There are wide expanses of chalk grassland to be found at the Country Park. A combination of sheep grazing over several hundred years and a soil deficient in most plant nutrients has allowed the development of the short, springy grassland. This may have up to 45 different species of flowering plants and mosses per square metre, but in order to maintain that rich diversity and prevent more vigorous grasses from dominating the low growing plants, it is necessary to continue grazing.
Chalk grassland is a nationally rare habitat, and supports a fantastic variety of plants and insects. Changes in agricultural economics have led to an increase in the area of arable cropping and improved pasture which, as a result of the application of fertilisers, has become less rich in the number of plant species. The conservation of the remaining unimproved downland pasture is therefore important.
There are a number of typical flora and fauna that are associated with chalk grassland. These include the delicate flowers of milkwort, whose colours range from white through pink to deep blue; the gloriously robust and upright flowers of the round-headed rampion); the wonderfully delicate and heavily scented wild thyme; the explosion of white flowers of dropwort; the rich red and purple flowers of hound’s tongue; the sprawling yellow and red flowers of bird’s foot trefoil (or eggs and bacon, or ladies’ stocking – this plant has over 50 common names throughout the UK!);
And the gentle nodding golden head of the cowslip; the lumbering bloody nosed beetle, which expels a red liquid when threatened; the brilliant cornflower blue of the Adonis blue butterfly; the large orange and black fritillary butterfly, whose vigorous flight enables it to travel along the wind ravaged cliff tops and the peregrine falcon, who hides in the sun waiting to dive down on unwary smaller birds in flight.