A £1.5 million grant has been secured by the team at the North Wessex Downs National Landscape Partnership from the Defra’s Species Survival Fund. The grant is for the Partnerships for Nature programme, which will restore and enhance a range of important habitats for a diversity of rare and vulnerable species throughout the protected landscape. Match funding from some of the partners and other sources takes the total value of the project to £1.7 million which involves multiple partners including farmers, private landowners and environmental non-government organisations.

The programme will run until March 2026 and forms a crucial part of our plan for nature recovery in the NL.  You can read more about our priorities and aims for nature recovery and about our Nature Recovery Plan here.

Our Partners

A beautiful healthy chalk stream in the summer sunshine

Action for the River Kennet

Action for the River Kennet (ARK) is the Rivers Trust and the Catchment Partnership coordinator for the River Kennet. ARK will be working in partnership across two sites; they will be working with the Benham Estate to restore chalk stream habitat and with the Sulham Estate to establish a new wetland.  More details below.


Benham Estate

The Estate will be restoring 2.5km of rare chalk stream habitat, wet woodland and wet meadows on the river Kennet SSSI. The capital works – repairing the natural form and function of the river – will include removing barriers to fish passage, restoring spawning habitat for brown trout and reconnecting the river to the flood plain in order to re-wet areas of wet meadow and woodland. This will restore geomorphological conditions enabling macrophyte and invertebrate species to recolonise. The project will enable access opportunities to parts of the Kennet not normally open to the public, hosting training, volunteering and guided walks.

Benham Estate will be working in direct partnership with ARK.

Berkshire Buckinghamshire Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT)

BBOWT will undertake ash works within woodland coppice at Moor Copse SSSI. Ash is causing significant issues in terms of operational management, constraining the ability to carry out standard woodland management activities such as coppicing with self-led volunteers. Dangerous ash will be ‘veteranised’ creating niches & habitats for bats, birds and invertebrates and will enable the volunteering activities to restart, contributing to the sustainable management of the coppice which will benefit woodland species especially birds and butterflies.


Bucklebury Estate

Bucklebury Common is a 350ha Local Wildlife Site with full public access. Previously the common was grazed by cattle belonging to ‘commoners’ exercising their grazing rights.  However, this practice has fallen away and this has resulted in the once-healthy heathland habitat becoming dominated by secondary birch woodland. The reintroduction of grazing will help restore valuable heathland and wood pasture habitats and their associated wildlife. Appropriate management will be undertaken to the heath and veteran trees to ensure longevity. Volunteers will check livestock, undertake tasks/surveys supported and coordinated by a new Ranger post.


Earth Trust

Earth Trust’s Bessie’s Field will become an innovative, regenerative, demonstration of land management best practice, showing how food production can successfully & beneficially integrate with species recovery. Around 50% of the North Wessex Downs NL is arable and this approach could make vast areas wildlife-friendly for farmland birds, insects, amphibians, reptiles and plants. A new Species Recovery & Regenerative Farming Officer, also mentored by the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group Southeast (FWAG SE), will enable much needed skills development across the Project and the NL. There will be substantial opportunities for volunteering and engagement with communities.


Sheepdrove Farm

Sheepdrove is establishing sympathetic management of a nationally-important assemblage of arable plants sites, advised by Plantlife. Sheepdrove is partnering with Plantlife for the siting and creation of uncropped, cultivated field margins for arable plants, increasing their populations over time, and providing summer foraging habitats for farmland birds. New permissive paths will be created adjacent to areas where arable field margins are identified with signage to inform and encourage community engagement, with opportunities for volunteers. Two dew ponds will be restored increasing biodiversity and providing important on-farm freshwater.


Southern Streams Farmer Group & FWAG SE

Together this partnership will work to enhance 20 hectares of grassland to increase chalk grassland habitat. This is a key priority habitat for the North Wessex Downs and will provide connectivity for existing chalk grassland. Plug plants will increase the diversity of grassland and so will support more and a greater range of species including the Duke of Burgundy, chalk blue and marsh fritillary butterflies. Three hectares of scrub removal will also contribute to the improvement of current lowland calcareous grassland habitat. Volunteering and training opportunities will engage local communities.



Sulham Estate

Working with ARK, and match funded by Mend the Gap, the Estate will create a wetland, with tall herb fringing vegetation and species-rich wet grassland in a currently seasonally-flooded area of an arable field.  The field also supports a small population of breeding lapwing. In one area of the field, arable plants of interest have been detected, and this area will be cultivated in a way to encourage them to thrive. This project will link the flood-plain wetland/wet grass habitats of the Pang valley with those of the Thames north of the Great Western Railway and will benefit amphibians, farmland birds and arable plants. ARK and the Estate already work with a number of volunteers and underserved community groups.


Two people are looking with interest at something out of frame. One of the two is a Plantlife team member.


Plantlife will provide specialist botanical advice delivered by one or more of their core team. This advice will be available to partners delivering projects within the overall programme of works and will include specialist botanical knowledge, work scoping and design, and baseline monitoring as appropriate.


The Partnerships for Nature programme, and this project, is funded by the Defra’s Species Survival Fund. The fund was developed by Defra and its Arm’s-Length Bodies. It is being delivered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency.

The Species Survival Fund has seen grants of up to £3 million awarded across England for habitat creation and restoration projects to run over the next two years. The Fund will help halt and reverse the decline in species abundance by preserving vital habitats. The new funding is supporting projects that tackle habitat loss, safeguard our fragile ecosystems, and create and restore nature-rich landscapes full of wildlife-friendly habitats within precious chalk streams, wetlands, heathlands, grasslands and scrublands. The fund will create and improve natural habitats, helping Defra to meet their target to protect 30% of land for nature by 2030 (known as 30by30).
The Species Survival Fund builds upon the success of similar initiatives like the Green Recovery Challenge Fund and will create the foundations for ongoing expansion of habitats to support our wildlife. In 2020 we were successful in our bid for £400K from the Green Recovery Challenge Fund for the Sparkling Streams partnership project which was completed in March 2022.
Our grant is one of 20 in this round of funding.

Image credits: healthy chalk stream and volunteers in river - Action for River Kennet; Bucklebury Common - North Wessex Downs NL; silver washed fritillary - Jim Higham; Bessie's Field - Earth Trust; chalk grassland - FWAG SE; Sulham Estate - Dave Valler; Sheepdrove & Plantlife - Ann Shepley; small tortoiseshell - Pippa Palmer