Den building to help butterflies

School children in Lancashire have been enjoying den-building lessons, using materials from woodland managed to help butterflies.

Rare butterflies, such as the High Brown Fritillary, rely on the plants that grow in sunny rides, glades and coppiced areas in woodlands. Butterfly Conservation and Piccadilly Gardens, a local social enterprise, have been clearing areas of woodland in North Lancashire to create good butterfly habitat.

The wood is cut up for firewood and the remaining twiggy material is usually burnt on conservation bonfires, but the team have come up with a better idea.

Martin Wain, Conservation Officer on the Morecambe Bay Project, said: "I used to make dens with my children at home, out of bed sheets and the clothes horse. All these small twiggy branches are ideal to use. I had heard of schools having Forest School lessons outside, so we decided we could take the forests to the children, and deliver a load of brash and poles to make dens. I asked a few local primary schools and they were all very interested."

The dens have been a hit with the children at Quernmore Primary School, where they pride themselves on using and developing outdoor areas as part of the curriculum (a recent OFSTED report said this was outstanding).

Mrs Stevenson, class 3 teacher, said: "This is wonderful material for the children to use, being outside and problem solving while having fun is a great combination for a lesson

William from class 3 said: "Making dens is awesome, we have hot chocolate and build a fire and get to cook marsh mallows later."

Ben from Piccadilly Gardens had been practising building prototype dens, "It's been a fantastic experiment, playing around with this has brought out the big kid in me. It is really important for us, particularly now, to develop new money raising ideas, and it is lovely to think that we are helping butterflies and giving children enjoyment at the same time."

Starting this spring Piccadilly Gardens, who support people with learning disabilities, will be delivering den-making material to schools for a small cost and they will also be selling bundles of real Pea Sticks and Bean Poles from their Plant Centre in Scotforth.