Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust South Down Group
Purpose and Aims of the Group
The South Down Group holds talks and publishes a newsletter about environmental matters for members of the
Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust
('HIWWT') and other people interested in local wildlife and the natural environment in the area between Petersfield and Portsdown Hill.
Details of our forthcoming Talks are shown below and the Newsletters that the Group has issued since 2013 can be read by clicking on the titles in the table below.
The Groups activities are organised and managed by the Committee whose members and roles are shown in the table on the left of the screen.
Peter Leversha relinquished the Chairmanship of the Group in March 2018 and Sylvia Leversha also retired from her role as Membership Secretary that month.
Deryn Hawkins succeeded Peter as Chairman, handing over her role as Treasurer to Alan Key.
Rosemary Clarke has been appointed as Events Organiser arranging the monthly Talks and booking the Speakers.
The Group is very grateful to Peter and Sylvia for their many years valued service to the Group, and look forward to continuing to welcome them at future meetings.
As Peter and Sylvia have left the Committee we need new members to join it to ensure that we have enough people to run the Group effectively.
The Committee's duties are not onerous, involving just three Committee Meetings each year.
Please contact any member of the Committee if you would be interested in joining it or want more details about what it would involve.
You can do this either by sending them an email by clicking on their name in the table on the left of the screen or speaking to one of them at our next Monthly Meeting.
Talks and Speakers
Our Talks cover a wide range of topics and are frequently relevant to our changing environment and the challenges the world faces if it is to protect itself for the benefit of all species, including humans.
They are usually given by a visiting speaker and are held on the third Wednesday of the month from 7.30pm to 9.30pm at St Wilfrid's Church Hall, Padnell Road, Cowplain PO8 8DZ.
Padnell Road is opposite the Co-op on London Road in Cowplain and the Church is about 200 metres along the road on the left.
There is a large car park at the end of the drive that runs down the left side of the Church building.
The Hall is upstairs and is reached through a door on the same side of the building as the car park.
We invite people attending Meetings to which non-members are also welcome to make a donation of £3.00 towards the cost of hiring the Hall and refreshments.
There is always an opportunity for questions and discussion about the Talks at the end of the Meeting.
Details of the Talks planned so far for 2019/20 are shown below, as are write ups of previous Talks and details of summer Walks lead by the Group.
We will be bringing the 'shop in a box' to our Meeting on 20th November for you to purchase Trust goodies including the wonderful 2020 wildlife calendar, Christmas cards and other gifts.
Hampshire Barn Owl Project and Bird of Prey Hospital
which she set up and runs gave us this very informative Talk about these lovely birds which are in decline.
Kim began with a light hearted ‘get to know your owl’ set of questions which she went through during the first part of her talk.
She also brought out a ‘rookie’ Barn Owl in order to demonstrate some of the important and unique features of owls.
He was slightly nervous and there was only one ‘mistake' on the paper that Kim had thoughtfully laid on the floor.
During the second half of her talk she brought out a beautiful Tawny Owl who sat very quietly on her arm whilst she told us of the work she does with the Bird of Prey Hospital.
She talked without notes and with such passion for her owls that the audience were captivated and would have stayed to listen for a further hour had it not been for the constraints of the hall booking.
Tracey Viney from Portsmouth Water Company gave us a very informative Talk about the ten year
Havant Thicket Winter Storage Reservoir project
which has now started and which is designed to help local wildlife.
The Reservoir is being built on the grassland site next to Havant Thicket, which sits in between Rowlands Castle, Leigh Park and Staunton Country Park.
As well as providing water supplies for the South East, the plans include the creation of a green leisure facility for local communities.
18 December 2019: Quiz Evening with Drinks and Nibbles
We invite members and non-members to bring friends and family to our Christmas Quiz for a chat and fun evening with mince pies and wine as we look forward to Christmas.
Alan Key will present an illustrated Talk about his trip to the Pantanal in Brazil and the jaguars and other wildlife he encountered there in the world's largest tropical wetland.
Dr Tony Gent, who is the Chief Executive Officer of
The Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust,
will show us how to attract frogs, toads, newts and other amphibians into our gardens.
HIWWT HQ have advised that all meetings of more than 20 people are to be cancelled for the next three weeks and unfortunately this includes this talk on St Clair’s Meadow Nature Reserve.
We hope to be able to rebook the speaker for a later date.
Future Talks and Walks
Our Talks will take a break now until the next meeting which will be on 21st October and will be on The Great British Beaver - It’s Rise, Fall and Return.
Further details of this Talk and future events will be added as soon as they are available.
We will welcome any ideas or suggestions for subjects or speakers for future meetings which you can give us by contacting our Chairman either at one of our monthly meetings or at any time by email.
Past Talks and Walks
18th October 2017: Secrets of the Solent
Tim Ferrero, the Head of Marine Conservation for HIWWT, gave us a Talk about the Trust's Marine Team's project describing how they work with communities and sea-users to promote the network of marine protected areas
and safeguard our local seas.
Tim also told us how we can get involved in helping to enhance our local marine life as well as about
The Marine Conservation Zone Project
15th November 2017: The Return of One of Our Favourite River Inhabitants
Elaina Whittaker-Slark, the Lead Ranger (Western Downs) gave us an illustrated Talk about the work the South Down National Park has been doing to reintroduce the Water Vole population into the River Meon
which has been devastated by predators, mainly the American Mink. Elaina took us along the River from the sea to its source showing how the plant life along its banks has been restored to provide habitats for Water Voles,
and how the American Mink has been caught and removed. It was fascinating to see the before and after pictures showing how different sections of the river have been transformed and how straight sections have altered to vary
the flow of the water. It was particularly impressive to see how the concrete-floored section through East Meon has been covered with stone and vegetation to provide a natural environment without affecting the flood protection
provided by the channel. The Talk concluded with some wonderful videos provided by David Strutt of voles and other animals seen on the river bank at night taken with motion sensitive cameras.
17th January 2018: The Butterflies of The Meon Valley
Ashley Whitlock from Butterfly Conservation Hampshire and Isle of Wight Branch presented an illustrated Talk about the Butterflies found in the Meon Valley.
Ashley explained how and where to spot some of the less obvious butterflies in our local area, such as Purple Emperor and White Admiral.
He also mentioned the work that is being done in specific sites in order to be able to release species back into the wild where numbers have fallen dramatically due to habitat loss resulting from over-grazing among other things.
He also explained how different habitats attract different butterfly species.
The members of the Group at this well-attended meeting learned alot about what we can do to help with the work of Butterfly Conservation.
21st February 2018: A Colourful Presentation of Birds Photographed Around The World
Wildlife enthusiasts and South Down Group members Deryn Hawkins and Alan Key showed some of the wildlife photographs they have taken over many years, including those of birds in Asia, Africa, South and Central America
and other countries they have visited. Alan filled up every minute available showing about 500 illustrations of birds from the Arctic to the Antarctic and points in between.
21st March 2018: Urban Wildlife and its Conservation
Wildlife Trust ecologist Dr David Rumble presented an illustrated Talk about the value of preserving our local wildlife and countryside and the importance of raising local awareness and involvement in Biodiversity conservation.
David referred to a recent UK Wildlife Trust report that urges developers to create nature friendly housing by planting wildlife rich community green spaces, walkways and gardens.
He also discussed ways that we can improve our local Biodiversity by creating wildlife friendly gardens and public areas by planting nectar-rich flowers, shrubs and trees, as well as providing bird feeders and creating ponds.
He said that even a block paved front garden can be improved for wildlife
and made more attractive by adding tubs and containers.
18th April 2018: Local Wildlife Caught on Camera During 2017
A special meeting held in conjunction with Horndean Biodiversity Group at which local naturalists, recorders and photographers showed pictures of amazing plants and animals all seen locally in 2017.
The programme for the Meeting can be found on
Community Catchment Officer Maggie Shelton presented an illustrated Talk about the geology and ecology of chalk streams and winterbournes which are streams that dry up in the summer and reappear during wetter winter months.
The Talk also covered
The Watercress and Winterbournes Project which Maggie is developing with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The purpose of this project, which you may have read about in our Spring magazine, is to protect and improve the headwater streams of the Test and Itchen rivers that are the lifeblood of our chalk rivers.
A Speaker from Queen Elizabeth Country Park gave us an illustrated talk about the wildlife and management of this local nature reserve and also about the Buriton Chalk Quarries which have recently been reactivated.
Photographer Rosemary Webb gave us an illustrated and very impressive Talk about the fungi that we might find locally at this and other times of the year.
Rosemary was an excellent speaker and very knowledgeable on her subject and her presentation included wonderful photographs of rare and amazing fungi of all types accompanied by an informative commentary.
The 27 people who came to hear her Talk thoroughly enjoyed it and clearly learnt alot from it.
Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust staff member Jess Parsons gave us a brilliant presentation during the first half of the Meeting about Milton Locks
in which she explained the significance and importance of this two-acre grassland and scrub nature reserve adjoining Langstone Harbour which the Trust now manages.
Formerly an industrial heritage site which started life as part of the Portsmouth to Arundel Canal in the early nineteenth century,
now forms a wildlife haven with an abundance of insects, birds, amphibians including ground lizards and salt marsh plants.
Jess was an enthusiastic and clear speaker who projected and interacted very well with audience.
After the break we watched a fascinating film show giving first hand experiences from residents and also telling us more about the history of the area from Old Portsmouth to Arundel Canal, explaining how
and why the area became more populated.
32 people attended the meeting, including Melanie Thorne who kindly provided the pictures which she took during a subsequent visit to the Locks, and the consensus was that everyone really enjoyed the evening
and they all found it very informative.
23 February 2019: Meeting with EHDC to view Local Plan
Barton Cross, 10am - 2 pm
9 March 2019: HBic Annual Recorders Forum
Littleton Millennium Hall, 9.30am - 3.30pm
Hedgehog expert Chris Matcham from Surrey Wildlife Trust gave us a very clear and informative Talk covering the history of hedgehogs, the reasons for their decline and how we can all play our part in helping to increase their numbers.
Chris was an excellent speaker and he also showed us a feeder he had made for hedgehogs which did not leave food for preditors, as well as houses he had made for them.
The Walks in our area in the summer months are organised by members of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.
Meet in Limekiln Lane on the approach to the Butser Hill car-park at 7pm
Meet in the entrance to the car-park on Bunkers Hill, Denmead at 8pm
Explore the Sussex Border Path and Staunton Way. Meet in Finchdean village square at 7pm
Park and meet Buriton Pond, 10am - 12.30pm, 5 miles
May also see Nightjars. Meet at the entrance to the car-park off Manor Lodge Road at 8.30pm. Note: Car Park may close before the Walk finishes at 10.30pm.
Meet in The Forestry Commission car park off Manor Lodge Road in Rowlands Castle, 1pm - 3pm, 2.5 miles. Walk led by Tracey Viney, Portsmouth Water's Environment and Biodiversity specialist. Booking Essential.
Meet in the main reserve car park on Hayden Lane/Old Winchester Hill Lane, 10.30am - 3 pm
If you have any comments about this webpage or think that anything should be added or changed please email the
Information about matters related to our activities can be found on the websites listed below.
Clanfield Bluebell Wood
Wildlife in Portsmouth & Havant
The Sustainability Centre
Freshwater Habitats Trust
Hampshire Biodiversity Information Centre ('HBIC')
The South Down Group works closely with the Horndean Biodiversity Group whose website can be found by clicking on the logo at the bottom of the screen.