We have an exciting and rare opportunity to purchase just over 85 acres of land at Coombe Bissett in South Wiltshire.  The land is next to our existing Coombe Bissett Down nature reserve and has great strategic and conservation value.

We need your help to raise £185,000 to secure the sale.  Thanks to our amazing members and supporters, we are just £5000 short of our target.  Please help us make this final push to our total.

For every £1 you donate – we could receive a further £9

We have submitted a grant application to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to fund a significant part of the £1,000,000 needed to purchase and develop the land at Coombe Bissett.  To qualify for HLF funding we need to raise match-funding from other sources.  Our target is to raise £185,000 from this appeal.   This means for every £1 you can give us today we will be able to unlock a further £9 and receive £10 in total!

In 1995, the Trust purchased the Coombe Bissett Down SSSI together with two arable fields which we have successfully reverted back to chalk downland. The SSSI chalk grassland habitat on the reserve supports important populations of a number of UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species including Burnt Orchids, Yellow hammers and Adonis Blue butterflies.

Coombe Bissett View North © Steve Day

Why should we acquire this extra land?

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. Sadly, many of the species associated with this historic landscape have become rare or endangered. The protection, enhancement and restoration of chalk downland is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority.

The land for sale includes part of a County Wildlife Site and an area of arable land - part of which has already been returned to chalk grassland. This purchase gives us a significant opportunity to build on our success in restoring chalk downland at our existing Coombe Bissett Down nature reserve.

By buying this land we will double the size of the existing nature reserve, reconnect two parts of the Homington and Coombe Bissett Downs SSSI and link the Coombe Bissett Down County Wildlife Site. It will become a strategically important large block of chalk downland. The new reserve will cover an area of 215 acres, provide ecological connectivity and further protect, maintain and enhance this internationally important habitat.

Coombe Bissett SSSI and CWS © WSBRC 18Feb2016

Conservation Grazing Benefits

Our Coombe Bissett Down Reserve is the hub of the Trust’s southern farming operations. The purchase of this land will double the area of grassland available for our cattle and sheep to graze as part of our reserve management. This will give us much greater flexibility in controlling the intensity of grazing, significantly enhancing our ability to maintain the SSSI grassland and County Wildlife Site in a favourable condition.

Coombe Bissett Down Sheep and Lamb ©Barry Craske

Enhanced Public Access and Activities

Its location means that the additional land will give further opportunities for public access, both from the village of Coombe Bissett and from the main road between Salisbury and Blandford Forum. There is a bus stop at the entrance to this new land. A series of circular walks around the site will be connected to the existing access routes on the current nature reserve.

We will be able to offer significant training opportunities and activities, including biological recording of species, and learning opportunities for school children e.g. chalk grassland habitats, species, pollinators etc. The restored grassland will also give considerably enhanced access to children attending the local primary school, which will be within a short walking distance.

Children In Meadow © ToosVanNoordwijk/WWT

Please help us now.

Opportunities to re-create chalk grassland on this scale for the benefits of wildlife and people do not come around very often. The purchase of this land is one such opportunity. We urgently need your help to show funders that we can raise the necessary match-funding required. Ideally we would like to secure the £185,000 to support our grant applications.

Please give as much as you can afford and respond as soon as you can. Anything you can give will help secure the future of this unique Wiltshire landscape as a place for wildlife to thrive and people to enjoy.

Adonis Blue Butterfly © Gary Mantle

Download Appeal Letter here