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0 National Grid powers a brighter future for New Forest landscapes

The New Forest National Park Authority has secured almost £400,000 from a national scheme to reinvigorate the natural beauty and biodiversity of landscapes around high voltage overhead power lines in our national parks.

National Grid’s Landscape Enhancement Initiative (LEI), which is celebrating almost 10 years of success, has helped restore landscapes, habitats and access in the New Forest, including saving a rare wet heath and bog from drying out and helped unearth an ancient Bronze Age site in a ‘secret hidden wood’. LEI aims to enhance protected landscapes and reduce the visual impacts of existing National Grid electricity transmission lines within the National Park.

Thanks to £200,000 of LEI support secured through the New Forest National Park Authority (NFNPA), enough highly invasive non-native rhododendron to cover an average 18-hole golf course has been removed from a once-inaccessible area in the north of the New Forest.

Work by RSPB volunteers at Franchises Lodge to restore the nature reserve has enabled ground nesting birds such as the woodlark and the nationally rare nightjar to make a welcome return and three large mounds, known to be Bronze Age burial sites, have been uncovered.

A site of special scientific interest and internationally rare wet heath and bog within the New Forest’s Wiltshire boundary has also been saved thanks to £28,000 of LEI funding secured by the NFNPA. Landford Bog is about the size of 11 football pitches and home to rare plants, invertebrates, and reptiles. It has enabled Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, which manages the site, to improve visitor access with a boardwalk and pedestrian ‘kissing gate’ and to secure an area for cattle to graze which will boost wildlife in the nature reserve.

Wiltshire Wildlife Trust’s Conservation Lead for South Wiltshire, Alex Atkinson said: ‘The LEI funding has allowed us to preserve the mosaic of heath, lowland bog and woodland found in the reserve – a landscape that would have once been found across the breadth of Southern England. These landscapes would have naturally been grazed by large herbivores. In modern times we can use cattle to the same effect and this grazing keeps areas of grass down and allows heather to flourish in the heath.

‘By restoring natural structures like leaky dams in the reserve we have managed to keep the reserve wet all year round. With this we’ve seen a massive increase in species such as raft spiders which, amazingly, can swim underwater. Also, a beautiful but carnivorous plant, the sundew, collecting insects with its sticky tentacles and then rolling them in to eat them is a real sight to see.’
Alex added: ‘The grant has paid for a new boardwalk to be installed on the reserve, taking visitors through the woods to view the bog at various points, this makes a walk through this landscape accessible to all in a way that wetland habitats rarely are. This work is not only benefiting biodiversity, by restoring the bog and heath we are slowing the flow of winter floodwater and helping to alleviate the effects downstream, as well as reducing the risk of summer wildfires spreading throughout the New Forest.’

Other areas within the New Forest to receive funding include Warren Copse, near Fawley where volunteers have been coppicing hazel woodland and introduced a wild play area for children. Public access has also been improved through a targeted footpath creation with timber boardwalks and laying of gravel in place of the muddiest paths for better stability.

Sarah Kelly, Landscape Officer for the New Forest National Park Authority said: ‘We worked in collaboration with a range of partners across the National Park to secure funding from National Grid’s Landscape Enhancement Initiative. We’re grateful that LEI funding has not only helped us breathe new life into forgotten parts of our special landscapes, but also encourages local residents and visitors to return and enjoy the unique qualities the New Forest has to offer. The wild play area at Warren Copse has been embraced by the community there. We’ve achieved so much thanks to LEI and there is more to come.’

Other projects with funding secured by the NFNPA include:
• Landscape improvements at Cadland Estate, in the south east of the National Park, including footpath surface improvements, new footpath signage, replacement gates, scrub and gorse clearance, tree planting and stream enhancements.
• Tatchbury Mount, the Iron Age Hillfort to the west of Calmore and Totton, has received LEI funding for footpath improvements, including surface works to an ancient droveway once used for moving livestock, to make it more accessible on foot and to create a circular footpath route.
• An application for LEI funds has been submitted for improvements to the footpath that runs along the disused railway line at Breamore in the north west of the National Park. It is hoped that 3kms (almost two miles) of redundant rail track will be transformed into an attractive footpath, using locally-sourced natural materials, improving habitats, drainage and signage.

David Bence, Chair of the New Forest National Park Authority, said: ‘The New Forest is a world capital for wildlife and a place to enjoy. Not only has the National Grid Landscape Enhancement Initiative provided financial support to enhance our natural landscape, it is also a great way to inspire more people to connect and care for nature in and around our National Park.’

Amardeep Malhi, EPC Manager at National Grid, said: ‘Through the Landscape Enhancement Initiative, National Grid is helping to deliver a positive contribution towards preserving and enhancing the natural beauty, cultural heritage, biodiversity as well as accessibility within England and Wales’s most precious landscapes.’

‘We’re really pleased to be working with stakeholders to provide funding for this important project in the spectacular New Forest National Park and very much look forward to watching its progress that will reinvigorate the natural beauty and biodiversity of this area to make it even more enjoyable to visit.’

Find out more:
www.nationalgrid.com  www.newforestnpa.gov.uk 

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