Golf course becomes haven for butterflies in South Downs National Park

The Pyecombe golf course

A golf course in the South Downs National Park has become a haven for butterflies after 34 species were discovered living in the rough, including rare species such as the Adonis blue, brown hairstreak and grizzled skipper.

Groundskeepers at Pyecombe Golf Club, near Brighton in East Sussex, have been working with the national park authority to create the perfect habitat for wildflowers and insects.

Traditionally, when grassy areas are mown, the cuttings are left on the ground to decompose, which enriches the soil and encourages coarser grasses to dominate and outcompete wildflowers.

But the club has started using a “cut and collect” mower to ensure the soil does not become enriched.

Adonis blue butterflies have been found at the Pyecombe golf course Credit: Neil Hulme/South Down National Park Authority/PA

A spokesman for the park authority said: “Without the soil enrichment, the rare chalk grassland is maintained and a variety of wildflowers are able to grow and provide habitat for bees, butterflies and other insects.

“The National Park has also helped with the management of areas of scrub and woodland on the course, as well as conserving a flower-rich bank that’s now grazed by sheep.”

Now three detailed surveys carried out by consultant ecologist Neil Hulme have shown that the scheme has been a success.

He said: “Walking around this golf course is like walking through a nature reserve or one of the better Sites of Special Scientific Interest in Sussex.

“It’s a good job I’m not a golfer as I’d deliberately spend the entire round in the rough, which is packed with an amazing variety of stunning wildflowers such as round-headed rampion, horseshoe vetch, wild marjoram, common rock-rose and devil’s-bit scabious.”

Grizzled skippers are among the 34 different species of butterfly found at the site Credit: Charles Winchester/South Down National Park Authority/PA

Phillippa Morrison-Price, who is lead ranger for the area within the South Downs National Park, said: “The areas of chalk grassland are particularly valuable for the plants and insects they support.

“The club should be very proud of what it has achieved here, demonstrating that sporting facilities and some of our most precious wildlife can happily exist side by side.”

Simon Wells, head greenkeeper at Pyecombe, which was established in 1894, said: “We have been working together on this for many years.

“The roughs now can be truly stunning and the club members have taken a sense of ownership of them and understand how privileged we are to be custodians of all these rare and wonderful habitats. It’s great to see the fruits of our labour.”

The National Park spokesman added: “Chalk grassland, often called ‘Europe’s rainforest in miniature’, is an internationally-important habitat and was one of the reasons for the designation of the South Downs National Park in 2010.

“The National Park Authority is working with a variety of partners to help create and improve wildlife habitat through its ReNature initiative.”

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