Monday 8th April - Following on from the Dragon Trail five years ago, this year it’s going to be the turn of the Taunton Toad Trail, which will help mark the Sixtieth Anniversary of the League of Friends Musgrove Park Hospital.
This summer will see 20 large model toads appearing around Taunton Deane in an initiative involving artists, school children and community groups. The specially commissioned toads will be located in high profile sites throughout Taunton to create an exciting trail for visitors to follow, learning about the history, talent and magic of our community. They will then come back together in an exhibition and be auctioned off in aid of the League of Friends, with all the money raised going towards improvements to the Bracken Birthing Centre, a birthing pool and improved maternity facilities at Musgrove.
Monday 18th March 2019 – Fund unveiled to ensure Somerset’s critical habitats for wildlife are secure for the next generation in the shadow of future funding uncertainty
Somerset Wildlife Trust is excited to unveil the Somerset Nature Reserves Fund 2019. The Fund, which has been running annually since its launch in 2016, has raised an incredible £100,000 to date – all of which has been reinvested into maintaining the basic underlying health of all of the Trusts nature reserves across the county. The Fund has since inspired many who care about the county’s precious landscapes to make donations, which have made a vital difference to the Trust’s ability to keep these special places secure for the next generation and to safeguard some of our most precious wildlife and fragile habitats.
Wednesday 13th March 2019 – Somerset Wildlife Trust is delighted to announce that, along with Somerset-based Wassail Theatre Company, generous funding has been received from Arts Council England and The Mackintosh Foundation to create an all new production of The Somerset Charabanc for 2019. (pronounced sha-ra-bang).
Tuesday 5th March 2019 – Somerset Wildlife Trust is delighted to share the news that it has received a grant of £16,584.45 from National Grid through their Community Grant Programme to support long term habitat management and scrub clearance at Westhay Moor National Nature Reserve. SWT’s project, ‘Power to Grow’ involves large scale removal of scrub and selective tree thinning which will improve ground light conditions across a variety of specialist habitats, encouraging biodiversity on a wider scale on this very special reserve.
Thursday 14th February 2019 – The Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Unit and Somerset Wildlife Trust have been working together to enhance Bubwith Acres Nature Reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest overlooking Cheddar in the heart of the Mendip Hills AONB.
Tuesday 5th February 2019 – Somerset Wildlife Trust has received a grant of £22,000 from Aggregate Industries through their Local Partnerships Fund to improve habitats for Mendip butterflies. The project, ‘Making Space for Butterflies’, will involve woodland management work at Cheddar Wood and grassland and hedgerow restoration in East Mendip around Aggregate Industries’ Torr Works Quarry site.
Tuesday 29th January 2019 – Somerset Wildlife Trust is delighted to announce the appointment of its new Chief Executive, Georgia Stokes, following Simon Nash’s decision to leave the Trust after 15 years of dedicated service. Georgia will join Somerset Wildlife Trust on the 8 April 2019 from the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country, where she has been Chief Executive Officer for the past four years. She is currently also Chair of the Birmingham and Black Country Local Nature Partnership and Chair of the Birmingham and Black Country Nature Improvement Area partnership of 50 organisations.
Tuesday 20th November 2018 – Somerset Wildlife Trust’s project ‘Homes for Herons’ has been selected to take part in The Big Give Christmas Challenge – the UK’s biggest online match funding campaign - which helps charities raise funds for good causes during a week-long campaign.
The Big Give Christmas Challenge campaign runs between midday on Tuesday 27th November and midday on 4th December online. All online donations given to Homes for Herons in this week will be matched by generous third party pledgers. If we reach the £10,750 target online, this will bring the total raised in one week to £21,500 - an amount which will have a lasting impact on the future of heron species in Somerset.
Monday 19th November - On Tuesday 13th November, Somerset Wildlife Trust joined forces with community groups, companies, schools and local people to clean up the town for Taunton’s wildlife and wellbeing.
Groups from Viridor, Pennon Group, South West Water and Inland Waterways Association came together at COACH to paddle the River Tone in canoes and kayaks with instructors from Channel Adventure, cleaning as they went, and combed the riverbanks and footpaths for discarded litter – helped by Shane Austin – a seasoned litter-picker who frequently clears rubbish from the local rivers and canals in his kayak.
22nd Oct - This Autumn Somerset Wildlife Trust will be collecting seed from a variety of trees across its Mendip reserves as part of a national project to protect the UK’s trees by creating a huge tree seed bank. Somerset Wildlife Trust is part of the UK National Tree Seed Project, which has been set up by Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, and made possible with funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
BEST YEAR FOR BRITAIN’S RAREST BUTTERFLY SINCE 1930s
The once-extinct large blue butterfly, reintroduced to the UK in 1984, flew in its highest numbers for at least 80 years this summer, due to the combined efforts of the Large Blue Project, Somerset Wildlife Trust, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and their project partners, belying widely-reported warnings that 2016 could be the worst year on record for British butterflies.
Thanks to meticulous conservation management, south-west England now supports the largest concentration of large blues known in the world. Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Green Down and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and Royal Entomological Society’s Daneway Banks saw over 10,000 adult large blues in 2016, which equates to roughly 60% of the UK population according to Professor Jeremy Thomas, chair of the Joint Committee for the Restoration of the Large Blue Butterfly. Together they laid more than a quarter of a million eggs on the abundant thyme and marjoram flowers.
This is no mean feat, for the large blue is the only UK butterfly species that is sufficiently threatened worldwide to be listed in the IUCN’s global Red Data Book, and our only one designated as an ‘Endangered Species’ across Europe. The success of the large blue reintroduction is due to the combined efforts of the Large Blue Project. As well as the Wildlife Trusts in Somerset and Gloucestershire, partners include Natural England, Butterfly Conservation, the University of Oxford and the National Trust.
Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust’s CEO, Roger Mortlock, says: “This is fantastic news for this globally endangered butterfly whose extraordinary life cycle makes its conservation very challenging. Scrub clearance and careful grazing of wildflower-rich grasslands is key to ensuring a future for this beautiful insect. This special management also helps a huge diversity of wild plants and other insects to thrive.”
Professor Jeremy Thomas (Chair of the Royal Entomological Society’s Conservation committee, Emeritus Professor of Ecology at the University of Oxford, and chair of the Joint Committee for the Restoration of the Large Blue Butterfly) said:
"The success of this project is testimony to what large scale collaboration between conservationists, scientists and volunteers can achieve. Its greatest legacy is that it demonstrates that we can reverse the decline of globally-threatened species once we understand the driving factors."
The large blue has a bizarre life-cycle, having fed for three weeks on the flowerbuds of wild thyme or marjoram, the caterpillar produces scents and songs that trick red ants into believing it is one of their own grubs, and is carried underground into the ants nest and placed with the ant brood. The caterpillar spends the next 10 months feeding on the grubs before pupating in the nest the following year and then emerging to crawl above ground as a butterfly.
Despite over 50 years of effort to halt its decline, the large blue butterfly was pronounced extinct in Britain in 1979. Its reintroduction in 1984 was based on the discovery that large blue caterpillars can only survive in the nest of one particular species of red ant, Myrmica sabuleti. Changes in countryside management were responsible for the extinction. Alterations in grazing left grassland too tall and shady for the heat-loving red ant.
Reserves Manager for Somerset Wildlife Trust, Mark Green said: “The amazing numbers of Large Blues recorded this year show what can be achieved through close partnership working and landscape scale conservation land management, underpinned by sound science. Large blue numbers had declined significantly two years ago, due to unfavourable weather conditions. But, thanks to the project partners creating and maintaining a number of well-connected core sites, the butterfly has now bounced back to record numbers. I feel proud to play a part in this highly successful project, which gives me hope that we can reverse the declines of other vulnerable species.”
Today optimum habitat has been restored to more than 50 former sites. The finest of these are Green Down Nature Reserve in Somerset and Daneway Banks Nature Reserve in the Cotswolds, both Wildlife Trust sites. Thanks to good gazing management coupled with favourable weather, their already massive large blue populations increased by 74% and 64% respectively compared with 2015. The National Trust’s Collard Hill site in Somerset also boasted good numbers, and remains the most accessible place to see large blues thanks to its extensive car park and on-site warden.
A spin-off of our managing grasslands to support the large blue is that it has simultaneously improved conditions for a diversity of other wildlife.
At Daneway, scarce orchids including fly, frog and musk have returned after an absence of many years, and the exceedingly rare cut-leaved germander and cut-leaved self-heal are now flourishing. Among insects, the Downland Villa beefly – not recorded in the UK for 50 years prior to 2000 – bred in great abundance along the tracks and scrapings of Daneway in 2014-16.
At Green Down, cut-leaved self-heal also flowered abundantly in 2016, and meadow brown and marbled white butterflies had their highest and 2nd highest recorded numbers respectively in decades of recording, again belying predictions for low butterfly numbers elsewhere.