Volunteers have given Forest of Dean wildlife a boost by improving an important butterfly breeding site.
The Heritage Lottery Funded Foresters’ Forest partnership and the Forestry Commission’s volunteer group, the Dean Green Team, have planted over 3,000 plants on newly created ‘butterfly banks’ alongside Ruspidge Halt (Linear Park) on the edge of Cinderford.
Ruspidge Halt is one of just two breeding sites left for the Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillary butterfly in the Forest of Dean, a number that has fallen from 40 sites since the 1980s. The Forest of Dean is the last remaining foothold in Gloucestershire for the species, which has undergone large national declines.
The new plants will provide nectar for butterflies and food for caterpillars, whilst the banks offer sunny, warm feeding and breeding areas for many species including the rare Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillary and Grizzled and Dingy Skipper butterflies.
A group of Dean Green Team volunteers worked the equivalent of around 40 long days during September and October to get thousands of new plants in the ground. Before planting could start the area was cleared of pine trees and soil was landscaped into banks with a digger. An area beside Cinderford brook has also been fenced as part of a longer term aim to introduce grazing which will improve the butterfly habitat.
Butterflies project leader Kate Wollen said: “Ruspidge Halt is home to the rarer butterflies in the Forest of Dean, so we hope that over time the new plants and banks will help them to recover and thrive. We want to continue to see these butterflies for generations to come, which is why we are restoring or creating habitat across the Forest. Thank you to our partners and all our brilliant volunteers who have helped us with the project so far.”
Species planted at the Ruspidge Halt site includes common and greater birds-foot trefoil, bugle, meadow vetchling, betony, wild strawberry and common dog violet, the foodplant for the Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillary butterfly.
The planting is part of the Foresters’ Forest Butterflies project with UK charity Butterfly Conservation, which aims to create or restore a network of open spaces throughout the Forest for butterflies to flourish.
The Butterflies project is one of 38 Heritage Lottery Funded projects in the Foresters’ Forest Partnership Programme.