Marsh Fritillary

Encouraging the Marsh Fritillary Butterfly at Mynydd Bwllfa Wind Farm

Renewable energy schemes – like our wind, solar and hydro projects – help shift our reliance away from traditional forms of electricity generation. They provide clear environmental benefits by reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions which are changing the global climate. In addition to this, there are many other environmental and community benefits, such as at Mynydd Bwllfa where we are working with local stakeholders to create habitat suitable for the Marsh Fritillary butterfly.

Creating the right habitats

Working alongside Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and Rhonda Cynon Taff County Borough Council (RCTCBC), Pennant Walters are helping to deliver improvements to local biodiversity via new habitat creation and by extending the existing habitat features that are of notable nature conservation value. A major part of this work includes the planting of Succisa pratensis, more commonly known as Devils-bit Scabious.

Devils-bit Scabious is the Marsh Fritillary caterpillar’s only foodplant and is therefore essential to the long-term survival of the butterfly. It thrives on damp grassland maintained in good condition through light grazing, preferably by cattle. Historically, the land around Mynydd Bwllfa has been used predominantly for sheep grazing. Sheep selectively feed on Devil’s-bit Scabious and at high stocking levels, can reduce and even eliminate it from sites. We have worked with tenants and neighbouring landowners to introduced cattle grazing and significantly reduce, or eliminate, sheep grazing from the habitats identified as being suitable for Marsh Fritillary.

Involving the local community

NRW’s Scott Hand has been instrumental in integrating these environmental improvements with community based work. Scott approached Oaks Nursery in Cardiff to see whether they could grow plants using seed collected from the nearby NRW owned Woodland Park reserve. Oaks Nursery is a social enterprise scheme run by the charity Vision 21 (Cyfle Cymru) to provide on the job work experience and training for students with learning needs.

On 17th December 2017, a team from Oaks Nursery, NRW and Pennant Walters met on site with spades in-hand and planted hundreds of plants, scattered within a designated area of newly enhanced grassland. The enhanced grassland was another of Scott Hand’s initiatives whereby, as part of the Plantlife’s ‘Coronation Meadows’ initiative, approximately 8ha of the site was oversown with locally collected wildflower seed from nearby species rich hay meadows.

A long term commitment to environmental improvement

Mynydd Bwllfa Wind Farm has only been operational for two years so we are still near to the start of the 25 year long project. Moving forward, we will continuously monitor the improvements to determine whether the Marsh Fritillary numbers increase with time. The improvements demonstrate what is achievable through a partnership between the private sector, local community groups, national charities, local landowners and contractors. The scheme represents a fantastic opportunity for long-term habitat enhancement on a significant scale whilst providing opportunities to local communities and charitable groups.

Pennant Walters extend their thanks to everyone involved with the project and particular thanks to Scott Hand and to the leaders and students at Oaks Nursery.