Butterfly conservation project planned for Clapham Common

Clapham Common will welcome a large butterfly meadow in the coming months as part of a new environmental initiative.

The project is being primarily funded by Wild Clapham, a charity organisation set up by The Clapham Society and Friends of Clapham Common, with the aim of increasing biodiversity on the Common as well as bringing the local community closer to its growing wildlife population.

Already, Wild Clapham has completed a number of projects throughout the Common, planting 72 trees in 2021 and introducing large areas of scrubland with indigenous shrubs that provide an ideal habitat for bees and butterflies.

The significance of their new conservation project lies in the reality that 76% of the UK’s resident and regular migrant species of butterfly are currently in decline due to shifting patterns of climate and weather, as well as deterioration and destruction of habitat.

This is of great concern, not just for the butterfly species itself, but for the state of the environment as a whole, as butterflies are important indicators of more general biodiversity issues.

Adrian Darley, a member of the Wild Clapham committee who also runs a volunteer group for the wildlife area on the Common said: “I’ve lived locally for about 30 years and looking back on that period, Clapham Common was always great if you wanted to kick a football around, but really very low in biodiversity terms.”

For the most part, the Common is made up of amenity grassland with either flat grass or tree trunks covering around 80% of its surface, meaning it offers little for the surrounding wildlife.

The conservation project will involve removing around six inches of topsoil, before seeding the ground which will result in the growth of wildflowers.

According to Darley, this new project will also positively impact the local community in terms of mental health.

He said: “Since the beginning of the pandemic more people have been working from home and, as a result of this, are keen to spend their free time in the fresh air.

“This butterfly conservation project we’re working on will provide a dual benefit: not only will it improve biodiversity in Clapham Common, the increase in wildlife will also be more interesting and enjoyable for people to look at.”

Gareth James, a member of Friends of Clapham Common, who also sits on the Wild Clapham committee said: “The butterfly meadow will take a year or two to establish, but once it is up and running it will be really educational for both children, as well as grown-ups, to experience, and it will really help our declining butterfly and moth species.”

Lambeth Council have given their support for the project to go ahead and work will begin in March on the meadow which is to be located on the north edge of Windmill Drive.

Image credit: Wikimedia commons

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