Chalk grassland and scrub is found on the disused railway embankment along the eastern end of the valley. The sward is grazed by rabbits and rich in species, of which stemless thistle, spring sedge, eye-bright, horseshoe vetch, quaking grass, twayblade, common spotted orchid, purging flax, common broomrape are among the less common. There is a healthy colony of marbled white butterflies. Scrub species such as dogwood, guelder rose, privet, spindle and purging buckthorn shade taller grassland and herbs, which include field scabious, giant knapweed, parsnip and hardheads.
Road verges and hedges Wide road verges are characteristic of the village and are mostly dominated by false oat grass and cow parsley with small numbers of chicory, field scabious, giant knapweed, meadow cranesbill, common mallow and parsnip. Hedges are mostly hawthorn, with sections of wild privet, hazel, field maple, blackthorn, spindle, wayfaring tree, elder and dogwood.
Harewood Forest is a remnant of ancient forest. Since the mediaeval period it has been managed as coppice with standards; the crown kept the oak standards and allowed locals to use the coppice. By the 14th century Andover was an important centre for the tanning industry which required large quantities of oak bark from Harewood. This would have been a strong local market until the 19th century. In 1884 it was noted that Harewood consisted of one large wood dominated by oak and beech and other coppice wood common to the country. None of the trees were of very great dimension. In the First World War the establishment of the Gunpowder Factory at Harewood resulted in all trees over 6 inches in diameter being felled for the war effort. Current management is directed to converting the stools left back into standards.
The ground flora is rich with wild anemone, bluebell, primrose, wood spurge and Solomons seal. As well as oak standards and hazel coppice, there is some beech, birch, ash and sycamore, and a few areas, less than 15%, of conifer plantation.
Birds The river valley acts as a flight path for many migratory birds, such as redwing and fieldfare, families of tits, siskins, warblers and birds of prey, such as hobby and osprey. Buzzards have become more common recently and up to seven of these have been seen at one time. Swallows, swifts and house martins are a delight sweeping the sky for insects in the summer, and cuckoos are often to be heard.
We enjoy a rich variety of raptors including the ubiquitous kestrel, a healthy population of sparrowhawks, common buzzard, and tawny, little and barn owls. Other notable breeding species include linnet, yellowhammer, skylark, lapwing, woodcock, whitethroat, song thrush and missel thrush, willow tit, coal tit, blue tit, great tit, long-tailed tit, pied wagtail, blackbird and robin. Green and great and lesser spotted woodpeckers, tree creepers, nuthatches and spotted flycatchers are garden visitors.
In 1996 Richard Wills won the Laurent Perrier award for wild game conservation for his project to recreate a habitat for snipe by flooding part of the water meadow, which has not only helped snipe, but also a variety of duck like teal, wigeon, mallard and gadwall. He is hoping to encourage the breeding of more English partridge, having restored the old rubbish tip at Cutty Brow and planted it up with 1.5 miles of mixed hedgerow and various beneficial grasses and crops.
Species recorded breeding in the period 1920-1960, but not now, include Montagus harrier, land rail (corncrake), redbacked shrike, quail and stone curlew.
Mammals The forest has at least one major badger sett complex and is home to herds of fallow deer, and also roe deer and muntjac, who are also commonly present in the marsh and scrub of the river valley. Muntjac were not seen here until 1990, and are a pest as they eat bluebells amongst other things, and breed all the year round.
Deer can be a hazard on the roads, and anyone seeing a wounded deer or a dead one by the side of the road is asked to report it to the Middleton Estate gamekeeper, David Graham, tel. 720256, so that the Estate can either destroy it or clear it away. On average 25 deer are killed by cars each year on the A303, B3400 and the Middleway.
Otters have been reported along the Test. Water voles, once common, have become rare since the recent crash nationally in their population. Wild mink have become a problem, and also reduced the number of coots and moorhens.
There are healthy populations of hedgehogs, moles, field mice, common and pigmy shrews, and short-tailed and bank voles. Pipistrelle and Noctule bats are common.
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