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Chalk Grassland

Chalk grassland is a unique, specialised and fragile habitat, important for landscape and historical value as well as for wildlife.  Chalk grassland results from centuries of grazing on nutrient poor chalks soils, producing a short turf (or 'sward’) rich in herbs, flowers and grasses.

The Chilterns has nationally-important concentrations of chalk grassland, particularly along the steep scarp slopes of the chalk outcrop and dry valley slopes.  There are over 700 hectares of chalk grassland in the AONB.  Many of the plants found in chalk grassland – for example Chiltern Gentian - do not live in other habitat. A wide variety of insects are also found,  many of which need specific chalk grassland plants in order to survive, for example the Adonis Blue butterfly.

Chalk scrub is also often of high wildlife value but needs active management. Juniper and box scrub habitats are of particular interest in the Chilterns.
Nationally, chalk grassland habitat has declined significantly in the post-war period, and the Chilterns is no exception.  Through the efforts of land managers (including farmers, volunteer groups and conservation organisations) across the Chilterns, progress is being made in restoring and in some areas expanding chalk grassland. These efforts need to be sustained and expanded over the long term. Declines in the livestock sector and uncertainty of future agri-environment scheme add to current challenges.


A selection of the best chalk grassland nature reserves in the Chilterns: 

Pegsdon Hills, near Barton-le-Clay, Beds

Aldbury Nowers, near Tring, Herts

Grangelands, near Princes Risborough, Bucks

Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve, near Watlington, Oxon

Hartslock, near Goring-on-Thames, Oxon


Chalk Grassland Day 2012

Handouts from a series of site visits in the Whitchurch and Goring area in south Oxfordshire.

22 June 2012
Coombe End Farm Chalk Grassland Restoration (pdf 687Kb)
Project notes by Dr Chris Smith, Farm & Countryside Liaison Services, Bridgwater, Somersetalong the Bozedown/Hardwick escarpment compared with Hartslock
22 June 2012
Horse Pasture Management (pdf 86Kb)
Notes by Tracy Adams from Chilterns Chalk Grassland Day, June 15 2012
22 June 2012
Location Map (pdf 954Kb)
Map showing the location of chalk grasslands in the Whitchurch and Goring area
22 June 2012
Straw Hill Notes (pdf 51Kb)
Notes by the Hardwick Estate Office from Chilterns Chalk Grassland Day, June 15 2012
22 June 2012
Whitchurch Chalk Indicator Species (pdf 22Kb)
Table comparing rare or indicator species along the Bozedown/Hardwick escarpment those at with Hartslock

Birds-foot trefoil

Dark green fritillary

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