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Large Blue Butterfly Laying Eggs on Marjoram Credit Jeremy Thomas
Large Blue Butterfly Laying Eggs on Marjoram Credit Jeremy Thomas

The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund has supported the Royal Entomological Society by awarding over £200,000 to enable it to create 371 ha of flower-rich grasslands in Somerset and the Cotswold hills of Gloucestershire.

The overall aim is to restore the iconic Large blue butterfly to twelve newly-created or restored meadows from which it became extinct in Victorian times, alongside a host of other rare, local and more common insects and plants that have largely disappeared from the countryside.

Aims of the project:

  • To collaborate with four conservation charities to restore and create twelve species-rich areas of limestone grassland in Gloucestershire and Somerset, using the techniques and expertise gained over 40 years, not just on a site by site basis but across whole landscapes.  Five meadows were created ‘from scratch’ on former arable land, failed plantationsm and new railway constructions; seven others had become degraded after decades of abandonment. 
  • To make two re-introductions of the Large blue and one of the Duke of Burgundy butterflies to suitably restored sites that are too distant from existing colonies for natural colonisations to be probable.
  • Increased number and size of Large blue populations in the Cotswold and Somerset hills.
  • By using two target species, which occupy opposite ends of the seral gradient, we will also ensure that populations of many other rare insects and wildflowers are similarly increased. Innovative management will ensure that these species can also thrive in a warming climate.
  • Detailed ecological monitoring throughout will ensure that all management decisions and advice is evidence-based and incorporates elements to promote sustainability in a changing climate.
  • To demonstrate to ecologists and land managers that the conservation of butterflies and plants with complex requirements is possible. To teach them how to achieve this, and to inspire them to adopt evidence-based solutions to previously intractable conservation problems within the study regions and internationally.

Read a progress report from year 3 of the project

Find out more about The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund.

Pasque flower, Shrill Carder Bee . Green Winged Orchid, Credit: Jeremy Thomas
Rare species now thriving on the twelve restoration sites include Pasqueflower (image: David Simcox), Shrill Carder bee and Green-winged orchids (images: Jeremy Thomas)
Long Horned Cattle grazing David Simcox
Long-horned cattle today graze a formerly degraded site in Gloucestershire to which the Large blue was successfully re-introduced in 2019 after an absence of 150 years (image: David Simcox)
Large Blue Butterfly Marbled White butterfly Jeremy Thomas
A Large blue butterfly jostles for nectar with a Marbled white and small beetle on a PWCF restoration site in Somerset (image: Jeremy Thomas).

See also