When the RSPB wanted to construct a chalk butterfly bank at their Winterbourne Downs reserve at Newton Tony near Salisbury, their first point of call for design and construction was specialist contractor MJ Abbott Limited.
Winterbourne Downs is an important RSPB reserve of species-rich chalk grassland, a nationally important habitat which unfortunately has largely been lost in the local area. The reserve forms an important link between the extensive grasslands of Salisbury Plain and Porton Down. These grasslands are managed to provide a safe haven for breeding stone-curlews, a bird typical of this area but which is under threat.
Construction of the butterfly bank at Winterbourne Downs.
The chalk bund constructed by MJ Abbott will provide habitat currently lacking on the reserve – steep, south facing banks. These are the sorts of conditions that suit many chalk downland butterflies, and their associate caterpillar food plants such as horseshoe vetch and rock rose.
The bund was constructed by MJ Abbott’s expert machine operator Peter Jay in just under two weeks, using his Hitachi ZX180LC 360° tracked excavator fitted with an Engcon Tiltrotator. The chalk subsoil was scraped from a borrow area and deposited in layers to form a bund, then the surface was shaped and compacted.
The next step will be to sow the bank with chalk grassland seeds, especially chalk butterfly food plants such as horseshoe vetch, rock rose, devil’s bit scabious and hairy violet.
The reserve is next door to Porton Down, a stronghold for butterfly species such as Adonis Blue, Chalkhill Blue and Dark Green Fritillary. Good numbers of the Dark Green Fritillary have already been noted flying across the reserve, and it is hoped that in time other species will be seen too.