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Chalking up success for reserves

PUBLISHED: 17:31 15 February 2010 | UPDATED: 14:48 20 February 2013

Grizzled skipper butterflies

Grizzled skipper butterflies

TWO chalk grassland nature reserves in west Hertfordshire are benefiting from a restoration programme thanks to support from the SITA Trust, the Chilterns Conservation Board and Natural England.The Herts & Middlesex...

TWO chalk grassland nature reserves in west Hertfordshire are benefiting from a restoration programme thanks to support from the SITA Trust, the Chilterns Conservation Board and Natural England.
The Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust has received funding to carry out work - with a total project cost of 81,000 - on its Aldbury Nowers, near Tring, and Alpine Meadows, near Berkhamsted, nature reserves. The work involves clearing significant amounts of scrub from the sites and opening up the grassland. As trees have been removed and the top layer of years of leaf litter and other accumulated material has been scraped away, large areas of very chalky soil are exposed, giving the whole area a rather dramatic look.
All of this work is necessary if we are to encourage the return of specialist chalk grassland plants that thrive in conditions where the soil is poor and exposed. Without this action, scrub and trees develop and the specialist chalk grassland plants are crowded out. Associated insects and birds no longer find the site suitable.
The work at Aldbury Nowers and Alpine Meadow will encourage the growth and spread of the plants on which the caterpillars and adult butterflies of the scarce dinghy skipper and grizzled skipper butterflies depend. To maintain the chalk grassland plants we need to keep the grass short and sheep can really help us to do this - especially in places like Aldbury Nowers where the steeply sloping ground can make mowing difficult.
Because the grant has also enabled us to fence the sites, making them more secure for the grazing sheep, we are looking forward to seeing our four-legged 'mowers' working hard on the reserves in the near future. As the restoration and the butterfly watching season progresses, the trust will be working alongside volunteers from Herts Butterfly Conservation and our landowner, the National Trust, to monitor the sites for plant and butterfly life as they respond to the improvements made.

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