Conservation seed sowing at Stonehenge
As the Stonehenge World Heritage Site celebrates 30 years on the World Heritage List this month, National Trust volunteers are sowing seeds by hand in the Stonehenge Landscape in one of Europe’s largest grassland reversion projects.
The National Trust owns and cares for over 2100 acres of the World Heritage Site, a place rich in natural and human history with hundreds of globally important archaeological sites. Since 2000, the National Trust has been working to restore the landscape by sowing seeds harvested from nearby Salisbury Plain by machine and by hand and working with its tenant farmers to graze the land.
'The locally sourced seeds will help to restore the chalk grassland landscape our ancestors would have known at the time of Stonehenge. In recent years the land was farmed to grow crops, the soil was dried out and the top soil was blown away in the winds. But by harvesting and sowing the seeds and working with our tenant farmers to manage the land through grazing, we are succeeding in both protecting the historic monuments and bringing back the grassland landscape.'
" The locally sourced seeds will help to restore the chalk grassland landscape our ancestors would have known at the time of Stonehenge."
Since the grassland reversion project started, the Trust and its team of volunteers have seen some major improvements for nature:
- First sighting of an adonis blue butterfly in 2008
- The establishment of a grassland species sainfoin
- The sound of skylarks registered in large numbers in 2002
Sonia Heywood, one of the National Trust volunteers taking part in the seed sowing says:
'I’ve been volunteering with the Trust for 11 years and thanks to the grassland project I’ve seen more and more grassland plants and wildlife returning every year. I love being a volunteer in the Stonehenge Landscape because it’s such an interesting and dramatic place. It’s such a pleasure to see the first Hare of the year and I’ll never forget the first time I saw an adonis blue butterfly it was such a bright blue! We’re very lucky and I have no interest in stopping volunteering until I physically can’t do it anymore.'
However, there’s still much to be done. It will take decades for the landscape to recover and fully revert to a grassland landscape.
The chalk grassland landscape took thousands of years to develop and so it will take decades for it to completely recover and so we will continue to graze the land and bring in more seeds. We’ve managed to attract many species of insects, birds and mammals including key species such as the wasp spider, brown hare and birds such as the skylark and meadow pipit and things are only going to improve over time.