Surveying our community orchard and chasing butterflies

Surveying our community orchard and chasing butterflies

Members of BBOWT's Rough Around the Edges community groups from across the Chilterns joining an informal butterfly survey at Coleshill Common near High Wycombe in July 2021. Picture: Katie Horgan

Rough Around the Edges project officer Katie Horgan gives an update on her groups' latest activities across the Chilterns, including surveying plants in a community orchard, an informal butterfly survey and investigating some potentially interesting bricks...

June and July this year were busy, especially with a continued focus on surveys, school activities and flower festivals - to say nothing of counting butterflies and meeting potential new groups! I’ve been out and about a lot, meeting with and supporting around 100 people through the different activities – and that’s just me. All of the community groups have had their own activities as well, working with their local volunteers.

The survey training that we started in April has really taken off with some community groups. Donkey Lane Community Orchard, in Chinnor, have now set up a team of volunteers who have taken on the site monitoring. At the last count, they recorded over 70 different plant species at the site. This is incredible, given that only a couple of years ago the orchard was swamped with brambles and nettles, and shows how opening up some space allows other plants to come through.

Staying with Donkey Lane, Sam Johanssen (Heritage Officer for the Chilterns Chalk, Cherries and Chairs project) had a look at the bricks the group found last month when they were clearing the ground for a new entrance to the site. We were hoping that perhaps these bricks marked the line of a path or even a house wall, but Sam confirmed that they were, sadly, just a pile of bricks. That did at least make life a little easier for creating the new entrance and it is still evidence of the people who once lived at the site, leaving their legacy along with the orchard trees.

While much of the surveying effort has focussed on plants, on the first day of July we had a butterfly walk and talk delivered by Adrian Hickman – a real butterfly expert (and moths, grasshoppers, crickets, and dragonflies!). Adrian came over to Coleshill Common in Coleshill village near High Wycombe, joined by nine people from across the Rough Around the Edges community groups, and led us gently through how and why to survey for butterflies. One reason is that they are ‘indicator’ species: this means the number and type of butterfly species you have at a site can give a good idea of the quality of the habitat.

Butterflies are ideal for this as we have a relatively small number of species in Britain, and they are mostly easy to identify. Although I had thought we would need quite a large area to walk through, I think we only moved about 20m for the whole session! A good indication of how much everyone was enjoying spotting butterflies and other beasts, as well as benefitting from Adrian’s knowledge. We finished with a list of 10 butterflies and moths, including purple hairstreak.

A purple hairstreak butterfly. Picture: Philip Precey

A purple hairstreak butterfly. Picture: Philip Precey

One other project to mention is Widmer End Community Combined School. They have been involved since the beginning of the project and have created a new pond with wildlife habitats as well as creating a wonderful outdoor classroom from a rather neglected area of woodland in their grounds. I was finally able to spend a little time with the Year 3 pupils who have done so much of the work. We spent a slightly chilly and damp afternoon counting flowers and bees, with the pupils showing me the outdoor classroom and how much they know about pollination.

It’s been great to be out supporting groups and activities and preparing for the Chalk, Cherries and Chairs Chilterns Celebration from 1-8 August.


Get Involved

July 12-18 was Bees' Needs Week. If you’d like to do your bit for pollinators, why not add some plants to your garden that are perfect for bees and butterflies:

Create a buzz - flowers for bees and butterflies

The Big Butterfly Count, which takes 10 minutes in the back garden - or wherever else you would like to do it - started on 16 July and runs to 8 August. It’s a great way to start recording butterflies, complete with app:

Big Butterfly Count

You can also find information about the year round UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme here:

Butterfly Monitoring Scheme

For more information about the Chilterns Celebration, follow this link:

Chilterns Celebration

Finally, have a look at BBOWT’s Nature Recovery Map, helping us to show we are working towards our vision of seeing more nature everywhere. We are doing this through our new ‘Nature Recovery Network’ (NRN), and the work you do locally, supported by BBOWT through Rough Around the Edges is very much a part of that vision.

Nature Recovery Map


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