Spring 2020 conservation update from A Rocha UK’s Partners in Action

27 March 2020
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Category Blog, Conservation, News
27 March 2020, Comments Comments Off on Spring 2020 conservation update from A Rocha UK’s Partners in Action

A Rocha UK’s Partners in Action brings together A Rocha UK’s reserves and independent Christian ‘land managers’ (conference centres, activity centres, communities and Christian-led projects), to work together to manage land for nature. Please see here for a full list of our Partners.

Improving habitats at Hilfield Friary 

Hilfield Friary has joined forces with neighbouring landowners concerned about conservation to form the “High Stoy Conservation Cluster,” together comprising 1000+ acres. Over the last two winters, the group has focused efforts on habitat improvements for the threatened Duke of Burgundy butterfly. The butterfly favours open woodland glades and edges on the slopes of chalk downland, so scrub has been cleared, woodland rides have been cut, woodland edges ‘softened’ and the food plants of cowslip and primrose have been flourishing.

This winter and early spring, the group made a big push in order to expand the habitat right along the down. The hope is that the new areas of suitable habitat will act as a ‘travel corridor,’ which will link two known populations of butterflies and allow them to expand along the full extent of the side of the down. With advice and monitoring assistance from Butterfly Conservation, everyone is looking forward to the summer with eager expectation hoping to see the butterflies outside of their previous known territories!

Duke of Burgundy at Steyning Downland Scheme

At our Steyning Downland Scheme partner there has been ongoing work for encouraging the Duke of Burgundy butterflies for five years.

The Cowslips and Primroses planted at two chalk grassland sites back in 2016 continue to do well. The planting areas are maintained by clearing back scrub, although some scrub is needed to create the ideal conditions for Duke of Burgundy.

One of the long-term benefits of Steyning Downland’s Duke of Burgundy project is that there is now a strong team of trained-up butterfly surveyors, who monitor all the species of butterfly that visit the land, using a standardised method promoted by Butterfly Conservation. So Steyning is building up a very useful picture of how their butterflies are faring.

As of last summer, the Duke had still not been seen on the Steyning Downland Scheme. A couple of years ago Steyning volunteers heard that the nearest colony had ‘jumped’ nearly 3 miles to a new site near Washington village. From there, the new colony needs only to ‘jump’ a further two miles to reach the Steyning Downland, so they’re expecting good news soon!

Mating pair of Duke of Burgundy butterflies, sitting on one of its caterpillar food-plants, Cowslip
(P. veris) (photo: Neil Hulme)

Other conservation updates from our Partners in Action:

– There are ponds and native plants for dragonflies and damselflies at St. Madoc, Brunel Manor, LeaBrook Valley, Barcaple, Steyning Downland. Ashburnham Place, Barcaple, Hilfield Friary and Steyning are also working to make their large ponds and waterways more wildlife friendly.

-All A Rocha UK partners have agreed to work on “Rough edges” projects to promote tall grasses/scrub along verges and lawns in 2020. These projects are already underway at Lee Abbey, Hilfield Friary, Barcaple, Chinnor Churches Go Wild, Scargill House. 

-There are native wildflower meadows at Hilfield Friary, Scargill House, Chinnor Churches Go Wild (these are in churchyards) and at Ashburnham Place.

-To encourage insect populations, Brunel Manor and Hilfield Friary have Bug hotels and keep Honeybees onsite.

In the face of growing environmental decline in the UK A Rocha UK has a vision to dramatically scale up this popular scheme. Over the next two years we are looking to double the size of the PIA network.  We particularly want to support high-potential centres asking to join, and identify and work with a partner in the three regions of the UK where we currently have a gap: the West Midlands, north-west and north-east England. 

Our Autumn 2019 appeal for £60,000 to enable us to take these next steps urgently is still open. Thank you to those who have given financially. You can help us scale up the size and impact of our unique network on our JustGiving page here.

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