Wiltshire Wildlife Trust says a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to save the endangered marsh fritillary butterfly has arisen.
Critically, marsh fritillaries need devil's bit scabious, a pretty, purple flowering plant often found in damp hay meadows, in order to lay their eggs and provide food for the caterpillars.
Now, with the opportunity to purchase land at Upper Minety Meadows, next to the Trust’s existing nature reserve at Emmett Hill in the Braydon Forest, a much wider site can be managed in perpetuity to provide much-needed habitat for the butterfly, allowing its population in north Wiltshire to recover.
Ellie Jones, Reserves Manager (north) for Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, said: “I am delighted that we finally have an opportunity to protect the future of this beautiful and iconic species in North Wiltshire.
"By creating a new nature reserve at Upper Minety Meadows, we will provide suitable habitat for marsh fritillaries, but also a range of other species of conservation concern, such as forester moth, kestrel and serotine bat.
"The chance to acquire this land is unlikely to present itself again in our lifetimes, so we desperately need the public’s support.”
Ann Skinner, former Senior National Conservation Advisor to the Environment Agency, said: "Having watched similar meadows in the Braydon Forest area being sprayed, ploughed and re-seeded in 2020, I know just how important and urgent it is for the land adjacent to Emmett Hill, which is not currently protected, to be bought by the Trust.
"Please join me in helping the Trust secure these beautiful flower-rich meadows, quadrupling the size of their existing nature reserve and managing it for the benefit of wildlife and future generations."
The Trust has a conditional offer under the Landfill Communities Fund which will cover much of the land purchase price, but needs to raise £49,200 to reach the full amount needed.
These funds are urgently required to buy the 44 acres of meadows before the end of February 2021, and donations can be made at www.wiltshirewildlife.org/braydon-forest