Tilhill Forestry takes on coppicing to help rare butterfly

The owner of a 30-hectare Hampshire woodland is working with Tilhill Forestry to re-establish a coppicing rotation for the benefit of one of Britain's rarest butterflies, the Duke of Burgundy.

Image: Butterfly Conservation
Image: Butterfly Conservation

Believed to have been hazel coppice since the time of Henry VIII, the site near Stockbridge was bought by Catherine Antcliff 18 months ago.

The butterfly's caterpillars depend on the cowslips, dog-violets and primroses that grow following coppicing of hazel.

Tilhill Forestry senior forest manager Stephen Taylor said: "Hazel is cut by hand, and the cut material is used to produce hurdles while the lower grade material is bundled into faggots that are used to stabilise river banks. The stools are left to regenerate for around seven years prior to the next cut."

Tilhill Forestry helped the owner of the woodland apply for Countryside Stewardship grant funding.

Taylor added: "The area is heavily populated with fallow, roe and Muntjac deer that can devastate the next crop through browsing. It is vitally important to protect the new growth from deer damage and the grant assists with costs."

Meanwhile local MP Caroline Nokes, has agreed to work with Butterfly Conservation as a "Species Champion" for the Duke of Burgundy, which has declined by 40% since the 1970s.

She said: "We in Hampshire are very lucky to be the national stronghold for this lovely butterfly and it was eye-opening to see how important it is for woodland managers like Tilhill Forestry to work together with others, not just on their land but across an entire landscape, to conserve some of our rarest wildlife."

The charity's conservation officer Rachel Jones said: "There are now 42 MP Species Champions across England and we’re really grateful that Ms Nokes has chosen to support us and in particular, raise awareness of this declining butterfly."

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