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Our work at the Stonehenge Landscape

A person silhouetted against sunrise at Cursus Barrows, Stonehenge Landscape.
Sunrise at Cursus Barrows | © National Trust Images/John Miller

The Stonehenge Landscape is unique and its management requires a careful balance of looking after the archaeology, maintain nature and making it accessible for people to visit and enjoy. With its World Heritage Site status, the primary focus in the Stonehenge Landscape is the protection of the archaeology, but it’s also home to some impressive wildlife.

Monitoring the monuments

We regularly monitor erosion or damage to the monuments in the landscape. Some areas are closed off when time is needed for recovery and woodchip is used in gateways and on paths to prevent erosion.

Many of the Bronze Age barrows are mown or strimmed to prevent the development of scrub and allow the profile to be seen. This also deters burrowing by rabbits. Some barrows have good chalk grassland flora, so cutting is timed to allow flowers to set seed.

Yellow flowers in long grass
Horseshoe vetch | © National Trust Images / Corrinne Manning

Restoring grassland

Since the year 2000, the National Trust has reverted 10 fields, around 240 hectares, of arable land back to grassland. This protects the Bronze Age barrows and other archaeology and means we're working towards creating large areas of species-rich chalk grassland.

Rangers have monitored the progression of the fields while volunteers with botanical skills have surveyed three or four fields every year on rotation.

The grassland survey

The survey looks for key indicator species representative of quality chalk grassland, such as horseshoe vetch and small scabious. Also, farmland butterflies are monitored each year as part of a national butterfly-monitoring scheme.

Within each field 20 quadrants are looked at closely and the species recorded. This allows us to see the frequency of the indicator species that are present. By following the same method each time we could and can monitor how the fields are changing.

Improving species diversity

We work closely with the tenant farmers to improve species diversity of the grassland. To help with this process, chalk grassland seed harvested from Salisbury Plain is over-sown to improve the quality of the sward.

Restoring chalk grassland is a slow process, but small improvements have been seen. With continued good management and the addition of more seed, the fields will become more species-rich over time.

Adonis Blue butterfly
Adonis Blue butterfly | © National Trust Images/Matthew Oates

Butterflies at Stonehenge

The Adonis blue, a key chalk grassland butterfly, was recorded in the Stonehenge Landscape for the first time in 10 years, in 2019. The surveying will continue as a more diverse butterfly population is an indication of a healthier chalk grassland.

Common blue butterflies are regularly seen along King Barrow Ridge from late spring into summer. While no formal butterfly monitoring happens in the woodlands, a notable species, the silver-washed fritillary, has been found in Fargo plantation. A chalkhill blue was also recorded in Fargo plantation in 2019.

Woodlands and pathways

A rotation of hazel coppicing is carried out in the woodlands, which opens area up. This gives a more diverse structure to the wood and creates glades to benefit ground flora, butterflies and birds in the area.

The Stonehenge Landscape is well visited, so we ensure paths are strimmed to keep them open and that gates and fences are safe and stockproof.

Ground-nesting birds

A survey of ground-nest birds is carried out in late spring and early summer, which records numbers of skylark and corn bunting numbers while also looking for other notable species.

This was started as a way of monitoring whether ground-nesting birds were affected by visitors in the Stonehenge Landscape. Since the survey began in 2013, recorded skylark numbers have increased and are particularly high in the longer grass of fields being left for hay.

A view of the a field with cows in the background and stones of the West Kennet Avenue in the foreground at the Stonehenge landscape, Wiltshire


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