Project information

Saving the rare butterflies of the Polden hills

The Polden Hills in Somerset are home to two of the UK’s most threatened butterflies, the Large Blue and Brown Hairstreak. Without conservation work their future here is at risk. Through targeted conservation and community engagement this project will create a better home for them and all wildlife.

June 2017 - June 2019

Charity information

Butterfly Conservation

Butterfly Conservation logo
  • Need


    The Large Blue is the UK’s rarest butterfly, and is globally endangered, with 80% of the UK’s colonies in Somerset. Large Blues have specific habitat requirements and complex lifecycle which relies on both a single species of red ant and the larval foodplants Wild Thyme and Wild Marjoram. The Brown Hairstreak is declining in the UK with a 10 year downward trend of 58%. The butterfly is locally abundant in the Polden Hills but is under threat from inappropriate management of hedgerows.


    The Polden Hills landscape supports crucial habitat for both the Large Blue and Brown Hairstreak. The Brown Hairstreak relies on appropriate management of hedgerows and blackthorn whilst the Large Blue needs suitable limestone grassland habitats which support the caterpillar food plant and the ant species it relies on. This project will combine the management of both of these aspects to create a network of appropriate habitats for both species and ensure their continued survival within the area.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    Improve habitat for the Large Blue and Brown Hairstreak through practical management techniques.


    » Practical habitat management across the Polden Hills landscape, including hedge laying and scrub management.

    Overall habitat improvement, demonstrated by results of habitat assessments and better connectivity between Large Blue and Brown Hairstreak colonies.

    Aim 2

    Support landowners and farmers through habitat management advice based on habitat assessments.


    » Build strong relationships with local farmers and landowners through practical conservation advice.

    Improved habitat for the species and sustained suitable habitat over the longer term as a result of engagement with farmers and landowners.

    Aim 3

    Increase populations of the Large Blue and Brown Hairstreak within the Polden Hills landscape.


    » Improve the habitat for these species and monitor the success of habitat improvement on a regular basis.

    Increased population of both species shown by the results of monitoring adult butterflies and eggs.

    Aim 4

    Work with new and existing volunteer groups to help conduct management and monitoring of sites.


    » Work with existing partners and local volunteers, offering training in conservation and monitoring of the sites.

    Continued good relationship with local volunteer groups and partner organisations, and increased levels of training.

    Aim 5

    Engage with local communities in the area through promotion of events and workshops.


    » Run events to increase local awareness of the two species and encourage involvement with protecting their habitats.

    By keeping logs of events and volunteer numbers we can demonstrate success of engaging with new audiences and increased awareness of the species and project.

  • Impact


    This project will provide sustainability in the landscape for the Large Blue and Brown Hairstreak through creating an established network of suitable habitat. This will be demonstrated through monitoring of the species’ responses through egg counts and adult counts. The project will also create a stronger link to the local community through volunteering and events, demonstrated through an effective volunteer network that are able to manage the site and conduct monitoring of the species.


    Weather is the key risk in this project, as it is unpredictable and could have a strong effect on the results of any conservation work undertaken. We will mitigate this by spreading the project over a number of seasons in order to be able to counteract any potential consequences of bad weather.


    We will give an update on our work in the Poldens in Butterfly, our membership magazine. We will also give updates to our members and other supporters through our e-newsletter, All Aflutter. Higher level donors will receive an update on the work and invitations to events or open days in the area.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £11,946

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £2,170 Habitat surveys and training 7 days of habitat surveys, training on hedge laying and Large Blue egg monitoring
      £1,125 Large Blue food plants 1500 Large Blue larval food plug plants (0.75p a plant)
      £1,980 Weed control 10 days of weed control (£198 per day)
      £1,740 Scrub management 10 days of scrub management (£174 per day)
      £4,931 Project Officer Costs to oversee contractors, run training events, advise farmers and run volunteer work tasks
  • Background


    This project will take place in the Polden Hills landscape in Somerset, limestone grassland hills around the towns of Somerton and Langport. Butterfly Conservation is well established within Somerset. The Somerset and Bristol branch is one of our largest branches with over 1,200 members. In 2015 we purchased the Westbury Beacon reserve in Somerset, following an appeal to our members, which raised over £200,000, enough to buy the reserve and pay towards management costs.


    The work that will be undertaken in the Polden Hills will not only protect the Large Blue and Brown Hairstreak. It will benefit the local community through training and events and through increased engagement with nature. A number of butterfly and moth species will benefit from this work, but wildlife in general will gain from the management of the area. Butterflies respond quickly to change, revealing the health of the countryside, when we protect them, all wildlife benefits.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    Butterfly Conservation is the UK charity dedicated to saving butterflies and moths. We have an established record of reversing declines, and the expertise necessary to protect the Brown Hairstreak and the Large Blue within this landscape. We work with a number of important partners as part of the East Poldens Landscape Partnership and have a strong relationship with landowners and volunteers in the area, which will need to be utilised in order to successfully run this project.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Rachel Jones

    The BC Project Officer has experience of delivering Large Blue projects, leading training events and working with volunteers and landowners.

    David Simcox

    The UK Large Blue expert, he has spent over 30 years conserving it and was involved in reintroducing it to Somerset in the 1990s.

    Mark Green

    Reserves Manager for the local Wildlife Trust he is responsible for and has extensive knowledge of many sites within the project.

    Rebecca Woodgate

    A key local volunteer who is enthusiastic in helping with both butterfly monitoring and management.