Treloar Meadows, part of the former Treloar hospital site, consist of 22 hectares of rare chalk downland.
Because they have been left untouched for well over a decade and only mown once a year, Treloar Meadows have become a rich haven for native orchids, butterflies, moths and bees … as well as rare invertebrates. These meadows form a valuable wildlife corridor for Roe Deer, Badgers, Dormice, Barn Owls and bats, as well as several high-priority bird species such as Marsh Tits & Spotted Flycatcher.
The site consists of botanically-rich wildflower meadows and also two sites that have been designated for their nature conservation value at county level as SINC’s (Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation).
Within the meadows are the remains of two iconic Victorian water towers, a lasting legacy and largely all that remains of the former world-renowned orthopedic hospital created by Sir William Purdie Treloar. Bequeathed to the nation on the advent of the NHS, the hospital became a centre of excellence. Unfortunately, due to NHS cutbacks in the 1990’s, the hospital was deemed too outmoded and expensive to maintain and it was decided to close it – much to the anger of local people!
Sold-off for housing, the hospital was demolished and housing, now known as Treloar Heights, built. A second phase was planned, but delays meant the meadows surrounding the houses flourished and hence have become the amazing haven to wildlife, flora and fauna that are so beloved by local people today.
Having discovered the wonderful ecology of these meadows, a campaign was launched in 2014 to try to save them from this phase-2 housing. The Save Altons Butterfly Meadows campaign, headed up by local photographer and campaigner Ginny Boxall, attracted over 1,000 signatures asking EHDC to refuse permission for 280 houses in these meadows. Despite the petition, with backing from many prominent wildlife organisations and well known individuals, Outline Planning was granted at a very heated and public hearing in Alton college. Locals were dismayed.
The fight hasn’t gone away, but with outline planning now granted the emphasis has shifted to preserving what we can of the fabulous site. Support is gathering to ensure that what remains should be of ecological value, be a lasting and fitting legacy to Sir William Treloar, and a place for quiet, peaceful contemplation that locals can enjoy for years to come.