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AONB: North Wessex Downs

Stepping Stones

23,000 wildflower plug plants were grown and planted by volunteers to create or improve 344ha of chalk grassland, working with 28 farmers. This enables butterflies and other creatures to colonise new areas by creating stepping stones connecting areas of high quality chalk grassland.

The Stepping Stones Project was led by the North Wessex Downs AONB with Cranborne Chase & West Wiltshire Downs AONB and Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.  Applying the principles promoted by Sir John Lawton in his report Making Space for Nature (2011), it covered landscapes in and adjoining both AONBs, linked by the River Avon corridor (an SAC).  The project aimed to:

  • enable butterflies and other creatures to colonise new areas by creating stepping stones connecting areas of high quality chalk grassland habitat around Salisbury Plain,
  • allow chalk grassland plant and insect species to increase by improving the habitat of areas adjoining existing high quality sites; and
  • involve a large number of volunteers in growing and planting wild flower plugs to improve the habitat quality of species-poor chalk grassland.

From 2012-15 the Project:

  • created, improved or worked on 344ha of chalk grassland;
  • grew over 23,000 wildflower plug plants and planted them on strategically important sites;
  • engaged 28 farmers in landscape-scale conservation work across the North Wessex and West Wiltshire Downs; and
  • delivered many hundreds of hours of volunteer time (650 hours on the WWT Wellbeing Project alone).