Once a year, usually during early December, the branch organises a work party at Hailey Wood, on the Bathurst Estate to help manage the habitat for the Pearl-bordered Fritillary. Led by Chris Tracey, fourteen people met at the sawmill at 10am on 6th December on a beautiful, crisp, frosty morning with unbroken sunshine and soon we were hard at it,  clearing scrub and unwanted birch saplings to “open up” areas for the fritillary and also the Grizzled Skipper.

It may seem unusual to be sawing down birch trees in order to improve a butterfly habitat but the PBF thrives in woodland clearings where trees have recently been felled, allowing violets, it’s food plant, to thrive. In fact, much of the severe decline of this beautiful butterfly has been due to the cessation of traditional woodland coppicing during the 20th Century as a result of which it is now one of the country’s most threatened species with just the one remaining colony in Gloucestershire, at this site.

From time to time an occasional siting of this fritillary in nearby areas raises hope that it may be re-establishing itself but realistically, without  regular management in suitable woodland it is unlikely to survive for very long and we really owe the butterfly’s continued existence on the Bathurst Estate to the unceasing efforts of Chris Tracey who has, over the years, fostered an excellent relationship with the Estate, thus allowing the branch to keep an eye on this beautiful, but fragile butterfly which, without Chris’s intervention would, I feel sure, be lost forever from Gloucestershire.

Hailey Wood Work Party (2)

A mechanised Path Cutter in operation

Hailey Wood Work Party

A brief rest for the work party

(Photos: Peter Hugo)

Notes on the above photos: The “Path Cutter” proved to be a revelation. This was the first time it had been used here and it was able to clear large areas of quite thick scrub in record time, making our task much easier.

I know it looks as though all we do is sit around but let me assure readers that we really do deserve the rest and the results of our efforts will, I am sure, become evident when the butterflies emerge next spring.

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Written by Peter Hugo