WORK has started at Deacon Hill, the area’s new nature reserve near Winchester.

Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust completed its purchase in May and now work has starting improving the habitats at the 10 hectare chalk grassland site.

The trust’s ecology team has begun the baseline surveys needed to determine future work, with the first bird surveys clocking up 21 species, including blackcap, whitethroat, yellowhammer and green woodpecker.

Duke of Burgundy butterfly eggs were found across the site, one of its last strongholds, and lots of adult butterflies have been spotted on the wing.

During their visits, the team also came across flora such as broomrape, common spotted and pyramidal orchids, and many insects including bees, butterflies and common green grasshoppers.

Deacon Hill was secured thanks to gifts in the wills of two local women, Heather Monie and Shirley Bull, and over 1,600 donations from individuals, local companies and organisations, as well as grants from Hampshire County Council, the Calleva Foundation and South Downs National Park Authority.

The reserve perches at the highest point of the chalk scarp to the east of the city, overlooking the Chilcomb Valley.

Over half of the world’s chalk grassland is found in the UK. It is widely regarded as one of the richest habitats in Europe, but it is under threat from damaging farming and invasive scrub.