One of the many issues in managing Prees Heath is trying to control the spread of ragwort. The plant is beneficial to a range of insects but is also toxic to animals, and horses are especially vulnerable, so, although we have no livestock on the reserve, we are obliged to follow guidelines set out by Defra and Natural England to control its spread. We do this by keeping it back from the A41 and keeping as much as possible off the areas being restored to heathland/acid grassland. One of the best ways to control ragwort is to spot spray the rosettes with herbicide before a flowering stem emerges, and we do a great deal of this on selected areas. This year there was a large amount of ragwort flowering on the reserve, and we had to arrange for additional person power to clear much of it- thanks are due to West Mercia Probation Service for arranging for personnel to help with this task.
In addition our reserve volunteers helped with the work, and they had the additional treat of seeing not just one but two Clouded Yellow butterflies. These are migrants from continental Europe and are only seen on the reserve infrequently. They always sit with their wings closed and are a beautiful lemony yellow. On the day they were seen we had some butterfly enthusiasts on site and we were able to point them out to them.
The Meres & Mosses Landscape Partnership Scheme and Nature Improvement Area goes from strength to strength. The annual Merefest was held in September in the Cremorne Gardens on the shores of The Mere at Ellesmere. It was a huge success with around 2,000 people attending. Butterfly Conservation had a display there and I have never helped so many children make so many caterpillars and butterflies out of coloured pipe cleaners before!
The Meres & Mosses project helped to fund the conservation work on the former RAF control tower. The interior of the tower will be open from 10.00am to 4.00pm on Sunday 7th December – just come along and I will be there and, hopefully, answer any of your questions. In addition to displays and artefacts in the interior, we will also have available a number of greetings cards for sale at £2.50 each showing Shropshire butterflies, and the free leaflet and identification chart for Butterflies and Day-flying Moths of the Meres & Mosses – please email me if you would like more details.
Finally, Prees Heath is, of course, not the only reserve owned and managed by Butterfly Conservation. In August I attended the official opening of Butterfly Conservation’s newest reserve, Rough Bank in the Cotswolds. The reserve is a steep south-facing slope (so unlike Prees Heath!) near the Slad valley, home of the writer Laurie Lee, and its species-rich grassland provides a home for a range of butterflies including Adonis Blue and Brown Argus. The reserve was opened by Andrew Sells, Chair of Natural England, and Martin Warren, Chief Executive of Butterfly Conservation, assisted by David Dennis, Chair of Butterfly Conservation and Sue Smith, Chair of Butterfly Conservation’s Gloucestershire Branch. Butterfly Conservation is a charity and relies on financial support provided by public donations and legacies – you can also support our work by becoming a member and enjoy our 3 national magazines and 3 local newsletters every year – go to www.butterfly-conservation.org for more details.
Prees Heath Warden