March has seen the finale of the All the Moor Butterflies project which, for the last three years, has promoted butterfly conservation on Exmoor, Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor. It is sad that it should come to an end when we are all in lockdown, but it has achieved great things and deserves to be celebrated.
I first started working for butterflies on my land at Common Wood on western Dartmoor in November 2012. Jenny Plackett from Butterfly Conservation visited in May 2012 and was excited by the potential for butterfly breeding here. As a result, the doughty Dartmoor Preservation Association Conservation Volunteers have come biannually to bash the gorse and hawthorn and make suitable habitats for Pearl-Bordered and Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillaries on the slope above the leat. They have also cleared the willow carr for Marsh Fritillaries on the Rhôs pasture near the river Tavy.
In 2017 Butterfly Conservation won funding from the National Lottery for the All the Moors Butterfly project. This meant that Simon Phelps, conservation officer, and Megan Lowe, community engagement officer, joined our work parties and gave us their expertise and shared our enthusiasm.
When we downed tools for our coffee and lunch breaks they told us how the project was unfolding across the three moors. I was pleased that my small piece of land was part of the effort to make a better world for butterflies on western Dartmoor.
The project as a whole has been a tremendous success. It focused on six species, the three mentioned above, and Heath Fritillary, High Brown Fritillary and the Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk Moth.
There are four demonstration sites (Castle Drogo on Dartmoor; the Heddon Valley and Holnicote Estate on Exmoor, and De Lank quarry and South Penquite Farm on Bodmin) where 117 hectares of habitat have been improved. Volunteers also worked on a further 165 hectares of priority habitat (including part of Common Wood). The impressive facts and figures are on Butterfly Conservation’s website. In particular, the project reached new audiences and opened people’s eyes to the beauty and the importance of butterflies and moths. Farmers and landowners have been encouraged to manage their land for butterflies.
Although the project has ended, it is important that the work carries on and that all who have been inspired by their involvement will champion the cause. I shall continue to encourage butterflies to breed on Common Wood, with the invaluable help of the DPA volunteers. I hope that we shall succeed in creating a butterfly corridor in the Tavy valley.
We owe a big thank you to Jenny, Simon and Megan for their hard work in establishing, managing and running this excellent project.
Butterfly Conservation is one of countless charities which will suffer as a result of the coronavirus; please support its great work to ensure that our butterflies and moths can flourish.