Rare wildlife has a better chance to thrive thanks to a scrub clearance at the National Trust’s Box Hill in Surrey.
The work also allows many more cycling fans to watch the Olympic Road Races in July, combining a sustainable Games with excellent sporting facilities.
The hill is home to many endangered species that only live on chalk grassland such as small blue butterflies and man orchids. These species are protected nationally and internationally which is why Box Hill is a Special Area of Conservation and a Site of Special Scientific Interest,
A detailed wildlife survey funded by The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) proved the Trust could safely remove some areas of scrub, creating more grassland where these species can flourish.
The National Trust, LOCOG and the government’s wildlife and landscape advisers, Natural England, have worked together to create a balance between protecting wildlife and promoting enjoyment of top level international sport.
It is hoped the work will make room for up to 15,000 spectators to watch the world’s best cyclists tackle one of the most exciting sections of the Olympic race route – Box Hill’s Zig-Zag road – on July 28 and 29.
Andy Wright, the National Trust Countryside Manager for Box Hill said: “It’s great news that so many people will be able to enjoy the races in this wonderful natural setting.
“Since traditional farming ceased in the 1930s, woodland has been encroaching onto the grassland at Box Hill and we’ve been battling to keep it back.
“The surveys conducted by LOCOG are the most thorough ever carried out on this site and they have really helped us understand the best way to manage the habitat for the long term.
“The scrub alongside the road has very few species living in it so after we removed it, it didn’t matter if people walked in those areas.
“Gradually, over the years that land will turn back into chalk grassland which is a much richer habitat – supporting around 60 to 100 species of plants, animals and insects per square metre.”
As well as being a valuable area for wildlife, the steep and winding Box Hill loop is considered to be one of the most challenging stages of the Olympic Cycling Road Race.
Jim Smyllie, Natural England’s Executive Director for Delivery, said: “The cycling road races will be world class events in world class scenery and the restoration work at Box Hill will help ensure they leave a living legacy.”
The scrub clearance work began on January 30th and the Zig-Zag road was closed for a week to allow trees to be felled. Strips of land on both sides of the road were trimmed but occasional bridges of overhanging trees were left to allow dormice and other woodland creatures to cross.