By Felicity Jackson
It started at the Friends of Allestree Park AGM on 12th October 2016. We had a very interesting talk by Ken Orpe, of Butterfly Conservation (and the Derbyshire County Recorder for Butterflies), on butterfly surveying, and butterfly numbers in the park in particular. He suggested we should set up a butterfly bank in the park – planted with food plants for the Common Blue primarily, and providing a basking place for a variety of species. The Common Blue has been really struggling in recent years, and hopefully this area of habitat might allow it to establish in the park.
We took this idea on board, and, together with Ken, went round the park to choose a site. Through his contacts Ken then organised the delivery of tons of limestone chippings (or ‘chatter’) and subsoil; all free of charge as they were industrial and agricultural by-products.
Early in 2017 the lorry-loads of soil and chippings were delivered.
On 22nd March digger and dumper trucks arrived (thanks, I gather, to David Winslow of Derby City Council Parks Dept.). It turned out to be just about the wettest day of the year. Dumper and digger drivers worked tirelessly, building up the long mound of subsoil (by now soggy, clinging clay) and topping it with the limestone chatter. The digger driver did his best to smooth the surface – and then tried to smooth over the ruts and ridges the trucks had made across the park!
So wet that day – then afterwards a long period of warm and practically drought conditions. The bank surface set hard like concrete, and bone dry. We ordered 75 little birds foot trefoil plants, which were delivered in April and nurtured by one of our committee members, Pat Sear, in her new greenhouse, while we wondered when conditions would ever be right for planting.
At the beginning of May we made up a small working party, and hacked into the hard rocky surface to put in the plants. We added a few Cinquefoil and wild strawberries. Would they survive? The forecast rain didn’t come, so several of us became Aquarians, bringing water in plastic milk bottles and keeping the plants watered over the next three weeks or so.
Rain did eventually come, and the plants have survived, grown and thrived. They flowered, attracting bees (but no blue butterflies as yet) and set seed. Occasionally a butterfly has been seen basking on the bank.
Still at an early stage, it’s looking good!
On 27th November 2017, at the Derby Green Spaces Annual awards & meeting evening, FoAP were given the 'Memorable Moment' award for the building of the butterfly
bank! I had organised the nomination but as I hadn't heard anything I assumed this hadn't been selected. What a nice surprise!
PHOTOS: Stages in the construction of the butterfly bank - March 22nd and July 2017...