Adonis blue, Rodborough Common, Gloucestershire

Adonis Blue butterfly

By the turn of the millennium the Adonis blue butterfly had been missing from Rodborough Common, near Stroud, for four decades.

But the butterfly, which is found on chalk grassland, reappeared on the Stroud commons in 2003 – following extensive effort by our rangers and Rodborough’s commoners, whose cattle have grazed the 150-hectare site for centuries.

Rodborough Common, which tower above Stroud, is the only Special Area of Conservation grassland site in the Cotswolds – protected under European law for the rare wildlife associated with the limestone grassland habitat.

Matthew Oates, our nature specialist, has been visiting Rodborough for over 30 years. He said: 'Rodborough has a diversity of habitats: thin soils and deep soils; shorter vegetation and longer grasses; sunny slopes and shadier areas.

'That means a huge diversity of species. In midsummer you can see Adonis blue, dark green fritillary butterflies and the last of the Duke of Burgundy butterflies.'

The site has also been recolonised by the downland bee fly, one of the UK’s rarest insects – which disappeared from the UK in 1932 and spectacularly appeared at Rodborough in the mid-2000s.

Key to maintaining healthy insect populations on the commons is grazing by cattle, Matthew Oates said.

'The commons have been created by grazing and needs to be maintained. There is a very long history of cattle grazing here.'

The commons are home to a range of breeds, including native breeds like Old Gloucester and English Longhorn. The grazing helps to stimulate the growth of plants like horseshoe vetch, the only foodplant for the Adonis blue butterfly.