Project will transform woodlands

Butterfly Conservation today launches a campaign to transform South East England's dark, overgrown woodlands into lighter, sunnier places full of butterflies.

Butterfly Conservation today launches a campaign to transform South East England's dark, overgrown woodlands into lighter, sunnier places full of butterflies.

Despite high levels of development in the South East, woodland still covers 14% of the region. `
Over recent decades much of this woodland has become gloomy and neglected.

Lack of sunlight has killed off plants on which caterpillars feed and on which butterflies rely for nectar. Woodland butterfly numbers have plunged, with species such as the Pearl-bordered Fritillary down by a frightening two-thirds in the past 30 years.

Those attending today's launch of the South East Woodlands Project can expect to see good numbers of this increasingly rare butterfly (weather permitting), demonstrating that good woodland management can reverse declines.

The launch is in the Tytherley Woods on the Hampshire/Wiltshire border. It is one of three wooded landscapes where Butterfly Conservation staff will be showing how to get woods back into a healthy condition.

The others are at Rother Woods near Rye, East Sussex and Denge Woods near Canterbury, Kent. The Forestry Commission are major partners in the project, using their woods to illustrate what can be done, and offering grants to help private woodland owners.

The campaign is Britain's biggest-ever butterfly conservation project. It is being made possible by a £289,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant, £200,000 from the Tubney Charitable Trust and £30,000 from SITA Trust.

Total expenditure from all sources on the three-year scheme will be close to £900,000.
Woodland Project Manager Dr Dan Hoare said: "Butterflies are disappearing fast in the South East, creating large tracts of healthy woodland landscape will let these species thrive.

"We'll show woodland owners what can be achieved and what grants are available. Simple woodland management can make use of this precious resource and let wildlife thrive. Woods needn't be all dark and oppressive. We need light and we need butterflies."

He added: "We are really grateful to Heritage Lottery Fund, the Tubney Charitable Trust and all our other funders for making this possible."
Jonathan Spencer, Senior Ecologist at Forestry Commission England said: "This exciting project is bringing action into the woods where it's most needed to stop biodiversity declines."

Heritage Lottery Fund Regional Manager Sheena Vick said: "Initiatives like this are vital in ensuring future generations enjoy the wildlife that we do today."