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The National Trust owns, maintains, preserves and develops many woodland and wetland sites across the UK. Our view being to preserve bio-diversity and habitats to encourage fauna and flora. Our aim here is to inform and educate any one who has even a passing interest in their environment and is curious about what the Trust does within the local community at The Chase. If you would like to get involved with the Trust as a volunteer there are links from this site to the National Trust volunteer forums and National Trust central and local websites, where you can find out more.

Our Contributors:

Heather Fisher: [Community warden]

Hello there! I’m the community warden for the Chase, which basically means I’m a bit of a jack of all trades. My job involves everything from practical management of the habitat, project management, working with volunteers and community groups.

I’ve always loved the great outdoors and have an absolute passion for nature conservation. There is nothing I love more in the world than going home exhausted and muddy knowing that I’ve spent the day doing something I truly believe in.

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Corina Dawson: [Head warden]

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To the east of Woolton Hill village is an nature reserve  known as ‘The Chase’ which is owned and managed by the National Trust. 2010 and 2011 saw the Rejuvenation project at The Chase which aimed to increase biodiversity and improve public access with the view to returning it back into a nature reserve and to remove parts of the woodlands for successful woodland management.

A tributary of the river enborne runs through The Chase and runs through a small lake in the North Eastern end which though enlarged by the sites donator for wildlife interest, historically was used for washing wool in as the grazing sheep were driven down the river to the mill.

The estate was given to the National Trust in 1944 by Sir Kenneth Swan and was dedicated to the memory of Anthony Collett – August 22, 1877 ~ 1929. who was born at Cromhall, Gloucestershire and educated at Bradfield school and Oriel college, Oxford. An author and writer on natural history subjects he was The Times’s nature correspondent during the 1910′s and 1920′s.

A total of just over 58 ha of conifer and broadleaf woodland makes up the Chase. It supports a wide variety of fauna and flora:-

Birds: Kingfishers/Blackcaps/Blue Tits/Great Tits/Warblers/Long-tailed Tits/Coal Tits/Chiff-Chaffs/Tawny Owls/ /Moorhens and Wagtails among others species.

Mammals: Roe Deer/Squirrels/Badger/Bats.

Fish: Lamprey/ Bullhead – Catfish/ Brown Trout

Reptiles: Adder/Grass Snake/common lizard/slow worm

Plants: Heather – Calluna Vulgaris/ Wild Candytuft – Iberis Amara.

The Chase has long been a favourite destination to walk for local village residents because of its rich bio-diversity, shady woodland paths and water course.

Woodland management in progress to restore the Alder-Carr habitat

Anthony Collett - Sign

The sign dedicating The Chase to the memory of Anthony Collett

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Jane Hutchinson permalink
    January 18, 2012 10:09 pm

    Last week I visited The Chase for the first time since the works have been carried out. I was very surprised at the lack of notices at the entrances informing visitors of what work had been carried out, considering The Chase had been closed for so long. People are interested in these things and have a right to know.

    There is also a big change in the way it is being managed in that cattle have been introduced, but there is no explanation from the Trust as to why. There is only a leaflet warning of the dangers of cattle and asking that dogs be kept on leads.

    My experience of The Chase is that it is mostly used by people walking their dogs, especially during the week, so I’m surprised that the Trust has deemed it necessary to place cattle there. I just hope that dog walkers are not put off, because they do add to the security of the place.

    I did note that there are three public meetings being held about the works in The Chase, and I hope to attend one, but I noticed that only one is being held in Woolton Hill. The other two are being held in Burghclere which is not exactly local. I do wonder why an issue regarding Highclere and Woolton Hill is being discussed in Burghclere?

    This must seem like a litany of complaints but I was upset by what seemed a rather arrogant way of dealing with local people at the time the environmental works were going on ie lack of information about what was being done in The Chase, no access to any of it for a long period and the rather officious ‘Keep Out’ notices at the various entrances.

    I will be very interested to learn about the environmental work at the public meeting.

    Best wishes,

    Jane Hutchinson
    NT member

    • Heather Fisher permalink*
      January 19, 2012 2:56 pm

      Hello there,

      Thankyou for taking the time to write. I appreciate there are a lack of notices at the moment, we do intend to put interpretation panels at eash entrance point though we are waiting for artwork to be produced by our project partner. We did make a big effort at the beggining of the project to describe what we were going to do and why though realise that there will of course be people whom we did not have the opportunity to talk to, I look forward to seeing you at the public meeting and will be more than happy to talk to you about our management at that point.

      We have introduced the cattle for conservation grazing. The way that they eat the grass creates a tufted sward, an uneven structure which is good for invertebrates. The dunging also benefits invertebrates as well as fungi and ground nesting birds. In addition to this, they will graze the trees producing standing dead wood and naturally thinning the future canopy allowing an understorey to develop and aid in the germination of seeds with their small hooves and so improving the ground flora. All around, they produce a much improved woodland structure on a piece of land that would traditionally have been grazed with commoning animals.

      The reason for the public meetings being held in burghclere is that we have been working with the Clere school for the last eighteen months to involve the students with the project and educate them in environmental conservation and the school have been kind enough to allow us to use the hall free of charge for these meetings. As a charity with a current spend freeze, unfortunately we could not afford to hold all of the meetings in the church hall as we have done previously. I hope this answers your concerns.

      Best Wishes
      Heather Fisher

  2. Adrian Compton-Walker permalink
    January 28, 2012 9:49 pm

    Could you please tell me where and when the meetings are to be held

    • Heather Fisher permalink*
      January 30, 2012 1:08 pm

      Hello there,

      We held the first public meeting last thursday at the Clere School with disappointing turnout. There are two further meetings currently scheduled, the first being the 12th Feb at Woolton Hill Church Hall starting at 1pm/ There will be a short presentation followed by an open forum for questions and answers. The next meeting will follow the same format and is currently booked on the 20th Feb at 7pm at the Clere School community room though this may be moved to the church hall subject to funding. I hope this answers your question.

  3. Piers Fenwick permalink
    February 6, 2012 11:48 am

    As a local National Trust member I am dismayed by the response of people I meet in the Chase allowing their dogs to roam off leads ignoring the polite notices.
    Sadly many do not understand the nuisance they create and claim that Sir Kenneth Swan left the property in Trust for dog walkers and locals to use without restrictions.
    I think it would be useful to clarify that it is a Nature Reserve that allows careful access not a public park.
    Another aspect that people do not understand is how a wildlife habitat has to be managed and cattle grazing is an important part of the process.
    I know the National Trust is often criticised by “The Public” but without their specialist expertise our Countryside and Heritage would be lost to people wanting to satisfy their short term desires. Conservation needs careful thought hard work and patience.

  4. Mike Davis permalink
    February 17, 2012 12:15 pm

    I use the Chase on a regular basis, and I have yet to see any evidence of the mis-use of the Chase by Dog owners.

    Children should also be encouraged to explore the Flora and Fauna of this beatifull area, and if they have a pet should be encouraged to enjoy the experience together which will encourage and enable them to appreciate these spaces in the future.

    Some zealots berate Dog owners (and children playing)on the basis that they destroy Ground Nesting Birds in January?? -This has happened -and needs to be addressed if the ideals of the NT for all can be achieved.

    There must be a sensible solution,so that ALL users of the “Chase” can once again enjoy the benefits of this Woodland without incurring the wrath of Non-Dog owners who seem to want to create their own special place to the detriment of others.

    For the Record I have been using the `Chase` for over 50 years, and will continue to do so with a Dog and enjoy the area that Sir Kenneth Swan donated to the NT in 1944.

    • Heather Fisher permalink*
      February 20, 2012 10:11 am

      Hello there,

      How nice it is to hear from someone that must have held one of the village tickets to use the chase during Sir Kenneth Swan’s ownership. I agree entirely, Children should be encouraged to enjoy the site with their family – including dog, though I will add that this is also an opportunity to teach them about responsible dog ownership as well as countryside use. We ask for dogs to be kept on a lead not simply to protect ground nesting birds but to protect all wildlife from disturbance including reptiles, and mammals as well as protecting ground flora and our grazing shetland cattle. The sensible solution is the one which we ask – that dogs are kept on leads when visiting the site to protect the wildlife and open the site up for all groups of users. I look forward to seeing you around the site.

    • Eleanor de Souza permalink
      May 17, 2012 1:24 pm

      I am flabbergasted by Mike Davis’s assertion that he has “yet to see any evidence of the mis-use of the Chase by Dog owners” especially considering that the site is covered in dog s***. Every time I go for a walk in the Chase I step in excrement. I am sure that most dog walkers are responsible and pick up after their dog but there are always a few who don’t and this ruins the nature reserve for anyone else to enjoy. Also dogs that are let off the leash run around destroying wildlife, small mammals, reptiles and birds. It is too small a site to withstand such treatment.

      Also I agree with Piers Fenwick who points out that the Chase is first and foremost a NATURE RESERVE, it is not a dog sewer.

  5. Piers Fenwick permalink
    February 20, 2012 12:20 pm

    In response I am a responsible dog owner who keeps his dog on a lead and finds problems with sadly many dog owners that don’t bother. It is bad manners to ignore the rules of your host the National Trust when they politely ask you to observe their house rules to preserve the Natural environment of The Chase.
    People ignoring the signs and the requests of other users obviously don’t feel obliged as they would visiting other National Trust properties it’s obviously not enforced by anyone so is open to abuse.
    It’s not a big deal to keep dogs on leads or exercise them off leads elsewhere. It is more Child friendly to keep dogs on leads especially for infants in prams or toddlers as I have seen many concerned parents where several dogs have been loose.
    Wildlife conservation knowledge has not been communicated properly to the general public it is unfortunately still only appealing to the converted.
    This site had not been properly funded in the past but now has the potential to put Wildlife Conservation on our doorstep as Sir Kenneth Swann intended (although he would have restricted access as he did 50 years ago).

  6. March 22, 2012 11:13 pm

    is it possible to get a day ticket to fish in the chase. . .i would really like to know as im only in this area for a short period of time and i already have my rod licence. . i would be very greatful if you could get back to me on this subject via email asap thanks

    • Heather Fisher permalink*
      March 28, 2012 8:02 am

      Hello there,

      I’m afraid there is no fishing allowed at the Chase so we do not supply day tickets. I believe the nearest coarse fishing is at bishop green caravan park, perhaps you could enquire there?

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