Ness Gardens Meadow - Autumn Update

The story of the butterfly and bee meadow at Ness Botanic Gardens was published in the Newsletter of the Cheshire and Wirral Branch of the Butterfly Conservation (Cheshire and Wirral Argus, Issue 99, Autumn 2018). 

Over a period of 10 years a species-rich meadow was created on an area of relatively fertile grassland which was ploughed to of a depth up to one metre bringing infertile subsoil to the surface.

To view a copy of the  PDF article in the Cheshire and Wirral Argus  click here.


Bonanza of Butterflies

Bonanza of butterflies in Ness Gardens meadow

The hot sunny weather during May, June and July apparently has boosted the abundance of many butterfly species monitored regularly by the wildlife volunteers, at Ness over a period of ten years.

The species-rich meadow was created eleven years ago following the habitat creation plan provided by Dr Phil Putwain. It is now a vibrant assemblage of meadow plants (see ERS May Blog post featuring cowslips), bees, butterflies and numerous other insects.

This summer there were record numbers of Common Blue butterflies (46 in 30 minute count) and also Small and Large whites. Possibly the very hot May and June enhanced survival of larvae for the second summer emergence of Common Blue adults. The grassland species Small Skipper and Small Copper were much more abundant than in previous years whilst Meadow Brown was abundant but substantially less than in 2013 and 2014. 

Other pleasing sightings were Painted Lady, Ringlet and Brimstone. In contrast species in Tribe Nymphalini (Peacock, Red Admiral and Small Tortoishell) have been much less abundant so far this year. The species richness of native perennials is an important element in habitat provision for butterflies.


Silver Studded Butterfly Conservation

June 2018
Safeguarding the Silver-studded Blue butterfly: restoration of its heathland habitat at Prees Heath Common Reserve, Shropshire eleven years after kick-off.

Prees Heath Common in Shropshire has supported the last population of the butterfly in the English Midlands since the 1970s on small areas of relict heathland. 

Butterfly Conservation purchased part of the Common to safeguard this population and to undertake re-creation of lowland heathland in an attempt to ensure the butterfly’s persistence due to a very increased area of suitable habitat for the population. Dr Phil Putwain originally advised Butterfly Conservation on the method for creation of heathland 5 areas previously used for arable agriculture.

The method included deep ploughing for soil profile inversion to 900mm and incorporation of pelletised sulphur to reduce substrate pH from around 7.0 to 4.0. It was hoped the acid soil pH would persist for many years. The sulphur was incorporated in summer 2007. Each year since then numerous soil samples have been tested annually for pH.  Phil Putwain  tested samples collected in mid-June. Soil pH remains low at 4.5 eleven years later. The graph below shows the timeline of pH values. To date pH remains suitable for heathland habitat. 


Record Cowslip Survey

This April and May more cowslips than ever are flowering in the Wilderness Meadow at Ness Botanic Gardens. There is a host of more than 35,000 cowslips creating a dense splash of yellow across the field. The meadow was designed by Dr Phil Putwain and sprang into life 9 years ago when when an area of species-poor rough grassland overlooking the Dee Estuary, almost two hectares in area, was ploughed to a depth of up to one metre (inverting the whole soil profile) bringing infertile sandy subsoil to the surface. Seed of 23 species of traditional hay meadow forbs (including cowslip) and grasses was sown in 2009. Spontaneous colonisation by just over 100 plant species also occurred over the subsequent 10 growing seasons. Please visit Ness Gardens if you can and experience the magnificant meadow.

Ness Gardens Meadow - Autumn Update

The story of the butterfly and bee meadow at Ness Botanic Gardens was published in the Newsletter of the Cheshire and Wirral Branch of t...