The Marlborough Downs Nature Enhancement Partnership
Farmers and friends working together on a landscape scale
While most of us have long been involved in individual environmental schemes, we believe that our collaborative farmer-led, bottom up approach will lead to far greater and more wide-reaching benefits as a result of our ownership of the project, its targets and its achievements. We are also confident that the potential for the longer term legacy of our work is far higher than for that which relies upon financial incentives rather than personal commitment. Our project supports and supplements existing effort by delivering more, on a bigger scale with better management of more joined up habitat.
And it isn't just about farmers - this is a partnership that also includes Black Sheep Countryside Management, who designed and manage the project, as well as the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, and Wiltshire Council. On a broader scale, we work with a host of other groups like the Wiltshire Ornithological Society, Butterfly Conservation, Wiltshire Botanical Society, the Wildlife Sites Project and many others to ensure that what we do is good conservation that helps to achieve common goals on a local, regional and national level.
By working together at a landscape scale, we want to improve the condition and connectivity of the ecological network of the Marlborough Downs and to connect people to the downland landscape.
When we first got together back in 2011, members were asked what they hoped to achieve by 2020 and one of them wrote this:
"It is 2020 and the wide open chalk downland to the north of Marlborough in Wiltshire is one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. To be up on the downs in all weathers is to feel part of history. Imagine the stone cutters stoking the fires in the pits under the sarsen stones which would then split into a size they could load onto the carts and take away to build the local houses and churches. Watch the rooks streaking across a red late afternoon sky in winter as they head back to the woods to roost. Climb up and down the ridges which made the medieval field system. Feel the frog stone left at the bottom of the hill because it was too big to be rolled to Avebury. Listen to the sheep calling their lambs and imagine sleeping in your shepherd's hut. Look out for the short eared owls hunting for their supper as dusk falls. Discover the dew ponds and see if you can find the remains of the drovers' cottage in the woods. Stand on top of Barbury Castle and let the children compare the old settlement with the new town of Swindon. You are now seeing the difference between chalk and cheese, the low farmland beneath you with the dairy farms producing the food which the railways took to the city.
With help we can continue to recreate more of the old dew ponds; we can provide more food for the birds; and we can share it with everyone."
- Jilly Carter, Maisey Farm