the stunning flowers.