The old railway line and chalky banks contain good amounts of flora and fauna especially on the south facing areas where Grizzled Skipper Dingy Skipper and Green Hairstreak are quite common in the spring.
Dean Hill Park
The old ammunition bunkers in the park have good amounts of Cowslips which in turn is the foodplant for the rare Duke of Burgundy butterfly which can be counted in double figures in good years. The butterfly is more prolific on the Wiltshire side of the site.
More than 70 years of military management and the protection of a 12-ft high security fence has helped to create an almost unique habitat at Dean Hill Park. The security fence allowed the 45-acre yew woodland to thrive by keeping out nibbling deer, while years of incessant grass cutting – to prevent fires – and the fact that no fertilizers were used helped to create a herb and wildflower-rich chalk grassland.
The succession of chalk grassland, through juniper scrub in some areas, to yew woodland at Dean Hill Park is the finest example of this habitat in Wiltshire and Hampshire and this part of the site has been designated as an area of Special Scientific Interest. Other areas of the chalk grassland have been designated as county wildlife sites.
The grassland hosts an abundance of chalk-loving plant species including several varieties of wild orchid. It is also home to the nationally scarce Duke of Burgundy fritillary and the nationally declining Chalkhill blue butterfly. Areas of hedgerow and scrub provide ideal habitat for bird species including garden and willow warblers, tree pipits, whitethroats and black caps. Other birds nesting at Dean Hill Park include green woodpeckers, turtle doves, hobby hawks and little owls.
In recent years, conservationists installed badger flaps into the security fence and there are several badger setts on site, along with foxes, which flourish due to an overabundance of rabbits. There is at least one pair of brown hare living in the park.
The SSSI is managed in consultation with English Nature and the owners’ aim is to run the site in participation with a conservation group of volunteers from the local area, which includes botanists, ornithologists and experts on butterflies and insects.
Flora is very abundant in the park especially in and around the ammunition bunkers, where good areas of Orchids, Cowslips and Bluebells can grow.
Sometimes the Pearl-bordered Fritillary has been reported from this site, as the area is very close to Bentley Wood where there is a large colony of this beautiful insect. The woods in and around the park can also support a small colony of this insect as well with with good areas of coppice and amounts of dog-violets.
The railway track has been lifted since the MOD moved off of the site, and it has now become an Industrial park. But left to its own devices the flora and fauna soon moved in and the site has many rare and naturally rare species.
The bunkers once held the UK's Nuclear deterrent, the missiles were loaded here and then transported on railway lines onto the main line, to be transported to where ever they were to be loaded. The Duke of Burgundy was seen by me on the flanks of this bunker in the 1990's.
The bunkers have good amounts of flora which left to its own devices has become very important for many rare species, none more so than the Duke of Burgundy who's caterpillars feed on the leaves. (See the Duke of Burgundy section on the website)
Good areas of natural woodland surrounds the Park and here there is also a nationally rare area of Yew Forest.