While strolling with my dog in Sydenham Woods last Spring, I bumped into Angela Wilkes who told me that the Dulwich Society was keen to enhance the biodiversity of Dulwich Park and had encouraged a 10 metre wide cordon sanitaire of unmown grass around the park's perimeter which was a big step in the right direction.
My interest was aroused and I volunteered to carry out a butterfly survey of the park during 2006. It seemed a good idea to also do a botanical survey at the same time to provide a context for the presence or absence of butterflies in the park. The survey was carried out on three occasions in May, June and July. I had hoped to find 17 butterfly species and, in the event, recorded 15, a promising start in the first year of the survey. I am confident that Common Blue and Peacock butterflies breed in the area if the park even if they failed to materialise this year.
The botanical survey yielded an interesting mix of herbaceous plants of wasteland and several garden escapees including a lovely stand of Honesty favoured by Orange Tip Butterflies. The consequence of excessive mowing for many years was reflected in the narrow range of plants and trees and shrubs offered greater promise. There is no doubt that if the more relaxed regime of recent years is maintained the number of species will increase slowly.
I sent the data from the botanical survey to Angela Wilkes and, to my pleasant surprise received a very generous donation from the Dulwich Society in favour of "Butterfly Conservation". At the most recent meeting of our Surrey/SW London Group the Dulwich Society donation was discussed and it was agreed to add it to some branch funding to buy a cow, probably a Dexter, to augment the small herd of about 20 Dexters currently grazing Denbies Hillside and Ranmore. This location on the North Downs close to Dorking is one of the country's best-known butterfly hot-spots. Much of it is National Trust land and they, with their team of highly trained wardens, will care for the new addition to the herd.
When further details of the new cow are available I will update you and hopefully, next summer, you can make the journey to Denbies, see some wonderful butterflies and say "Hello" to the newest addition to the herd.
Malcolm Bridge - Butterfly Recorder for Surrey/SW London Branch of Butterfly Conservation