So how do you take action to improve your local patch for the benefit of moths and butterflies? Well, once we had gained the support of our local Council, when they agreed not to flail the verge housing the Scarlet Tiger caterpillars AND to consider implementing wild-flower planting on Council maintained areas, we needed to decide on priorities. Thus we decided to concentrate on an area of rank grass, invaded by bramble, around the gate on Roman Road/Sandy Lane, clearing the unwanted plants and seeding with wildflowers.
All very well, but to do this we needed some cash to buy the seed. This funding was provided from a legacy left to Butterfly Conservation by a former member who had passed away. The legacy was bequeathed by Edith Harper and contained specific instructions that the money be used to support butterfly conservation projects within the West Midlands urban area. The decision on spending the cash was left in the hands of a former West Midlands branch Chairman, Richard Southwell. Our Scarlet Tiger project fitted the bill nicely.
Many conservation charities receive legacies like this, providing a major source of income. It’s a wonderful way of helping wildlife and ‘our’ Scarlet Tigers are reaping the benefits of this generous gift.
So, we needed some help to carry out the intended work. Unfortunately for us, volunteers do not just appear from thin air – ours are drawn from people who already give time to conservation, in particular a group of hard-liners who volunteer at Highgate Common, Leasowes and Norton Covert plus a few friends and locals. Many are retired who want to contribute to nature, at the same time, keeping fit. We are always looking for more helping hands and welcome anyone who’d like to get involved…
And so, our band of volunteers was gathered together to clear the area in question and scatter wild flower seeds.
Our second priority was to keep the public informed. This project is not only about nature conservation but also about the community. Humans are as much a part of nature as anything else. Roman Road/Sandy Lane is home to quite an array of wild-life but it also provides a valuable community asset. It cuts through housing estates, providing a traffic-free zone for walking, cycling, horse riding, etc.
We decided to invest in a notice board to let everyone know what was happening.
Natural England then stepped in to provide the funding for a rather smart notice board which can be regularly updated to provide information for passers-by – information including details of our aims, work parties and the wildlife to look out for at different times of the year.
And finally – what did we plant? A mixture of wild flowers was sourced from a proven supplier. Because of the presence of rank grass which strangles the wild flowers, we chose a mix including Yellow Rattle. This plant has a delicate yellow flower which seeds in late summer to create a rattling head – hence the name. Although seemingly insignificant, this little flower predates grass and should help to keep down the grass.
The other flowers were a mix of nectar-rich native wild plants designed to provide a good nectar source for insects. Our first year was relatively successful with a good show of colourful flowers – the difficult part is what happens next!
Joy, STP Head Honcho