Mr Crouch and Ms Otway, who recently bought the land, are working closely with the LAS to ensure the land’s future as a ‘Site of Importance for Nature Conservation’. It is now bustling with insects and wildflowers in the summer and will continue to support migrating birds over the winter.
|After: Left to right - Julie Stubbs, New Forest Land Advice Service Manager, Leon Crouch landowner and Mark Larter, from the Land Advice Service in the same field six months later.|
The LAS provides free, independent advice and support to landowners, farmers, commoners, equine owners, graziers and community groups across the New Forest National Park, the Avon Valley and surrounding area. It is funded by the New Forest National Park Authority, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, Natural England and the Verderers.
Julie Stubbs, the New Forest Land Advice Service Manager, said: ‘When Leon approached us for advice about managing the land we knew it would be a great project to get involved in and could really make a difference.
‘This area now has a real wealth of habitats. We have worked closely with Leon who has been keen to help enhance an area close to the coast and the Lymington-Keyhaven Nature Reserve.
‘We developed a special seed mix to create wild flower meadows to help regenerate the land with species such as knapweed, wild carrot, oxeye daisy and field scabious. We have also restored the hedgerows through coppicing and replanting.
Hampshire County Council's Countryside Service Sites Manager for the Lymington-Keyhaven Nature Reserve, Pete Durnell said: ‘This area of land is protected by a national designation and is home to a large and important population of Brent Geese over the winter months.
‘We also know that a range of other overwintering waders and wildfowl such as curlew, lapwing, oystercatchers and redshank visit Keyhaven Nature Reserve close by. Transforming this land will give these birds a much larger area.’
Landowner Leon Crouch said: ‘I have received a great amount of support and advice from the Land Advice Service and Hampshire County Council.
‘It is good to know that these free services are out there. When I purchased this land it was in very bad condition and needed a lot of work. With the Land Advice Service’s help I have been able to achieve a lot in a short space of time. I have had direct access to experts who have been able to guide me through the whole process.
‘The Land Advice Service also put me in touch with Peter Niccolls, a young commoner who will put his Dexter cattle on the site at certain times of the year as part of the wildlife management of the meadows. I’m looking forward to building a relationship with him. Commoning is of vital importance to the New Forest and I’m pleased to be able to help support the next generation coming through.’
Peter Niccolls said: ‘It’s great that Leon is supporting me to continue the tradition of commoning. Having this land to use for grazing will make such a difference.
‘My meat is part of the New Forest Marque which means that it’s from the New Forest. By having access to Leon’s land I am still able to be part of this scheme which promotes local smallholders and is a symbol of the high standards of local produce.’