Project information

Saving the rare butterflies of the Polden hills

The Polden Hills in Somerset are home to two threatened butterflies, the Large Blue and Brown Hairstreak. Without conservation work their future here is at risk. Through targeted conservation work and community engagement this project aims to create a safe haven for these vulnerable species.

July 2017 - July 2020

Charity information: Butterfly Conservation

Butterfly Conservation logo
  • Need


    The globally endangered Large Blue butterfly has a complex lifecycle, it relies on a single species of red ant and the larval foodplants Wild Thyme and Wild Marjoram. Populations of Large Blue in Somerset are at an all-time high following previous conservation work, but further action is needed to encourage colonisation of unoccupied sites. The Brown Hairstreak is declining in the UK with a 10 year downward trend of 58%, it is locally abundant in Somerset but under threat from poor management.


    The Brown Hairstreak relies on suitable hedgerow management whilst Large Blues need suitable limestone grassland habitats to support larval foodplants and the ant species it relies on. This project will work with local partners to create networks of appropriate habitats and ensure the continued survival of both species within the area. Through the project we will work with a wider range of landowners and volunteers to provide training and increase the long-term sustainability of the work.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

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


    » This is the overall objective of the project, which will be achieved through the success of the following aims.

    Success will be demonstrated through increased population of both species shown by the results of monitoring adult butterflies and eggs.

    Aim 2

    To improve habitat for the Large Blue and Brown Hairstreak in the Polden Hills


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

    Successful habitat management will be demonstrated through results of habitat assessments and better connectivity between Large Blue and Brown Hairstreak colonies.

    Aim 3

    To build relationships with landowners and farmers to provide longer-term sustainable management.


    » Support landowners and farmers in the wider landscape to improve hedgerow habitat for Brown Hairstreak and limestone grassland habitats for Large Blue

    Success will be demonstrated through improved habitat for the species and sustained suitable habitat over the longer term as a result of engagement with farmers and landowners.

    Aim 4

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


    » Provide volunteers with training in conservation management and the various monitoring techniques of the sites.

    From this we will see a continued good relationship with local volunteer groups and partner organisations, and increased levels of training in monitoring and practical conservation

    Aim 5

    To 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 more local involvement in 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 improve sustainability in the landscape for the Large Blue and Brown Hairstreak through improving networks of suitable habitat, demonstrated through monitoring egg counts and adult counts. The project will build stronger links to the local community through volunteer opportunities and training events. Habitat management to improve limestone grassland habitats for Large Blue and enhance hedgerows for Brown Hairstreak will benefit other species associated with these habitats.


    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 update our members and other supporters through social media, blogs and our e-newsletter, All Aflutter. Higher level donors will receive an update on the work and invitations to events or open days.

  • 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 (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. Work on Large Blues will be focussed across the limestone grassland hills around the towns of Somerton and Langport. Work on Brown Hairstreak will target hedgerows along these hills and within the surrounding landscapes.
    To find out more about the previous work in this area visit


    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 by providing training, events and increasing opportunities to engage with nature. A number of insect and plant species associated with hedgerows and limestone grassland will benefit from this work.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    Butterfly Conservation is the UK charity dedicated to saving butterflies and moths, with an established record of reversing declines. This project is underpinned by science, carried out by Oxford University and CEH and implemented by a collaborative partnership between Butterfly Conservation, CEH, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, J&F Clark Trust, National Trust, Natural England, Network Rail, Oxford University, Somerset Wildlife Trust, South Somerset District Council and private landowners.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    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.

    Somerset And Bristol Branch Butterfly Conservation

    The local branch of Butterfly Conservation has a number of experienced, knowledgeable volunteers to support local projects

    Somerset Wildlife Trust

    Somerset Wildlife Trust owns a number of occupied Large Blue and Brown Hairstreak sites, their experienced staff will help deliver the project.

    South Somerset District Council

    SSDC will play a key part in delivering hedgerow management training for Brown Hairstreak on their site in the Polden Hills.