Ipswich Heaths Project
Greenwings founder Matt Berry talks about an exciting project that he has been involved in for the past few years...
I am delighted that a landscape-level project, aimed at restoring lowland heathland habitat of 300 hectares on 14 sites in Ipswich, has been awarded a Wren Biodiversity Action Fund grant of over £100,000. The project was born from a desire to conserve and enhance the remaining patches of heathland in and around Ipswich, part of what was once a continuous band of mainly coastal lowland heathland called the Sandlings, which stretched between Felixstowe and Lowestoft.
In 2009 the Suffolk Branch of Butterfly Conservation commissioned a condition study of several significant county heathlands that held Silver-studded Blue colonies. From that the Branch instigated a series of practical emergency measures to rescue an ailing colony from probable extinction at one of the sites, Purdis Heath, where in less than 20 years the count had dropped from 2,000 to less than 10. The biggest factor contributing to their decline was insufficient management, leading to scrub succession and loss of optimum breeding habitat for the Silver-studded Blue and other heathland species of conservation concern. Volunteers have since stepped in to help manage the site and reverse the decline, undertaking operations such as tree removal, creation of bare ground habitat and heather cutting. This year the count has risen, too early to declare the population as recovering, but an encouraging sign nonetheless.
The Ipswich Heaths Project, delivered by Sharon Hearle (Project Officer), will now enable the scale of restoration to be dramatically accelerated, extending the work to include all 14 sites. Funding will also pay for contractors to carry out some of the larger scale works needed. However, community groups and volunteers will continue to be integral in making the project a success, supporting the project officer with practical conservation work and site monitoring.
I was delighted to hand over a cheque to Butterfly Conservation CEO Dr Martin Warren, at the recent Rutland Water Birdfair event. The money was raised from the proceeds of our Greek Island Odyssey tour in April. It will be put towards the match funding that is needed to make the Ipswich Heaths Project a success. Thank you to all our guests on that tour, for helping us to help conserve butterflies!