HAMPSHIRE & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust have completed the purchase of chalk downland near Winchester.

The trust has raised £150,000 to buy Deacon Hill, 10-hectares of scrub and chalk grassland overlooking the Chilcomb valley. The deal was completed on Friday May 1.

The land has been purchased by the Trust following a successful fundraising appeal, a bequest by two local residents Heather Monie and Shirley Bull and generous grants including nearly £20,000 from Hampshire County Council, the South Downs National Park and strong support from officers and members of the Butterfly Conservation Hampshire Branch.

The site is Winchester’s only remaining stronghold for the Duke of Burgundy butterfly, as well as supporting a range of breeding farmland birds including whitethroat, yellowhammer, linnet and blackcap, and many other wildlife species such as the harvest mouse and glow worm.

The trust says it will now start restoring the site with support and advice from our partners. One danger was that scrub was taking over, the first stage to the growth of a wood, ruining it as a habitat for butterflies. Winter grazing with cattle from Hockley Farm will also help.

One of the important features is that the trust is building up a bloc of land near Winchester which can be better managed for the benefit of wildlife. Other places that it is involved with include St Catherine's Hill, Hockley Farm. Hampshire Butterfly Conservation look after Magdalen Down on the other side of the Chilcomb Valley.

Debbie Tann, trust chief executive, said: “We are delighted to announce this news as the trust has held a long term ambition to purchase Deacon Hill. Deacon Hill is a crucial piece of land in a whole network of sites around Winchester that are managed by the trust with wildlife in mind. I want to thank everyone who has helped the trust finally make this dream a reality.”

At the end of 2019, Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust published its new ten-year plan, WILDER 2030. The plan sets out the overall aim to secure a third of land and sea for wildlife and to double the trust’s own estate across the two counties. The trust also wants to see many more people joining forces to back nature’s recovery and become part of ‘Team Wilder’.