High Brown Fritillary - Iain H Leach

John Mills of The Langaford Farm Trust was today awarded first prize in the competition for the Dartmoor Farmers Fritillary Award, which aims to recognise the efforts of farmers and landowners who have 'gone the extra mile' to restore and improve habitat for the fritillary butterflies on Dartmoor.

Dr Nigel Bourn, Director of Conservation for Butterfly Conservation, presented John with a £200 cash prize, together with a framed Marsh Fritillary print by the renowned wildlife illustrator, Richard Lewington.

Farmers and landowners were invited to enter the work they have carried out as part of the Two Moors Threatened Butterfly Project into a competition for the Dartmoor Farmer's Fritillary Award. Applicants had to demonstrate how they have improved the wildlife value on their land, and created high quality breeding habitat for rare fritillary butterflies.

John Mills has overseen significant management work at the Langaford Farm Trust site near Chagford, liaising with contractors to get fencing in place, scrub control and bracken management carried out, and working with a pony grazier to ensure the butterfly habitat was appropriately grazed. John said 'The improvements we have made to the butterfly habitat at Langaford have been achieved through a determined effort over a long period, with the help of our dedicated estate workers. It is gratifying that this management has also improved the habitat for other wildlife that we have on the farm - and it's nice to be recognised for all our efforts through this award.'

The habitat improvements carried out as part of the Project have had an encouraging impact on the fritillary butterfly populations on Dartmoor over the last couple of years, with numbers of the nationally rare Marsh Fritillary on the increase, and the rapid declines in the High Brown Fritillary halted. Other rare species have also benefitted from this management work, which has ensured that significant tracts of land have not been abandoned and left to scrub over.

Jenny Plackett, Two Moors Project Officer, said "The panel of judges were really impressed by the dedication shown by farmers to conserving butterflies and improving biodiversity on their land, and by the ways in which farmers went above and beyond standard farming practices to improve habitat quality. It's brilliant that all their hard work is being recognised in this award."

Rosemary Coleridge and Hazel Coleridge were selected as runners-up for their management at Shapley Farm, receiving a framed Marsh Fritillary print, whilst four applicants were 'highly commended' on their conservation work: Carl Allerfeldt at Higher Hurston Farm, Sue Hutchings for her work at Yardworthy Farm and pony grazing for Fernworthy Reservoir, South West Lakes Trust for management at Fernworthy Reservoir, and Mick Jones of The National Trust for his management of Pearl-bordered Fritillary habitat at Castle Drogo.

Following the presentations, visits were made to view some of the work carried out through the project, with John Mills leading a walk at Langaford Farm, and Carl Allerfeldt giving a tour of the butterfly areas around his farm, and showing the management he has carried out to improve the quality of breeding habitat.

The competition was run by Butterfly Conservation in partnership with Dartmoor National Park Authority and Natural England, kindly supported by the Dartmoor Sustainable Development Fund.