Young Street Conservation Verge

Over the last few years, the Lower Mole Partnership (LMP) has been working to restore an area of chalk grassland known as Young Street Conservation Verge. Supported by Mole Valley DC initially and especially the Lower Mole Countryside Trust (LMCT), which has awarded several important grants to allow the work to continue, the site has been transformed into a high quality chalk grassland with great numbers of plants and particularly butterflies.

In the early 2000s, LMP volunteers had cleared the scrub along Young Street conservation verge and installed a new tractor access so the area could be maintained by SCC Countryside Estate. However, the maintenance stopped soon after and the scrub returned. Following conversations with Mole Valley DC in 2017 about managing good quality verges, LMP resolved to tackle this area again.

Volunteers hard at work 2018

In February 2017 LMP returned to Young Street Conservation Verge. Since then LMP has had several volunteer tasks aimed at clearing the scrub and mowing the resultant grass sward every autumn to restore the chalk downland. This has involved cutting back established scrub and small trees including birch, buckthorn and hawthorn, to open up the surviving grass sward below. Volunteers used bowsaws, loppers, and brushcutters to clear the scrub, with the stumps being removed by chainsaw, while all the brash was fed into a chipper to dispose of it. Pesticide was the applied to the stumps to reduce the regrowth the following year and the large meadow mower has been used to take a late season cut of the sward each autumn. Since 2017, Volunteers have given 641 volunteer hours to help clear 1ha of scrub and mow and rake the same area each autumn. Each year the open grassland sward and the biodiversity has increased.

The downland mown and raked late summer 2018

The result has been staggering with many chalk downland butterflies and wildflowers responding to the new regime. This included in 2018, over 200 spikes of pyramidal orchid! Other plants include Field scabious, St johns Wort, Agrimony, Creeping cinquefoil, Wild strawberry, Bladder campion, Ox-eye daisy, and Wild marjoram.  Butterfly species recorded here include common blue, brown argus, small copper, brimstone, small heath, dingy skipper and grizzled skipper, while banded demoiselles have also been recorded.

The verge in full flower summer 2019

SCC Ecologist, John Edwards, recently described the site as “fantastic”. He said “Looking at the verge, I have no doubt it would meet the favourable status we used for monitoring, it has a really good range of species. I was really not expecting that it would look so good so do pass the message on to the team”.
The work would not have been possible without the support of MVDC and LMCT who have funded the works. The LMCT has provided grants of £1700 over the last five years. The Lower Mole Partnership would like to thank the Lower Mole Countryside Trust for their support in carrying out this restoration, which has allowed this wonderful project to succeed.

Common Blue butterfly(Helen Middlemas)

(Many thanks to Helen Middlemas who has regularly visited the site to photograph and record the plants and butterflies)

Conor Morrow,
Lower Mole Partnership,
June 2021