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Wiltshire Wildlife Trust has received initial support* from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for their plans to expand their existing Coombe Bissett Nature Reserve, it was announced today.

The Trust hopes to purchase just over 85 acres of land next to their existing nature reserve at Coombe Bissett, just outside Salisbury. Part of the land is currently arable and the project aims to revert this back to chalk downland. Development funding of £35,900 has also been awarded to help Wiltshire Wildlife Trust progress their plans to apply for a full grant of £848,200 in June 2017.

This rare and exciting opportunity will enable the Trust to build on their success in restoring chalk grassland in the south of Wiltshire, providing additional habitat for orchids, as well as blue butterflies and birds such as yellowhammers. The location of the new land means that the Trust will be able to offer greater opportunities for public access and the restored grassland will also give considerably enhanced access to children attending the local primary school.

Dr Gary Mantle, Chief Executive of Wiltshire Wildlife Trust said: “We are thrilled that HLF have decided to support our plans to expand Coombe Bissett Nature Reserve. Opportunities to re-create chalk grassland on this scale for the benefit of wildlife and people do not come round very often and this project would be of great strategic and conservation value.”

The Trust has already raised £164,000 from their members, supporters and the general public towards their £185,000 match-funding target and, now that HLF has decided to support their plans, they hope to reach this total in the next few months.  Donations for the project can be made through the Trust website at

The UK is a stronghold for chalk grassland and Wiltshire contains 40% of the world total. However, over 80% of the UK’s chalk downland has been destroyed over the past 70 years. The proposed new reserve would cover an area of 215 acres, provide ecological connectivity and further protect, maintain and enhance this internationally important habitat.

Nerys Watts, Head of HLF South West, said: “The conservation of our natural heritage, particularly habitats which are at risk, is an incredibly important investment of money raised by National Lottery players. Not only does our wildlife benefit, but people gain better access and a greater appreciation of the natural world and the part it plays in our lives. We’re pleased to support Wiltshire Wildlife Trust’s plans and wish them luck in reaching their fundraising goal.”