We have spent a lot of time in this first six months getting to grips with the project and putting in place plans for the next few years. This has meant lots of meetings and site visits and for me (being completely new to the area), generally getting to know the Cotswolds!

As I’m sure most of you are aware by now, our project aims to help restore and manage a network of limestone grassland sites across the Cotswolds AONB. We have a list of 30 rare and threatened target species which include butterflies, bees and bats among many others - all of which rely on this habitat in one way or another. Our work therefore aims to help bring these species “Back from the Brink” of extinction and improve their conservation prospects for the future.

We also aim to get as many people as possible involved, either on practical habitat management work parties or with surveying for our target species. Over the next 3 and a half years there will be many opportunities for people to learn about our target species and help us survey for them. This is vital for us to know how they are currently faring as well as to help us track the impacts of habitat management.

As we only started in post towards the end of summer we unfortunately missed the opportunity to run training workshops for those species active in the spring and summer months, however we still managed to fit one in this year!
We held our first survey training workshop back in November for one of our primary target species - the Rugged Oil Beetle. This was led by Buglife and John Walters, a national beetle expert, in conjunction with Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and Natural England. We had a great turn out for this and a number of us have now started to survey new sites to learn more about this species’ distribution. You can read more about the Rugged Oil Beetle in my previous blog. 

While the majority of our species survey work will begin in earnest next year, our practical work parties are already in full swing. Julian, our Conservation Officer has been working closely with Natural England and the Cotswold Voluntary Wardens at a number of sites removing scrub to help keep these special grassland sites open. Work using contractors to remove scrub on a site where the Rock-rose Pot Beetle is found has also taken place this December. This is another of our primary target species which is now only found at four sites in England, two of which are here in Gloucestershire.

More practical work is planned for the New Year, as are many more training workshops so here’s to an exciting and busy 2018!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!

Jennifer Gilbert

Community Engagement Officer.