Westall Park - A Natural Networks Case Study

Natural Networks

Westall Park Burial Ground - A Natural Networks Case Study

Westall Park Natural Burial Ground CREDIT Jasmine Walters

Westall Park Natural Burial Ground sits in the heart of the Forest of Feckenham and forms part of an important wildlife corridor through the area. Since the 4.6 hectare site was converted  from grazed grassland to a natural burial ground 22 years ago, it has seen the restoration of flower-rich hay meadows, creation of a pond and planting of numerous memorial trees. Since enhancement for wildlife is a key part of the park’s ethos, Natural Networks was invited to provide advice to further build on this legacy.

We were able to award funding in 2019 and this project was one of the first to be carried out with a private business (who funded 55% of the costs using their own money) and we are now looking for more like-minded businesses to get involved.

Enhancements to the existing wildlife habitats include:

  • The long-term protection of existing biodiversity interest such as ancient oak trees.
  • Ongoing restoration of species-rich grassland, including adding in more flowering plants by seeding and plug planting. These flowers will be really valuable for pollinators and other insects.
  • Pond restoration for frogs and other amphibians.
  • Sensitive hedgerow and scrub management to benefit butterflies, birds and small mammals.

Special consideration was given to hedgerow management designed to benefit the brown hairstreak, a Biodiversity Action Plan priority species. This rare butterfly relies on having blackthorn of the right age and quality in order to successfully lay its eggs. Since the species is known to use sites quite close by we thought it would be worthwhile to improve the blackthorn hedges at Westall Park in an attempt to encourage it to use the site. Sensitive management through the winter of 2019-20 seems to have worked because a subsequent site visit by Natural Networks Officers found 13 eggs! This is fantastic news and adds a new breeding site record for this priority species.

A brown hairstreak egg seen through a hand lens

Brown Hairstreak Egg CREDIT Sean Webber

One of the brown hairstreak eggs seen through a 10x hand lens - in real life these are tiny!