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Project information

Bringing Back the Butterflies

We will restore the unique biodiversity of the chalk grassland on the iconic Purbeck ridge, by reversing the spread of gorse scrub and enabling the traditional grazing patterns to be restored. We will engage local people with nature and inspire landowners to follow our example.

March 2017 - February 2018

Charity information: National Trust

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  • Need


    Traditional grazing of the Ridge over centuries maintained a continuous linear grassland sward of 25km from Ballard Down to Lulworth Cove. Loss of grazing since the war led to the spread of gorse scrub and loss of nationally and internationally significant wildlife from the Early gentian flowers to Lulworth Skipper, Adonis Blue and Dingy Skipper butterflies. The habitat is now fragmented: the butterflies cannot move along the ridge as they ought and some are at risk of disappearing altogether.


    Grassland corridors will be restored by clearing the gorse, stripping organic litter from the soil, and allowing the wildflowers to return. To be viable long-term, cattle troughs will be installed and fencing erected to enable the cattle to graze the slopes as they once did. If the grassland flora returns, the butterflies should spread: but we will monitor this by involving schoolchildren, students and volunteers in recording their progress as well as showing neighboring landowners the benefits.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    Remove scrub from 20 hectares of Ailwood Down


    » Work with specialist contractors to remove scrub on south facing slopes using specialist equipment and a combination of burning, flailing and cutting.
    » Remove accumulated litter from soil to enable native chalk grassland flora to re-establish.

    What success will look like

    Hectares of scrub restored to chalk grassland
    Increase in numbers and distribution of priority plant and butterfly species

    Aim 2

    Install infrastructure to enable traditional grazing to be re-established


    » Install 2000m stock fencing to create grazing unit along southern slope of ridge
    » Install water piping and three cattle troughs to encourage cattle to graze priority restoration areas

    What success will look like

    Hectares of grassland being grazed by the end of the project

    Aim 3

    Work with local people to record wildlife and monitor status of wildflowers and butterflies.


    » Run training workshops for public and volunteers in in wildflower identification, butterfly identification and survey methodology
    » Establish local conservation forum of naturalists and volunteers to undertake regular surveys of plant communities and butterflies
    » Set up student research team from Bournemouth University to take part in monitoring programme
    » Lead groups of local schoolchildren in activities to identify and record wildlife on the ridge as it recovers

    What success will look like

    Number of workshops / field teaching days organised
    Numbers of people taking part in monitoring and surveying
    Group established to oversee monitoring beyond project

    Aim 4

    Develop a flagship project, and work with partners to implement at other locations along the ridge


    » Establish Purbeck Ridge partnership of landowners and conservation organisations to oversee future phases of chalk ridge restoration
    » Hold workshop and site visits for partners and stakeholders to evaluate success and to promote best practice elsewhere along the ridge

    What success will look like

    Partnership and stakeholder group established
    Other landowners and partners visit the project and discuss best practice
    Grassland restoration occurring elsewhere on the ridge

  • Impact


    The areas restored will contain a diverse native wildflower flora, which will support butterfly populations that move freely and mix with those further east along the ridge. This will be demonstrated through data produced by plant and butterfly survey data.

    The project will have been a catalyst for further grassland restoration elsewhere on the ridge, demonstrated in terms of area of grassland restored.

    Local people will be more aware of the value of chalk grassland.


    The scrub clearance on steep slopes may not be possible in all areas. We will work with specialist contractors to ensure that even if some areas remain uncleared, there will be continuity of restored grassland.
    Local people will not get involved. If new audiences are not forthcoming we will work through existing partners.
    Other landowners do not follow suit. Existing partner relationships should help us spread our message and ensure a wide project legacy.


    Donors to this project will receive a quarterly report on the project detailing the ongoing and forthcoming activities and any necessary changes that have been made to the project plans.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £98,250

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £74,000 Scrub clearance Employment of specialist contractors to clear 20 hectares of scrub and restore chalk soil.
      £9,750 Stock fencing 1500m stock fencing to enable cattle to graze land
      £7,500 Water pipes and troughs 3 water troughs for grazing cattle
      £7,000 Public and stakeholder engagem Workshops, training events and partner and stakeholder forum
  • Background


    The project is located on Purbeck, one of the most biodiverse parts of England with multiple habitats; coast, chalk grassland and heathlands and home to many nationally and internally significant species.


    Several rare species will benefit from the project - ranging from the Lulworth Skipper, Adonis Blue and Dingy Skipper butterflies.

    Local school children and members of the public will have the opportunity to increase their appreciation and understanding of nature through the monitoring process.

    As the chalk ridge is so prominent all inhabitants and visitors to the area will see the work underway which should invoke curiosity.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    As one of the largest non-government landowners in the UK with more than 250,000ha of land and over 1,100km of coastline, nature conservation is a core part of the work of the National Trust. The team at Purbeck have achieved many successful projects most recently a 3yr ecological survey of Studland that updated data from the 1930s, worked with 6 partner organisations and united volunteers, students, researchers and experts in a programme of citizen science.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    David Brown, Purbeck Ecologist

    Project Manager. His passion for and knowledge of nature conservation and experience of engaging people, will ensure it is a success.