Cancel Fullscreen

Prees Heath restoration project

Silver studded blue butterflies on Bell heather ® P Putwain
County: Shropshire
Contact details
Organisation: Butterfly Conservation
Website: Prees Heath reserve page on Butterfly Conservation website
Project description

The western half of Prees Heath Common was purchased by Butterfly Conservation in 2006 with a view to restoring it to heathland. This heathland is the only site in the Midlands where the silver studded blue butterfly, a species in decline nationally, is still found.

Initially the site was surveyed to establish the profile depth of the soil pH and the concentration of major soil nutrients; these key characteristics of the underlying subsoils were reviewed by Butterfly Conservation and their consultant ecologists to set the starting point for the restoration project. The survey results indicated that the optimum approach would be inverting the soil by deep ploughing, artificially raising the levels of acid in the soil and seeding using heather brash.

Work started in 2007 with contractors undertaking deep ploughing using equipment hired from Landlife at the National Wildflower Centre. The project area was sprayed in July and October to kill off weeds growing from roots remaining in the soil.

Following the successful example of the RSPB Minsmere Reserve in Suffolk (Owen et al ., 1999; Kemp, 2004), elemental sulphur was applied leading to an increase in the acidity of the upper sand horizon in the short term and and to an acceleration of the weathering and leaching processes which will return the sandy soil to its natural acidity levels.
In November 2007 heather brash, with ripe seed from Common Heather or Ling, Calluna vulgaris, , was harvested from selected areas of Cannock Chase and spread on Hangars Field. Any subsequent weeds were hand pulled and spot sprayed in 2008.

20,000 plug plants of Bell Heather, Erica cinerea, were raised by a local nursery from heather seed harvested from Prees Heath and then planted out in 2009. 20 plots were set out to establish the extent of damage from rabbits browsing the young plants.

Surveying was carried out to establish the acidity of the soil over the next 3 years. Surveying of plant sizes and plant rate of growth was also undertaken during this period.

The re-creation of dry heathland and habitat for a nationally threatened butterfly at Prees Heath Common Reserve, Shropshire (John Davis, Stephen Lewis and Phil Putwain 2011)

A 2020 Vision of Heathland(Butterfly Conservation 2010)

Page last modified on Tuesday 14 of October, 2014 09:44:37 BST