Jane Brundle of Merritts Meadow Conservation Trust
A NEW nature reserve will be taking shape in Petersfield this winter as a series of work parties take place at the quietest time of year for wildlife.
The Merritts Meadow Conservation Trust volunteers will work to a management plan approved by the national park.
The four-acre meadow is in front of the Merritts Meadow mini-estate off Station Road and stretches north toward Petersfield cemetery.
In the Petersfield Neighbourhood Plan the meadow is described as an ‘important green finger’ and protected from development.
The first work party on Sunday saw the volunteers – including estate residents, other local people and a South Downs Ranger – tackle overgrown brambles.
They were cleared to reveal three young trees and an older apple tree near the reserve entrance from North Road.
A trust spokesman said: “More areas will be opened up in this way, to allow the woodland floor to flower in spring and summer, and to provide focal points and views.”
Other work involved difficult digging along the new preferred pathway that will follow Tilmore Brook to the railway embankment at Woods Meadow.
In addition, bat and bird boxes were put up on trees.
Although relatively small, the new nature reserve has a range of valuable habitats.
These include dark woodland, scrub, areas of bramble, damp meadow and quite a large tussock-grass area.
The management plan sets out how volunteers will look after each habitat to maximise its potential for wildlife.
The site is already home to slow worms and is visited by more than ten species of butterfly.
The conservation leases the meadow from Merritts Meadow Residents’ Association.
The association bought the land from estate developers Beechcroft after years of deliberation about its future.
The residents’ buy-out came after Petersfield Town Council failed to reach agreement with the developers over protecting the meadow.
The cause of the failure was an old railway embankment that divides the meadow and was considered a liability by the council.
Petersfield Society members have also offered support for the venture.
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