The heath fritillary, one of the UK’s rarest butterflies which has been brought back from the brink of extinction thanks to conservation efforts in the last 20 years, has been discovered for the first time at the Woodland Trust’s Victory Wood in east Kent.
The discovery of this rare species is the result of a restoration project on the site which has helped wildlife return to the area.
The original ancient woodland on the Victory Wood site was felled and ploughed up between the 1950s and 1970s and later earmarked as a potential landfill site. It was saved by the Woodland Trust in 2004 and became a flagship site for the Trafalgar Woods Project to commemorate the bicentenary of the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
The Woodland Trust has now restored this valuable element in a chain of woodlands, re-connecting it to surviving ancient woodland fragments to both the east and west. This extensive site overlooking the Thames Estuary is open to the public.
Since 2005 the Woodland Trust has been recording the wildlife as it returns to Victory Wood and it is here that the rare heath fritillary butterfly has now been found.
Claire Inglis, the Woodland Trust’s Site Manager at the wood said: “The discovery of heath fritillary is a wonderful find and comes after many years of hard work from volunteers and members of the Trust to restore the site to some of its former glory. We planted large areas of woodland and ensured buffer zones lined the adjacent ancient woodland areas to encourage natural regeneration. This planting and regeneration in buffer zones, along with maintaining wide rides (trackways), has all been important for the establishment of these special species. This rare butterfly returning shows the importance of this work and we hope to discover more species colonising the site in the months and years to come.”