The Wood White butterfly is one of the UK’s rarest and most threatened species. In South East England there is just one surviving colony – on the Surrey/Sussex border.
The woodlands, edges and verges between Chiddingfold, Dunsfold and Plaistow form a key area, being home to 20% of the Wood White’s entire UK distribution.
- Increase the distribution and abundance, and robustness of this last remaining Wood White colony in South East England;
- Increase recording and monitoring of Wood White and other butterflies in this landscape;
- Inspire a long-term legacy of habitat creation and enhancement;
- Deliver valuable research on habitat creation and the dispersal and colonisation potential of Wood White.
How we are doing this
The project is creating a total of 3km of new butterfly-friendly wildflower strips across this west Weald landscape. We are targeting woods, edges and fields around and between existing Wood White areas. We are working with the Woodland Trust, National Trust, Forestry England, Sussex Wildlife Trust, private landowners and garden owners to achieve this. Kew and the Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst are helping us by providing advice and training in seed collection and care for project partners and volunteers. We also have a specialist contractor to provide us with a specific mix of crucial plants, harvested from the Weald area. Ground is being prepared by specialist contractors. Volunteers are also heavily involved in delivering practical habitat enhancements and preparing ground for seeding. They can also get involved by collecting and sowing seed, propagating and plug-planting. Then the volunteers can help to monitor the butterfly areas to provide valuable feedback on their success and value.
About the Wood White butterfly
This charismatic little butterfly looks similar to our more common white butterflies but behaves in a quite unique way. It has a light, gentle flight over the tops of grasses whilst it looks for the special foodplants (Vetches) on which it relies. Its courtship ritual is a delicate hypnotic ritual of waved antennae, clapping and even licking – a wonder to watch!
This rapidly declining species used to be found across much of southern England and into eastern Wales but its distribution has declined by more than 65% since the 1970’s.
The project is delivering an inspiring and engaging programme of habitat creation and enhancement that will help many rare and threatened butterflies and moths. Our project will aim to help the following key species...
- Wood White
- Grizzled Skipper
- White Admiral
- Wider countryside butterflies including Small Tortoiseshell and Small Copper
- Anania funebris (White-spotted Sable moth)
- Coleophera wockeella (Betony Case-bearer)
- Drab Looper moth
- Bees and other pollinators
- Grass Snake
- Common Lizard
We are monitoring the butterfly and moth populations as the project progresses, also bees and other wildlife. Bee and Reptile experts are offering training for volunteers. In addition to saving the Wood White in this landscape, the project should enhance our understanding of the Wood White and its dispersal and colonisation ability. This will provide valuable information that can help to save the Wood White across the UK. We also hope the project will inspire much more habitat creation, both locally and further afield.
When is this happening?...
The project began in September 2019 and runs until September 2022.
See the project in action
Watch these three films to see some of the work delivered by the project. Learn how to identify the Wood White, see habitat management for the butterfly in action, and learn how volunteering to help the Wood White is for everyone.
Our project is being delivered in partnership with…
- Kew and the Millennium Seed Bank
- The Forestry England
- The National Trust
- The Woodland Trust
- The Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust
The project is also supported by the Surrey & South West London Branch and the Sussex Branch of Butterfly Conservation, and by private donors.
Where to Visit
To see the Wood White in May and June visit the Forestry Commission Woods via entrances at:
Botany Bay, High Street Green, GU8 4XZ
Tugley Wood, Fisherlane, GU8 4TE
Head towards Grid reference: SU98363390
or head to Butterfly Conservation's reserve Oaken Wood
Project Officer: Paul Cawsey @email
Facebook Group - Wealden Wood Whites