A steep grassland bank with a dense wood beyond

Dukes on a hill

A new site for the Gloucestershire Vale Conservation Volunteers today as we helped Butterfly Conservation manage some land for the duke of burgundy. They have been recorded at this site in the past, but not seen last year.

It was a stunning site, a grassy bank on one side of a steep valley, surrounded by dense woodland. The idea was to remove the majority of the hawthorn and allow the grassland to be opened up to conservation grazing. This should allow the cowslips to thrive which the dukes need for food.

Under advice from Jen, we left around 20% of the smaller hawthorn in small clusters and dragged the bigger stuff into clearings in the surrounding wood where the grass wasn’t growing.

The current owners have not been there long, but we were pretty convinced that this bank had been tree planted in the past.

A dead hedge pile in the middle of woodland
Creating a dead hedge in the surrounding woodland

The giveaway was the huge number of plastic tree guards which we removed from site. That alone reduced pollution in the habitat. But also, some of the bigger hawthorn definitely looked like they were deliberately planted rather than random saplings from wild seed.

It underlies that conservation interventions can change over time, depending on what the priorities are. However, it was definitely the right decision to restore the grassland and remove the shading trees. There are still plenty of hawthorn in the woodland, so no shortage of berries.

The team made a huge effort in clearing the main bank. It should hopefully mean that dukes are attracted back to this habitat once more. It will be nice to return to this site and perhaps clear further up where the grass is still good.

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