Banstead Commons and Banstead Commons Conservators
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Park Downs
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Where is Park Downs and how to get there
Park Downs is 1 km south east of Banstead and can be accessed from there using either Park Road or Holly Lane.  Parking is available at the Banstead Woods car park at the junction of Holly Lane and Park Road.
OS Landranger, Sheet 187, Landranger 146.  Grid ref.:
BCC map.
General Description
At 30 hectares (74 acres) Park Downs is the smallest of the areas we manage, it lies on a steep south-facing slope opposite Banstead Woods and is split diagonally by Park Road. 
There are a number of ancient chalk pits on and close to the top of Park Downs.  The whole site was ploughed in WWII for farming and subsequently left to become overgrown and almost impenetrable.  This resulted in the disppearance of many characteristic plant species.  Clearance work and grazing means the Downs have reacquired the mixed habitats so important for wildlife.
Natural History of Park Downs
Fauna of Park Downs
Most of the larger animal species seen on the Downs move between there and the much larger area of open space Banstead Woods, on the opposite of Holly Lane. These include foxes, deer and badgers, the rabbit population fluctuates, rising until  myxomatosis or more recently haemorrhagic fever start to reduce numbers.

The birdlife on Park Downs is dominated by various summer-visiting warblers including whitethroats and blackcaps although the numbers are nowhere near as high as on nearby Banstead Downs.  Of raptor species, Kestrels breed on the Downs, Buzzards are now present throughout the year and in the summer Hobbies are regularly visitors.

Because of the south-facing slope, Park Downs is an important habitat for invertebrate species, the most obvious which are the butterflies.  Analysis of butterfly transect data suggests that Park Downs is one of the best sites in Surrey with 34 species recorded with Marbled White and gatekeeprs in especially large numbers.  Although not so numerous in terms of species are nevertheless well represented with both Common and Chalkhill Blues present,  The past five years have seen increasing numbers of Silver-Spotted Skipper on the Downs and it now appears to have established a permanent colony.

Flora of Park Downs
Hard work over many years has resulted in the reappearance of typical chalk plant species including several species of orchid including Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera) Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii ), Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis), Man Orchid (Aceras anthropophorum) and Common Twayblade (Neottia ovata) all have been recorded previously, in 2004 Greater Butterfly Orchid (Platanthera chlorantha) appeared, as far as we know, not previously seen on this site however it was heavily predated by both rabbits and snails and slugs, and the small xcolony disappeared about 8 years later.

As a result of the scrub clearance the rabbit population has increased and provide natural grazing. This means that large areas of chalk turf have been established with an accompanying increase in the wild flower population. In the spring, Violets including Hairy, Dog and Sweet Violets (Viola hirta) and cowslips (Primula veris) provide a spectacular display, later in the summer there has been an increase in Felwort (Gentianella amarella) a plant apparently unpalatable to rabbits.  In early spring the edges of scrub are in some places brightened by the presence of Stinking Hellebore (Helleborus foetidus).
The Overall objective is to manage Park Downs predominatly as grassland with scrub interspersed.  On the northern edge there are areas of semi-mature woodlands part of which are being coppiced.
At the start of this century the grassland areas were grazed in the winter on an annual basis.  Unfiortunately a serious dog attcak caused this to cease until 2015 when we started to graze the area for the first time in seven years.

One of the grazing paddocks on Park Downs taken shortly after the area was forage-harvested. In the foreground is an area made bare by rabbit activity.  The woodland in the background is Banstead Woods .