The Last of the Junipers

On Cambridgeshire's Fleam Dyke protection of the region's only surviving wild juniper bushes has been helped by a grant which has funded restoration of the area

The Fleam Dyke supports some of the last remnants of ancient species-rich chalk grassland in Cambridgeshire - and the only colony of native juniper, Juniperus communis, in East Anglia. A grant of £3,500 from the Wadlow Wind Farm Community Fund, administered by Cambridgeshire Community Foundation, has helped protect these bushes, by allowing restoration through vegetation clearance and germination.

Juniper populations across the UK are shrinking and the species is a priority for conservation. Common juniper has separate male and female plants: the “berries”, used to flavour gin, are actually fused cones.

The area was in need of restoration: existing fencing has been replaced and encroaching vegetation has been carefully cleared around the mature bushes by hand to reveal more juniper seedlings, these have then been protected with individual wire cages - the increase in bare ground has provided more space for further juniper seeds to germinate. Trust staff worked with volunteers to undertake this delicate labour-intensive task.

Two gates have also been installed to facilitate reestablishing safe sheep grazing, while maintaining access for the public - grazing will prevent the the area being over run by scrub and allow the juniper to thrive in a species rich habitat.