by Ian Bushell
In 2017 a White-letter Hairstreak butterfly was recorded in the park. These beautiful butterflies are the emblem of Wiltshire Butterfly Conservation group. They feed on English or Wych Elms, which unfortunately over the past few years have been ravaged by Dutch Elm disease, leaving dead gaunt trees within some hedge lines.
Prior to lockdown, I managed to acquire some 15 Disease Resistant Elm saplings from Butterfly Conservation sources but before the Friends could get together and plant them we were locked down and not allowed to work in the park. The saplings remained at home, some planted out in the garden, others remaining in their bags and sheltered from the worst of the elements.
At last we have been able to get to the park and do some work. The saplings, stakes and tree guards are far too big and much too heavy to lift to the park in my car so Countryside Team Officer Vicky turned up with the County Land Rover and we managed to get them all in. As usual the Friends met up in the car park on Wednesday between 09:00 and 09:30 and different tasks handed out and taken up. One constant is Pat, who takes on the litter.
It had been decided that the saplings would supplement some of the dead and dying Elms in the hedge line running from the veteran Ash by the bridge between Sheep and Corn Fields just down from the picnic area to the hedge line between Sleeper and Corn Fields ending at Puddle Corner. It looked like an horrendous task trying to get through all the Blackthorn and Bramble growth to get to the old hedge line, but luck was with us. Cutting a channel through, we found that when we got to the top of the bank for the hedge, the line was fairly clear of Bramble so we could move along it and plant the saplings at regular intervals. It was interesting to see the amount of regeneration from the existing Elms; hopefully some of it might have developed resistance qualities, though it is more than likely much of it will die back again.
I reckon that was a gold star performance by the Friends this morning; I was really pleasantly surprised that we planted all 15 Disease Resistant Elms along the Sheep/Sleeper/Corn hedge line to reinforce the regeneration of the dead/dying Elms there. I had thought it might have been at least a two, if not three, working party task.
Now with a bit of luck we might encourage the White-letter Hairstreak to take up residence in the park.