CONSERVATION

The Estate is bounded to the North by the large Waterside villages of Fawley and Blackfield, the East by the Southampton Water, the South by the Solent and the West by the Exbury Estate and the New Forest. There are three miles of beaches, mud flats, fresh and salt water marshes, heather heath and ancient woodland interspersed with farmland. It is a varied patchwork of different habitats.

There is considerable human pressure with the beach at Lepe receiving 500,000 visitors per year and the heathlands on the North of the Estate heavily used by walkers and their dogs. This human pressure has to co-exist with highly important National Nature reserves within the Estate as well as commercial farming and forestry operations.

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Therefore a delicate balance must be struck between these differing pressures, the need to protect vital wildlife areas and maintain a commercial and profitable business. The Nature Reserves are of particular importance as encompass one of the few non accessible beaches on the South Coast which as a consequence of this protection is a refuge for flora and fauna that has been dispersed by human pressure from most of its former habitats. 

The Estate has a entered into various management and maintenance agreements with Natural England and here too a balance must be struck between practical management, resources and the intended improvements for wildlife. The shoot is an important part of this balance, particularly along the urban edges controlling ever more numerous predators.

The Estates beaches, heathland, reedbeds and permanent wet grasslands are of high floristic and fauna interest. Of particular note are Short Eared Owls, Redshank, Avocets, Lapwing, Shell Duck, Dartford, Reed, and Cetti's Warblers, Ringed Plover, Nightjars, Nightingale, full range of reptiles. Southern Marsh Orchids, Little Robin, Vipers Bugloss and special moss and lichen communities. 

The undisturbed shingle beaches provide nesting habitat for ringed plovers – one of the last places for this species to nest in the Solent.  The shingle shore supports a range of shingle plants that are specifically adapted to this naturally harsh environment.  This includes probably the largest population in the country of the rare Little Robin Geranium purpureum ssp forsteri.  This diminutive plant grows on undisturbed coastal shingle and survives in only a handful of locations on the Hampshire coast from Hurst Castle to Hayling Island.

At the southern end of the main beach there are patches of more closed vegetation, representing an unusual and possibly unique type of maritime grassland with much sea campion Silene uniflora and golden rod Solidago virgaurea.  This grassland has an abundance of lichens; some forming a crust to the flint stones and others such as Cladonia species that form little bushy growths. The Nationally Scarce Catillaria atomarioides and the Nationally rare Lecanora salina have been recorded on the Cadland shore.

 These and more can be watched across the marsh from a recently built bird watch tower at Lepe Beach.