Posts Tagged ‘conservation volunteers’

Butterflies on BBC Berkshire again

23 November, 2010

It’s good to see that we still make the local headlines with our butterfly conservation work. (Newbury Weekly News, Oxfordshire Nature Conservation Forum, LINK to BBC Berkshire story… )

But we need volunteers too – so please come along on Saturday or Monday (or both!) to be part of our campaigns for nature at the farm. Pass the word to anyone you know in the Wantage – Lambourn valley – Hungerford area. Thank you!

 Full event details here…


NEW Nature Volunteer Group!

1 February, 2010

Would you like to join our wildlife projects? Help us to manage and monitor the natural heritage of the beautiful Lambourn Downs, on the border of Oxfordshire and Berkshire. As a nature conservation volunteer you’ll be able to enjoy an outdoor experience in a very special area of the English countryside.

We are starting a new group for nature conservation volunteers, which will meet on a Monday.

Sheepdrove Organic Farm is blessed with small pockets of ancient woodland and chalk grassland, on a farm converted to organic when Peter and Juliet Kindersley bought the land in the late 1990s.

Cowslips on Bockhampton Down (click to enlarge)Peter and Juliet share a passion for Nature. So biodiversity is a cornerstone of the working farm, and much has been done to create and enhance habitats for wildlife. Vast lengths of new hedges now span the land, linking new and old woodland. Water sparkles in ponds and reedbeds. Wild flowers abound on Bockhampton Down.

If you are interested in joining in with this story of a farm working with Nature – not against it – please let us know. We will soon set a calendar of task days, but until then, here are the details of our first session…

Task day

Monday 22 Feb 2010

Bird and Bat Box Installation
10am – 3pm

We have dozens of new boxes, and the race is on to get them up in time for the breeding season! Please join us at the farm for our very first volunteer day. (If it rains, the plan is to shelter in a barn and make even more boxes!)

Where to meet

The farm office, at the front of Sheepdrove Eco Conference Centre, Sheepdrove Road, Lambourn, Berkshire.  Directions and map here… (link)

What to bring

Please bring a packed lunch – we will picnic on the farm! Wear sensible shoes or boots – or even wellies. Bring clothes to suit any weather.

Contact us

Please tell us if you’re coming, so we know what numbers to expect. Call Jason Ball on 01488 674727. Email:

Hippocrepis, Succisa, Anthyllis

23 September, 2009

Over the last week we have been working hard for wildlife. Staff and volunteers established Horseshoe Vetch (Hippocrepis comosa), Devils-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis) and Kidney Vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria) to enhance habitat for butterflies at Sheepdrove Organic Farm.

Sheepdrove staff plant Devils-bit Scabious

Sheepdrove staff plant Devils-bit Scabious

Can it be as simple as adding flowers?
What is special about these plants?

Jason Ball explains, “Yes, these are very important plants! They are special because each is food for the caterpillar of a rare butterfly. Horseshoe Vetch is essential for Adonis Blue and Chalkhill Blue, Devilsbit Scabious is the favourite of Marsh Fritillary, and Kidney Vetch is vital for Small Blue.”

This is all part of Sheepdrove Rare Butterly Project, launched in partnership with Natural England, Butterfly Conservation, BBOWT, Pang Kennet and Lambourn Valley Countryside Projects, Forestry Commission and Flora Locale to develop a scheme to save some of the rarest lepidopterans in the Lambourn area.

“All of these butterflies are in need of help. Marsh Fritillary is almost extinct from Berkshire with only one colony left, which is located in the Lambourn Valley.”

“However, putting wildflowers around the farm is not enough – we must manage the habitat to suit the ecological needs of the target species we are trying to bring back. This is the task of our fine beef cattle!”

Devils-bit Scabious at Cockcrow Bottom

Devils-bit Scabious at Cockcrow Bottom

Cattle grazing reduced the height and dominance of rough grasses at Cockcrow Bottom, our 2.2 hectare project area near the lake. Devils-bit Scabious has thrived here, and is in flower now. Grazing also maintained the short swards at Bockhampton Down where the 4.18 hectare project area includes a young woodland with open habitat zones.

Our potted scabious proved to be tough in surviving dry summer periods, and next year they should flower well, if we can keep the rabbits off them. Sheep will be excluded altogether and the cattle grazing will be stopped early in August to allow the scabious a full flowering season.

Horseshoe Vetch goes into the chalkpit

Horseshoe Vetch goes into the chalkpit

Dig for Butterflies here! 22 Sept 2009

14 September, 2009

Tuesday 22 Sept 2009, 2pm – 5pm
Butterfly conservation task at Sheepdrove

Foodplants for Marsh Fritillary toasted by Peter Kindersley, Bob Anderson, Jason Ball, Chris Blunt, Phil Robbshaw

Foodplants for Marsh Fritillary toasted by Peter Kindersley, Bob Anderson, Jason Ball, Chris Blunt, Phil Robbshaw

It’s the Autumnal Equinox on 22 September, when day length equals night, and the days shorten from now on. Make the most of the daylight! Join us on a butterfly conservation task, as part of the Sheepdrove Rare Butterfly Project.

Be part of our ambitious plans – dig for butterflies! Help to plant 40 potted Devils-bit Scabious to attract Marsh Fritillary plus 120 Horseshoe Vetch to attract Chalkhill Blue. This is the next stage of the work that volunteers have kindly helped us to achieve.

“We aim to establish the most southern colony of Marsh Fritillary in Oxfordshire and the second colony known in Berkshire!” announces Jason Ball, who devised the Sheepdrove Rare Butterfly Project.

“The Lambourn Valley is an important part of the country for rare butterflies. The habitat needed by many butterflies have been nudged to the periphery of towns and industrialised farmland. We are fortunate at Sheepdrove Organic Farm to have the chance to recover some of the numbers of species such as the Marsh Fritillary, Small Blue and Chalkhill Blue.”

marsh fritillary (c) jasonpball

Marsh Fritillary needs new colonies to escape local extinction

“The owners, Peter and Juliet Kindersley, have lived nearly 40 years in the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and took to heart the cause of biodiversity conservation long ago. They restored 75 hectares of flower-rich downland which is the foundation for our latest Lepidopteran ambitions for Sheepdrove Rare Butterfly Project, funded by the Kindersleys and Natural England.”

  • Light refreshments provided.
  • Please be prepared for changing weather. Wear tough outdoor footwear and clothes. Bring gardening gloves if you have them.
  • Meet at the farm office, Sheepdrove Organic Farm, Sheepdrove Road, Lambourn. Map and directions at

Contact Jason Ball on 01488 674727.


As seen at the Berkshire Biodiversity newsletter 2009 in the Newbury Weekly News and on the BBC Berkshire nature pages.

Help us plant pots of hope

17 April, 2009
Foodplants for Marsh Fritillary toasted by Peter Kindersley, Bob Anderson, Jason Ball, Chris Blunt, Phil Robbshaw

Foodplants for Marsh Fritillary toasted by Peter Kindersley, Bob Anderson, Jason Ball, Chris Blunt, Phil Robbshaw

marsh fritillary (c) jasonpballThese plants might not look like much yet, but these are pots of hope for the Marsh Fritillary butterfly. Devilsbit Scabious is the caterpillar food plant for Marsh Fritillary. This spectacularly patterned insect has lost many colonies and is in danger of extinction at the Lambourn Downs, it’s last foothold in Berkshire.

“We are planting extra food for the caterpillars of Marsh Fritillary.” Explains Jason Ball, manager for biodiversity and alternative energy at Sheepdrove. “Plentiful patches of these plants and sensitive grazing are the keys to securing the future for Marsh Fritillary on the local downland.”

Find out more…

We need your help – 28 April 2009

Be part of the start and join us for the launch of this special butterfly project. We have 400 pots to plant into the target area at Bockhampton Down.

10.00 am – Welcome, tea and coffee.
10.30 am – Planting begins. Meet at the Red Barn, grid ref SU348816 
12.30 pm – Task ends. Why not bring a picnic and enjoy the view?

Please bring a spade if you have one, garden gloves and sturdy footwear. Be ready for any weather.

Locationclick here 
Sheepdrove Organic Farm, Sheepdrove Road, Lambourn, Berks. RG17 7UU.

Contact details:
Please tell us you’re coming – call Jason Ball on 01488 674727