MDNIA Newsletter, Summer 2015

Success of Nature improvement project
recognised with further funding


Marlborough Downs Nature Improvement Area
to be renamed!

The success of our farmer led group the Marlborough Downs Nature Improvement Area (MDNIA) has been recognised by Natural England. Based on the footprint of the MDNIA project developed and directed by Dr Jemma Batten of Black Sheep Countryside Management, Natural England announced they will be offering funding to similar conservation partnerships via the new national Countryside Stewardship Scheme Facilitation Fund. This awards grants to advisers to work with groups of farmers (min 4, min area 2,000 ha) to deliver biodiversity objectives on a landscape scale.

Following a submission by Dr Jemma Batten the renamed group - the Marlborough Downs Nature Enhancement Partnership (MDNEP) has been awarded £24,000 a year across five years to build upon the success of the pilot project, which will be named Space for Nature and will launch in October 2015.

Since it was founded in 2012, the Marlborough Downs group has implemented numerous wildlife and conservation projects across 10,370 hectares of chalk down land on 35 farms between Avebury, Marlborough and Swindon. Outlined objectives of Space for Nature include; development of best practice in management of grassland, woodland and ponds, creation of wildlife corridors, provision of food and safe nesting habitat for farmland birds and other farm wildlife, development of a volunteer scheme delivering practical conservation management.

A series of short films have been created to celebrate and demonstrate the impact of the pilot project on nature, conservation and in the community. The first film can be viewed on our YouTube channel.

Jemma Batten said:
“I’m thrilled that the project I designed back in 2011 for the Marlborough Downs farmers has been judged to be such a success that the Government has decided to roll it out nationally. I can’t wait to get stuck into another five years of making space for nature along with the farmers and local communities on the Marlborough Downs.”

Chris Musgrave, farmer, added:
“What this project has done is bring people together because it’s something we can all believe in. At the end of three years we’ve far exceeded everybody’s expectations and there’s a natural momentum to want to keep it going.”

MDNEP Partners: Marlborough Downs farmers; Black Sheep Countryside Management; Wiltshire Council; Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust

Highlights from 2012-2015 pilot project:
· Over 60 hectares (150 acres) chalk grassland now undergoing restoration
· 8 new wildlife sites
· Over 250 hectares (625 acres) of rough grassland management for owls and raptors
· 16 new or restored ponds
· Increased and more widespread populations of tree sparrows, corn bunting and short-eared owls
· Improved public access on 47 miles of footpaths and bridleways
· Over 4,300 people have attended a range of talks, 25 farm walks, 2 Open Farm Sunday events, 24 volunteer workdays, 13 best practice workshops and 10 celebration events.

Keep an eye on our facebook page for up-to-date information on what's happening, photos, events and lots more!  You don’t need an account to browse the page so just click on this link to find out more. Alternatively, take a look at our website for a more in-depth overview of the project to date.  Watch out for the new website for information on the new Space for Nature project and how you can get involved!
Making Space for bees!
Over the coming months we'll be moving new bee hives onto our farms and plan to create a network all over the Downs.  Honey bees travel about three miles from their hives to forage so we're hoping to locate small colonies (to supplement rather than compete with natural pollinators) on all our farms.  Ideally, we'd like groups of hives (honey bee villages!) every six miles so there's full coverage but no overlap.  Every time we gain a village we'll add a bee to the map so you can see how we're getting on.....
Get involved with our pollinator project!
Would you like to join us?  We’re setting up a one-day workshop for about 16-20 people on the Marlborough Downs as part of a project researching what pollinators and pollination mean to people. 

We want to involve a diverse range of people, aged 16+, including:
• At least 6, but no more than 8 with a particular interest in pollinators – e.g. people 
working on pollinator projects, campaigners and educators, scientists, beekeepers, or volunteer monitors.
• The others should enjoy spending time in pollinator-rich environments such as parks and meadows – even (indeed especially) if they don’t know anything about pollinators!  We’d love to involve members of the local community.

The group will collaborate to co-create a presentation in words, pictures and movement to express their shared understanding of and feelings about pollinators and pollination.

Don’t worry! No particular creative skill or expertise is required, nor is particular knowledge of the subject, just a willingness to share your thoughts and opinions in a relatively playful way.  In fact, we’d really rather you didn’t “revise” the subject before you come along.

The technique we’re using, known as Chormmunity, was developed by Dr Paul Loper as a way to help people to share their experiences and opinions. It has been used by many different types of people around the world to explore issues from self-esteem among women to crosscultural understanding and even mobile phones.

We hope you will really enjoy participating in the session; participants have always given very positive feedback on the experience.  In recognition of the important work you’ll be doing for us, we will also remunerate you for their time (£100 per participant).

If you think you’d like to take part, you can either email us at,
or contact the research team directly by sending your phone number and e-mail address to with the header “one day workshop about pollinators”.

Before you make a firm decision, we will answer any detailed questions you have and explain the practicalities of the research.

A word from the research team:
Simon Christmas Ltd is a small independent research company. We’re full members of the Market Research Society, and bound by their professional code of conduct. You can check us out at
We’re carrying out this research as part of Defra-funded project. We want to understand more about what pollinators and pollination mean to people. You can read more about the project on the Defra website.
Recent events
Although the pilot project (and Defra funding) ended on 31 March we've kept things going with a full programme of events this year:
We had a super evening back in March at Marlborough Golf Club for our annual Spring Celebration.  
This year our speakers were Mark Upton, Marlborough Downs farmer, falconer and artist, and BBC Countryfile's Adam Henson.  Adam also presented the 2015 Wildlife Champion Award to Laura Corbett (East Farm) and Suzie Swanton (North Farm) - well done to both!
April saw us on a Heritage Walk across the Downs with archaeologist Jim Gunter, which was fabulous until the very end when it absolutely poured down and we were all soaked to the skin!
Devil's Den - portal stone for a Neolithic burial mound and, according to legend, guarded by a ghostly dog with fiendish eyes!
May saw the return of the ever-popular Dawn Chorus Walk, led by David White and Robin Nelson, and in June David's brother and sister-in-law John and Rosemary hosted Open Farm Sunday at Overtown.  This year it was bigger and better than ever and a real scorcher!
Our most recent event was our Summer Farm Walk and Garden Party, this year hosted by James Hussey on Weir Farm and Vicki and Jeremy Lowes at Fiddlers Hill, with musical accompaniment by the Wroughton Silver Band and barbecue by Crunch Catering - thanks to all!
All our events are advertised on our facebook page and website so make sure you visit regularly so you don't miss out!
Copyright © 2015 Marlborough Downs Nature Enhancement Partnership, All rights reserved.

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