Stroud landscape project
Nature in the UK is in trouble with many species in decline. The Stroud landscape project aims to reverse this by creating more space for nature. With the town of Stroud in Gloucestershire at its centre, the project extends as far as Crickley Hill in the north to Wotton-under-Edge in the south. The area is renowned for rare species, like the Duke of Burgundy butterfly, pasque flower and greater horseshoe bats.
We're in danger of losing some plants and animals from the west Cotswolds for ever as important habitats are being lost through intensive farming and pressures from developers. It's not too late to save nature if we act quickly and work together on a larger scale.
Providing plants and animals with the right conditions could help them come back from the brink of extinction, and we'll all be able to pass on a healthier natural environment to the generations who follow.
Calcareous grasslands are amongst the most species-rich habitats in the country. They thrive on thin, dry soils in limestone areas. They provide homes for many flowering plants, such as orchids, as well as rare insects and butterflies.
Restoring the grasslands
Restoring the grasslands in the Cotswolds is fundamental to the Stroud landscape project. Practices such as grazing and cutting are crucial for the maintenance of this important habitat. We're also recreating traditional hay meadows that support native flower species.
The project aims to create and improve these grassland habitats, restore woodlands and establish wildlife corridors that allow plants and animals to move. We're working with partners and landowners to make this happen.
Removing the scrub
We're managing the scrub on Minchinhampton and Rodborough Commons. Although an important habitat, if left, scrub can quickly take over.
On the Commons it's encroaching onto the priority grassland habitat so we're removing invasive species like holm oak and cotoneaster. This enables the threatened Duke of Burgundy butterfly to thrive.
At Crickley Hill, we're continuing an ongoing programme of scrub control that will benefit uncommon species such as the diminutive musk orchid.
Work is also being carried out to control scrub and protect the limestone grasslands at Haresfield Beacon and on Coaley Peak near Woodchester Park, we're removing the scrub on the south facing bank to encourage more butterflies onto the site.
At least ten hectares of land that had been lost to non-native species have been restored to grassland. In recent years alone, over 40 hectares of grassland habitat on the commons have benefitted from invasive, non-native species management.
You can see our herd of Belted Galloway cattle happily munching across the Stroud landscape project area. We're also working closely with the graziers on Minchinhampton and Rodborough Commons and our tenants.
Conservation grazing isn't just happening on National Trust land. It's also taking place on important wildlife sites owned privately or managed by other organisations such as the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, Butterfly Conservation and Natural England.
This traditional way of managing grasslands, without the use of harmful pesticides, creates a range of heights in the grass sward increasing the diversity of wildflowers and insects.
Collaboration with the local Commoners grazing community has been crucial to the success of maintaining a healthy and balanced grassland ecosystem on Minchinhampton and Rodborough Commons.
Sharing and sowing wildflower seeds
We're helping to restore areas of grassland by sowing wildflower and native grass seeds. We've collected some of this seed from fields that we care for at Woodchester Park as well as other wildflower meadows around Stroud.
It won't be long before we see more cowslips, knapweeds, yellow rattle and orchids gracing the Cotswold landscape.
Over the next few years, we'll be collecting more seed from local meadows to sow not only on land managed by the National Trust but also on fields owned by local landowners.
Creating wildlife corridors
Corridors improve connectivity between habitats, helping plants and animals to move between them without disturbance. Many bats at Woodchester Park find their way by using the woodland edges, trees and hedgerows or 'corridors' to forage for food.
Greater horseshoe bats use these corridors to move between their summer roost site in the mansion and winter sites located in mines on the edges of Minchinhampton Common.
Linking the Commons
The project is linking the satellite commons at Nailsworth and Ironmills to Minchinhampton by keeping the woodland corridors open. This makes it easier for the cattle and plants like the juniper to move and thrive.
A tenant on the Ebworth estate is helping by creating new limestone grassland. This has also helped link the species-rich grasslands of Sheepcombe and Cranham Commons.
Bringing back threatened species
Nearly 60% of native British species have declined over the last 50 years. Of the 8,000 species assessed against Red List criteria, 15% are now extinct or on the brink of extinction in Britain. However, there is enormous potential to help our wildlife recover.
The area covered by the Stroud landscape project includes nationally threatened species like the Duke of Burgundy butterfly, greater and lesser horseshoe bats, adders, juniper and pasque flowers.
As we improve the grassland habitat on the Commons, there is potential to bring back some of the extinct species. The Large Blue butterfly disappeared from the Commons 150 years ago but has recently been successfully reintroduced.
The Commons have the largest recorded number of juniper plants on one site in the Cotswolds. Untouched by development and intensive farming, the plants thrive. However, they're under constant threat from scrub and climate change. We'll be sustaining this strong population by creating new seedling areas on new scrapes.
Beetles and bats
Over the past 20 years we've been removing conifers at Woodchester Park and returning the area to grassland. Now grazed by cattle, these areas provide the resident greater horseshoe bats with vital feeding grounds. The bats feed off insects and beetles found in the dung. Numbers of bats have doubled since we've been carrying out this habitat restoration work.
With the help from the Back from the Brink Project, we've been out surveying Rodborough Common for the rare Rugged Oil Beetle. Previous surveys have found them on other suitable habitats in the Cotswolds, there's no sign of them yet at Rodborough.
Even rarer is the Rock-rose Pot Beetle. It was last seen on Rodborough Common in the 1940s. We're hoping that the conservation work carried out as part of the project will encourage them back to the area.
Find out more
Please get in contact if you’re interested in finding out more about the Stroud landscape project.
For more information, email the Stroud landscape project team at email@example.com
Discover more about the conservation work at Minchinhampton and Rodborough Commons, in the Cotswolds. Learn how a rare blue butterfly made its return to the area.
Learn how the National Trust works in collaboration with the Minchinhampton and Rodborough Commons Advisory Committee to protect and conserve these areas for everyone, for ever.
Find out more about the funding the National Trust receives from grants, and the projects it has helped support.