Celebrating 20 years of Grafton Wood

Wednesday 23rd August 2017

Bluebells in Grafton Wood (c) Helen WoodmanBluebells in Grafton Wood (c) Helen Woodman

A Worcestershire nature reserve that is home to over 40 species of bird, a nationally rare bat and a declining butterfly, is celebrating 20 years of conservation.

Sir Pete Luff opening Grafton WoodGrafton Wood nature reserve was purchased by Worcestershire Wildlife Trust and Butterfly Conservation in 1997 with help from a National Lottery grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Wychavon District Council and a public appeal.

Sir Peter Luff, then MP for Mid Worcestershire and now Chair of HLF, officially opened Grafton Wood and will be returning to celebrate its 20th anniversary as part of the annual Brown Hairstreak Walk on Sunday 27th August.

Flourishing flora & rare butterflies

Graham Martin, Chair of Trustees for Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, explained “We were delighted in 1997 when the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded £122,000 for ourselves and Butterfly Conservation to buy Grafton Wood and begin a programme of establishing it as a nature reserve.

Brown hairstreak (c) Pete Smith“We’re indebted to the volunteers who have been managing the wood since its purchase and, with their help, we have seen so many successes, not least of which is the increase of the rare brown hairstreak butterflies.”

Brown hairstreak butterflies have disappeared from surrounding counties, and in the West Midlands they remain only in this small part of Worcestershire with Grafton Wood being the core of this stronghold.

Butterfly Conservation’s John Tilt, volunteer manager for Grafton Wood since its purchase in 1997, said “When we took over the management of the wood there were no brown hairstreaks in the wood itself; last year there were hundreds.

“Now 31 species of butterfly have been seen in the woodland and, as we are managing it for insects, it’s not surprising that we have good bat and bird populations. The spring birdsong in the coppice plots is astonishing.

“On a personal level, I have been privileged to have been given such a great retirement project over the last twenty years.”

Ancient woodland

Grafton Wood originally formed an important part of the ancient royal Forest of Feckenham with historical records dating back to 1086. Its boundaries survive almost intact; current boundaries match those on a map of 1700.

Current management replicates traditional management and involves creating wide sunny rides and glades, great for both flowers and insects.

Grafton Wood (c) Amy LewisIn spring, Grafton Wood is carpeted with bluebell and wild garlic, followed by early purple and common spotted orchid. Herb paris, a classic indicator of ancient woodland, joins sanicle and wood anemone in the woodland flora.

Sir Peter Luff, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, commented “It’s fantastic to return to Grafton Wood and see what has been achieved over the last 20 years.

“It just goes to show the incredible and lasting impact that National Lottery players’ money can make, not only in helping our wildlife to survive and thrive but also in reconnecting and engaging local people with their natural heritage.”

In 2014 Worcestershire Wildlife Trust and Butterfly Conservation bought an adjacent piece of woodland to complete ownership of this ancient woodland and further protect wildlife in the area.

Over 40 species of bird breed in Grafton Wood and the woodland also boasts the most northerly breeding population of the nationally rare Bechstein’s bat as well as being one of just ten UK woodlands with a population of the aspen leaf-rolling weevil.

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