Creating a new woodland at Curbridge Nature Reserve

Looking across the River Hamble at Curbridge Nature Reserve on the estate at Mottisfont, Hampshire

We’re planting 6,000 new trees to extend the existing woodland at Curbridge Nature Reserve, thanks to a generous donation from global company SC Johnson.

The £85,000 donation enables us to expand and protect a vital nature conservation site: creating the ancient woodland of the future while protecting the ancient woodland of today, for generations to come. 

The development of the site includes planting 6,000 trees and creating a new pond - important wildlife habitats that will benefit endangered species such as dormice. The new woodland will help combat the effects of heavy footfall and natural erosion on a site of ecological and historical importance.

Saving a vital reserve

On the banks of the River Hamble, Curbridge Nature Reserve consists of a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) ancient woodland, and salt marsh, reed bed and estuary mudflats which make up a designated SPA (Special Protection Area) and SAC (Special Area of Conservation). It is also a Ramsar site: a wetland of international importance.

There has been woodland along the River Hamble for hundreds of years, providing habitats for birds, butterflies and key endangered species. The area is well-loved by the local community, frequented by walkers and home to a ‘fairy tree’, which is decorated with tokens and wishes from visitors.

The ancient woodland comes to life with wildflower displays in spring and summer
Bluebells on the woodland floor of Curbridge Nature Reserve, Hampshire
The ancient woodland comes to life with wildflower displays in spring and summer

But the popularity of Curbridge Nature Reserve has led to heavy footfall, and the existing ancient woodland suffers from groundwater runoff from the surrounding urban areas. In addition to a number of existing urban centres in close proximity, there are a further 3,500 houses planned for the North Whitely development opposite the reserve. 

These pressures have created areas of soil erosion and compaction on veteran trees. Bankside trees are also being lost to the natural tidal influences of the river. But the woodland is unable to naturally regenerate back away from the estuary edge in most places due to other land uses such as stables and smallholdings. 

The funding from SC Johnson enables us to establish a new woodland here, merging into the current ancient woodland and helping it to regenerate.

Creating a new woodland

Tree planting began in February 2019. Species have been chosen to reflect those found naturally in the neighbouring woodland: shrub and understorey such as hazel, field maple, wild service and hawthorn, and upper canopy species such as oak, lime and cherry. 

Rides and glades are included in the planting scheme, providing open areas for wildflowers and grasses to ensure the diverse habitats which are important for endangered wildlife species such as bats, butterflies, and dormice. The pond will also add to this rich network of varied habitats.

The project will require years of aftercare after the initial planting. This includes spraying and mulching of weeds around each tree to heighten their chance of survival, thinning of failed saplings, and the removal of tree guards after several years.

The new woodland will benefit local communities by providing natural green spaces for walks, dog walkers and outdoor play. A pathway will be diverted through the newly planted area, helping to ease the pressure on the adjacent ancient woodland and allowing it to recover. Regular visitors to the site will be able to watch this woodland mature into a lasting legacy for wildlife.

Latest updates

05 Jan 20

The community comes together to finish tree planting

Successful community tree planting days in winter 2019-20 see the last of 6,500 new trees planted to extend the existing ancient woodland. 20 different types of native British species have gone in, to guarantee structural and biological diversity and safeguard against woodland loss through disease.

02 Oct 19

The pond begins to take shape

Aquascience Ltd begin work on shaping the pond. Eventually, this will become a wildlife haven, full of plants and life, adding to the rich network of varied habitats enhanced by the project.

16 Feb 19

The first trees are planted

2,000 trees are planted by National Trust staff and volunteers. We'll be planting another 4,000 in autumn/winter 2019-20.