The Cotswolds are the largest of Britain's 36 Areas
of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Crammed with gentle valleys, pretty villages and
undulating hills, they're a tourist hotspot during the summer months, not least
of all because of the rolling grasslands around Stroud and Slad.
and Stroud Valleys - stunning scenery and rare creatures|
The Slad and Stroud Valleys are amongst the most scenic and wildlife-rich
areas of the Cotswolds.
It's where Laurie Lee wrote his famous novel, Cider
with Rosie, and it retains much of its historic character.
Among its interesting
wildlife are two creatures that are elusive and much sought-after.
Blue butterfly can be spotted flitting around the valleys during the summer months.
the area is also a magnet for Badgers which are easier to see than you might expect
- providing you join a local Badger safari.
its small size, the Adonis Blue butterfly can be easily spotted due to its striking
blue, iridescent colour.
This stunning butterfly is on the conservation
priority list, having struggled to survive changes in farming and land use over
the last few decades.
It went into a huge decline across its Southern grassland
haunts and became extinct from the slopes of the Stroud valleys in the Cotswolds
about 50 years ago.
A big reason for their decline was the collapse of the
rabbit population when mixymatosis came to Britain.
The rabbits kept the
grassland grazed and at the right level for the butterfly and plants to flourish,
but when they disappeared, the right habitat structure for the butterflies was
The nearest surviving colony is believed to be have been in the middle
of the roundabout at the junction of the M4.
to conservation and land management, the Adonis Blue is now making a comeback.
of the reasons why it is flourishing could be to do with a motorway junction on
A motorway seems an unlikely place to find a rare butterfly
but it provides a perfectly protected nature reserve.
During the good summer
of 2003 the species suddenly reappeared in the Cotswolds.
The only adult
butterflies that were near enough to fly to the area and re-colonise it were from
the population at Junction 18 on the M4.
The National Trust has introduced
cows to graze on the grassland at the right time of year.
is kept at just the right height, much as it was when there was a large rabbit
As a result of this, when the butterflies turned up from the
M4, they had a ready made habitat to colonise.
It's now possible to watch
these stunning butterflies every summer.
Blues love lowland Jurassic limestone grasslands, over 80% of which are found
in the Cotswolds.
The limestone is rich in calcium and plants love it,
resulting in a great diversity of species plus a bountiful mix of insects and
If you want to enjoy the Adonis Blue in a relaxing setting,
Rodborough Common is a place to spot them.
The butterflies have a peak
flight period when a maximum number of adults are on the wing - this actually
happens twice every summer as two broods hatch.
The first brood appear
in May with the second in August.
The male butterflies are blue whilst the
females are a dowdier brown/black.
When they mate, they lay their eggs
on a plant called Horse Shoe Vetch which lies very close to the ground, which
allows for a strange but symbiotic relationship between the larvae and ants.
larvae secrete a sugary substance that the ants like to feed on whilst the ants
protect the caterpillar and chrysalis from predators.
Both sides benefit
- the ants get food whilst the pupae are given protection.
have been a constant presence in the Slad and Stroud valleys.
these animals involves a lot of waiting around, careful camouflaging and very
But local Badger watching events provide a unique
way of showing the public these shy animals.
Look out for tell-tale signs
such as Badger poo and latrines or toilets.
Badgers are very clean and
will dig a latrine away from the sett and only poo in this area.
their living area clean and also acts a boundary marker to other rival groups
who may be tempted to stray into their territory.
Photograph of Adonis Blue and Rodborough
courtesy and copyright of Natural England and Peter Wakely.
of the Cotswolds copyright of Paul Glendell and Natural England.