One Saturday in February a small group of part-time students from Reaseheath College near Nantwich visited the reserve. They are all mature students who have jobs and are contemplating a career change reflecting their interest in environmental issues. After a two hour guided walk talking to them about the heathland habitat and the ongoing restoration work they did some filming of the reserve using a camera mounted on a drone. First of all I had to liaise with Tilstock Skydive across the A41 to ensure that it was safe to launch the drone, and, after a couple of technical hitches, it took to the skies. Shown below are a couple of the photos taken, and the students also filmed some video footage. It gives a different perspective on the reserve, and we hope to do some more filming at a later date.
One of the features the drone highlighted was the heather mowing on the Hangars field. Here Lucy Morton, BC Reserves Officer, and me have been mowing different areas of heather that has either become tall and leggy or has been infected by heather beetle. As you can see, we are experimenting with mowing different shapes rather than rectangles. It will be interesting to see if the flora that ensues will be more diverse than previously.
Butterfly Conservation celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. As part of the celebrations volunteers from across the country carried out habitat improvement works on Saturday 10th March, which was termed a Day of Action. At Prees Heath our volunteers cleared birch saplings at the southern end of the Corner field to prevent more encroachment onto this heathland restoration area. It was a cold day, wet in the afternoon, but we had a bonfire to keep us warm. It took some time to get going, but thanks to the perseverance of Allan Dawes and Clive Dyer we did succeed eventually. Earlier on the day I gave an interview on BBC Radio Shropshire.
Visitors to the reserve may have noticed that some tree work has been carried out along the access track. This will give easier access to the two properties at the far end of the track. The work was done by a local professional company of tree surgeons with the approval of Shropshire Council as regards the Tree Protection Order that exists across the whole of Prees Heath Common. The company had a chipper on site so that no arisings were left once they had finished. I have also cut back some gorse along the A49 northwards from where the track meets the road to improve sightlines for drivers.
I continue to give illustrated talks about Prees Heath, its history, restoration, wildlife and the Silver-studded Blue butterfly, and in March I gave a talk to Audlem Wildlife Group in Cheshire. In April I am scheduled to talk to Ellesmere Gardening Club. So please let me know if you would like me to come a give a talk to your group, near or far – I have given talks about Prees Heath as far afield as Sussex, South Wales and Belfast in beautiful Northern Ireland.
In February each year I chair a meeting of the Reserve Support Group, which consists of interested local residents, including Prees Heath commoners. We discuss a range of issues relating to the reserve, not just the wildlife but also public access, dogs, events, site works and anything anybody wishes to raise. To be a member of the group you have to be supportive of the work of Butterfly Conservation on the reserve, and do let me know if you would be interested in joining. Alternatively I am always willing to discuss any aspect of the reserve – you can contact me by phone or email, or come up to me and talk to me if you see me on site.
Lastly, I was fortunate enough to have been nominated for an award regarding the work on the reserve by Natural England, and I received the award at the Wyre Forest Discovery Centre from the Chair of Natural England, Andrew Sells on 28th March. In accepting the award I made it clear that it was really on behalf of Butterfly Conservation, the Prees Heath commoners and supportive local residents, community groups and the many, many people who have helped us along the way.
Prees Heath Warden, Butterfly Conservation