Guest blog – Save the Dukes of the North York Moors by Steve Bamford


Steve Bamford writes: I am an amateur naturalist and volunteer recorder/worker of Butterfly Conservation.







This is a plea for donations, no matter how small, to save an iconic species of butterfly that is just holding on after years of decline in an area where it used to be abundant not so long ago. This is the Duke of Burgundy butterfly, a specialised species that loves calcareous grasslands and coppiced woodlands and its caterpillars host plants are the cowslip and primrose.  The reason for the decline is from changes in land use, cessation of coppicing and the planting of conifers which in turn shades out populations and also isolates colonies which die out due to genetic instability.  We need to reverse this decline and restore its preferred habitat, which also benefits many other species of wildlife before it is lost for good.

Within the North Yorkshire Moors the ‘Duke’ inhabits two areas: the Helmsley network and the Pickering network.  The population around Pickering which I have been monitoring over the last 8 years is desperately low and is only present at two sites.  Thankfully Butterfly Conservation has stepped in and with limited funds has managed to widen some rides, start coppicing and manage scrub levels which, if they hadn’t of, this butterfly would have been lost already.  Funding is needed to carry on this great work and there is also a plan for a re introduction to an extinct site which has public access so many can enjoy its return.


An area of woodland already coppiced and occupied be the ‘Duke’;


Coppice which will be worked on shortly


Even the smallest donation (click here) will be much appreciated and hopefully in years to come the ‘Duke’ will still be with us. All donations must be made before 09:30 on Monday 27 February.





Thanks must go out to Dr Dave Wainwright (Butterfly Conservation North of England Officer) and to Robert Parks for their efforts so far in organising work days,

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8 Replies to “Guest blog – Save the Dukes of the North York Moors by Steve Bamford”

  1. Thanks for your work. A great indicator re species-rich ancient grassland down south.
    A fab insect and a teaser: the male appears to have only four legs.
    Good luck.

  2. Good work, best of luck. It will be interesting to see how as beavers hopefully spread things go as they interact with a growing number of species. The coppicing they do might just help species like the DoB and the capercaillie which at the moment seem to require at least a degree of human intervention to keep their habitat suitable. They might affect a surprising amount of land adjacent to watercourses.

  3. Thanks to everyone who has donated! In 24 hours the amount has nearly doubled and is now very close to £8000 well over the minimum target. Amazing stuff! And thank you Mark for posting my blog. I think I owe you a pint!!!

  4. Another "iconic" species. So many iconic things these days. I am not a big fan of conservation that focuses on protecting one specific species by "managing" habitat. , especially one like this that seems reliant on man chopping down, coppicing trees and removing that NASTY scrub.( Conservationists hate scrub with a vengeance in case you didn't know.) The pictures show lots of nice young deciduous woodland, nature is obviously reclaiming its own and the man-made habitat this butterfly has relied on is going. It all seems very strange to me, rewilding is a popular concept, but few conservationists really want it do they? More "ironic" than "iconic".

  5. You make a good argument and I do agree with you up to a point. I believe rewilding is a good thing and should be brought into more areas but I believe managing habitats/areas and rewilding can exist side by side to create an even more diverse ecological structure.

    As for the woods near Pickering only a very small part of a vast wood is being managed and many areas are unmanaged or are commercial forestry on cycles so by creating this mix many different species can survive here in a range of habitats.

    As for scrub levels, they do occasionally need selective management to help a range of wildlife and by coppicing you are creating scrub/shrub layers of different heights but I do agree with you that on some reserves especially calcareous grassland sites that scrub is managed too heavily. Scrub is good!


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