The Duke of Burgundy butterfly, Hamearis Lucina, is a small butterfly, about 30mm wingspan, with bold orange markings on otherwise brown wing surfaces. It feeds exclusively on Cowslips and Primula. The population, which is centred around this part of England, is small and getting smaller having declined some 58% since 1995. It is now classified as an endangered specie. It is thought that this decline is linked to the decline in coppicing and in other activities which prevent scrub and trees from shading out rough grassland, which is the butterfly’s habitat.
The Cotswold Common & Beechwoods is an NNR and SSSI North of Stroud formed in 1974 by the aggregation of ten individual sites, five of which are now managed by Natural England and five which they manage in conjunction with the Natural Trust. Edge Common is one of those sites, which was re-named Rudge Hill after the amalgamation. The site consists mainly of unimproved Jurassic limestone grassland.
Our task on 13 November was to assist Natural England in their efforts to improve the environment for the Duke of Burgandy butterfly. They have already planted large areas of Primula to provide a food source and arranged for light grazing by cattle through the Autumn only. Our work that day was part of the exercise to reduce the scrub to no more than 20% of the whole area of the site.
We worked under the direction of the Natural England warden and in conjunction with her team of local volunteers. With six of our people and six of theirs we formed a worthwhile task force and achieved a significant amount of clearance, the visible difference by the end of the day was certainly striking. Most of what we removed was prolific Ash with some Hazel and of course large clumps of bramble. We had a fire and so were able to dispose completely of the brash we created.