Putting a Flutter into the Future of Blackdown Hills Butterflies

Somerset Wildlife Trust are delighted to announce that, together with the Blackdown Hills Trust, it has received funding of over £20,000 from Viridor Credits , through the Landfill Communities Fund, to support its work in the Blackdown Hills to reverse the decline of four key butterfly species. The two organisation’s activities, which form part of a larger project effort in the area – the Blackdown Hills Priority Butterflies Project – will, thanks to the new funding, ensure that the very specific habitats the butterflies enjoy for feeding and breeding can be restored and enriched, and then joined up to enable populations to grow and expand through the ability to move more freely between sites. The work has also been given additional financial support from the Blackdown Hills AONB.

Marsh Fritillary. Photo: Amy Lewis
Marsh Fritillary. Photo: Amy Lewis

The habitat preferred by the Marsh Fritillary, Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillary, Brown Hairstreak and Narrow-Bordered Bee Hawk-Moth needs to be carefully managed, as their survival depends on having particular plants and flowers to lay their eggs and to feed. This is why, using the funds awarded, efforts will be focused on protecting and restoring wetland, grassland and open woodland on the Blackdown Hills, which will promote the growth of the plants the butterflies depend on and make the landscape easier for the butterflies to move through.

Somerset Wildlife Trust will be carrying out habitat management at their reserves: Bishopswood Meadows, Jan Hobbs and Yarty Moor. The work will include scrub clearance and coppicing to restore species rich grassland  and will also lay hedges to create a varied hedge structure.

Brown_Hairstreak. Photo: Philip Precey
Brown Hairstreak. Photo: Philip Precey

The Blackdown Hills Trust, which leases over 200 hectares of open land within the Forestry Commission’s Neroche forest estate, is carrying out mulching of old conifer stumps to improve habitats for rare butterflies. This work continues a long-term habitat restoration project begun 10 years ago with the removal of the conifer plantations, and continued ever since through grazing using English Longhorn cattle.

Both Somerset Wildlife Trust and the Blackdown Hills Trust have extensive experience in connecting core patches of habitat together to create a sustainable environment for species. Somerset Wildlife Trust is a member of the partnership that has re-established large blue butterflies in the Polden Hills. Their Green Down Reserve has one of the largest populations of Large Blues in Europe.

Small Pearl Bordered Fritillaries. Photo: Tom Marshall
Small Pearl Bordered Fritillaries. Photo: Tom Marshall

David Leach, Grants and Trust Manager for Somerset Wildlife  Trust comments, “76% of the UK’s butterfly species have declined over the past four decades. We need to carry out urgent work in strongholds like our Blackdown Hills nature reserves to make sure they can play their part in conserving butterfly populations nationally. The grants we’ve received will enable us to lay a considerable foundation upon which we can build over the next few years so we can secure the longer term future for these vulnerable species.”

Gavin Saunders, who coordinates management work for the Blackdown Hills Trust, said “Thanks to support from Viridor Credits we can continue work which relies on long-term commitment from funders, local community groups and national agencies alike.”

Supported by our members, Somerset Wildlife Trust has been protecting vulnerable wildlife and preserving wild places for over 50 years. We manage over 1,700 hectares of nature reserves, provide wildlife-friendly land management advice, campaign and educate to make sure Somerset remains one of the most wildlife-rich places in the UK. Our vision for the county is ‘an environment rich in wildlife for everyone.’ The Trust is one of 47 in the UK – together they make up the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts (RSWT) www.somersetwildlife.org

The Blackdown Hills Trust is a local charity which supports and enables projects to conserve the natural environment of the Blackdown Hills. See www.theblackdownhillstrust.org.uk.