Rare species of butterfly and woodland birds are to be given a helping hand with a £62,000 investment in habitat at Sizergh Castle in south Cumbria.
The Forestry Commission is providing the money, as part of a Woodland Improvement Grant, to fund coppicing work on the National Trust estate.
Wildlife organisation Butterfly Conservation are also involved in the project, which will see around 12 hectares of woodland coppiced in the Brigsteer Woods area to improve habitat for very rare species such as High Brown Fritillary butterfly.
The Morecambe Bay area is the last remaining stronghold for High Brown Fritillary butterflies and this conservation work will help create new areas of habitat for them to breed in.
Martin Wain of Butterfly Conservation said: “The High Brown Fritillary has disappeared from almost the whole of the rest of the UK.
“We are opening up new blocks of woodland using traditional coppicing methods to create fantastic conditions for the rare fritillary butterflies to breed. The High Brown lays its eggs on or near to violets growing in open ground in newly cut areas of woodlands and also in some areas of Bracken. The Limestone woodlands around Sizergh are particularly good.
“We expect this coppicing work at Sizergh will create a wonderful network of rides and glades for butterflies to breed in. These will also act as corridors to link up isolated areas of habitat to help butterflies and other wildlife to colonise new areas.
“This work is absolutely vital and is sure to have a very positive effect on the butterflies and also a wide range of other wildlife, including the wildflowers,” he said.
The coppicing work could also give a boost to other butterfly species, such as Pearl-bordered Fritillary and Northern Brown Argus.
Many of our once common woodland birds are also in decline and are becoming very scarce, such as Pied Flycatchers, Spotted Flycatchers, Tree Pipits and Wood Warblers. It is expected that woodland bird species will benefit from the work at Sizergh Castle – which will include putting up nest-boxes to cater for different species.
“The birds will benefit from the open woodland glades as there will be an increase in lots of different insects for them to feed on,” said Mr Wain. “And as the trees grow back they should provide a diversity of habitat for different species of birds to nest and feed among.”
James Bickley, South Cumbria woodland officer for the Forestry Commission, said:
“This is a fantastic project and one which we are more than happy to support at the Forestry Commission. Schemes like this one at Sizergh, which will improve the habitat for rare species of butterflies and birds, are massively important to help give these special animals a fighting chance for survival.
“The Forestry Commission’s Woodland Improvement Grant will fund practical conservation work to help maintain and increase numbers of rare species in the area for future generations to enjoy. In these harsh economic times and in the face of climate change supporting wildlife and local employment through this grant is a real boost.”
Stuart Palmer, of the National Trust, said:
“This grant allows us to consider coppicing Brigsteer Woods again and bringing some of the coppicing that has become neglected back into management.”
Mr Palmer said the National Trust is looking into starting woodland skills courses at Sizergh on the back of the project.
“The grant also gives us some more exciting options to help engage the community in the woodland. We see Sizergh as having potential as a hub for running woodland skills courses.
“The key thing about the Woodland Improvement Grant is that it is a catalyst for something bigger – as well as the conservation element.”
Bryan Fereday, forester ranger for the National Trust at Sizergh, has been working the estate’s woodland for the last 38 years. After seeing the use of traditional coppicing techniques decline over the years Mr Fereday said he was happy that the Forestry Commission’s Woodland Improvement Grant would help see a return to coppicing and an improvement in habitat for wildlife.
“It is nice to see that there is a growing interest in this and people are seeing the value of these woodlands as well as the richness of habitat,”
As well as coppicing and bird boxes, the Forestry Commission’s Woodland Improvement Grant will also be used to put up deer fences, stock fences and for cutting glades.
The High Brown Fritillary, which lays its eggs on violet plants, was once widespread in England and Wales but since the 1950s has undergone a dramatic decline. It is now reduced to around 50 sites.
A major cause of decline is believed to be a reduction in woodland coppicing which opens up new areas of suitable habitat the butterfly can colonise once other sites have become overgrown.
The Forestry Commission recognises that planting and managing woodlands costs money and in response the organisation offers a number of grants with the aim of helping to create and manage woodlands and to sustain and increase the delivery of public benefits.
For information on the types of grant that may be available to create a new woodland or for the stewardship of existing woodlands visit www.forestry.gov.uk/northwestengland-grants
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. An image of a High Brown Fritillary butterfly is attached. A higher resolution version of this image can be obtained by calling 015394-42436.
2. Forestry Commission England is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive, woodlands. For further information visit www.forestry.gov.uk/northwestengland
3. Forestry Commission England runs the English Woodland Grant Scheme (EWGS) to support and promote the national and regional delivery of forestry policy, as set out in the Government's Rural Strategy. EWGS is part of the Defra family of environmental support. Further information about these schemes can be found at http://www.defra.gov.uk/erdp/schemes/es/default.htm. EWGS is a part of the Rural Development Plan for England (RDPE).
4. The Forestry Commission (FC) North West England (NEW) is a regional arm of the Forestry Commission. It supports the delivery of wide-spread public benefits across the region, using woodland management and creation as the basis for change. The FC NWE region has a diverse remit; as a grant giving body to the woodland sector; the region's forestry regulatory body; helping the region to address climate change by developing wood fuel supply; supporting and developing the region's forest and woodland industries; actively promoting and protecting the Northwest's natural heritage (especially ancient trees and woodlands) and enabling communities across the region to live healthier lives. For further information visit www.forestry.gov.uk/northwestengland-grants
5. Woodland cover across the North West England region currently stands at just 6.5 per cent compared with the national average of 8 per cent and a European average of 33 per cent.
James Bickley (Woodland Officer) on 07774 227640; Penny Oliver (Regional Policy Development Officer) on 07786 171654; or Kevin May (Grants, Regulation and Partnership Manager) on 017687 76616 or 07771 813139.
Louise Keeling – firstname.lastname@example.org
Butterfly Conservation, Manor Yard, East Lulworth, Wareham, Dorset BH20 5QP, Tel: 01929 400209
Martin Wain – email@example.com on 01524 33851