Ryton Wood Meadows
A time-lapse video for Ryton Wood Meadows and Ryton Wood
September to December 2013 by Matthew Shepherd.
The Ryton Wood Meadows Butterfly Reserve is a 12.4 hectare 30 acre reserve is an old sand and gravel pit that had been used for landfill and capped with clay and topsoil. The developing grassland managed by Butterfly Conservation Warwickshire now supports breeding populations of 33 different butterfly species, including Grizzled Skipper, Dingy Skipper, Green Hairstreak and Brown Argus. Since regular recording began in 1990, it is thought that 35 species of butterfly have been resident or bred on this site. The Wall Brown is now thought to be extinct in large areas of the Midlands including the Ryton Wood Meadows reserve and Warwickshire as a whole.
Above: A female Cuckoo at Ryton Wood Meadows Reserve in 2011 - photo by Steve Batt.
Butterfly Conservation Warwickshire has agreed a 25 year lease for most of the site from the owners LaFarge, with a small part near the country park under a management only agreement. The Reserve was officially opened on the 28th May 2007 by Dr Martin Warren, Chief Executive of Butterfly Conservation and Mike Slater (Reserve Manager for Butterfly Conservation Warwickshire). The event was kindly supported by Barclays Bank and marked the 10th Anniversary of the Warwickshire Branch of Butterfly Conservation.
Butterflies, Moths and Fungi of Ryton Wood Meadows Reserve
History of the Ryton Wood Meadow site
In the 1960’s an area to the South East of the Leamington Road, Ryton was brought by Steetley Aggregates. The site included approximately 150 acres of farmland and approximately 100 acres of Ryton Wood. During the 1960’s to the early 1990’s the area was mined for sand and gravel resulting in the loss of between 40 to 60 acres of Ryton Wood.
From the late 1980’s through the 1990’s, the process of restoring the site commenced. The north east of the site was restored with inert building waste. The rest of the site was in-filled with household rubbish and then capped with sub-soil. The area where the building waste was dumped during the late 1980’s became colonised by a forest of Buddleia bushes. This became a great place to watch butterflies in the late summer especially for migrant species. During the tidying up process the site was bulldozed and levelled in the winter of 1990/91. As a consequence all the Buddleia bushes were lost. In 1995 the site was finally closed as a landfill site although further restoration work still had to take place.
Site ownership changed twice first from Steetley Aggregates to Redland and then to LaFarge. Throughout this time, all three companies allowed a full butterfly and day-flying moth transect survey to take place starting in 1990 and conducted by Mike Slater. This allowed Mike to fully assess the site importance for butterflies and moths. Once the site's importance was realised the owners were notified.
Above: Volunteers sponsored by Barclays planting wild flowers on our reserve.
Thanks to this liaison, suggestions were made to Redland on how the site should be restored. It was also suggested that the site should be sown with a wild flower seed mix and Mike managed to specify the type of wild flower seed mix to be used. Approximately half the site has been sown with a wild flower seed mix in two areas. A further quarter of the site had been colonised naturally and the last quarter of the site was left fallow. The boundary between Ryton Country Park has also been planted with a native hedgerow mix. In 2000 and 2001 minor management work was commenced by cutting a series of paths through the North East of the site. In 2003 more extensive mowing and raking of areas was started to prepare the site to become a nature reserve.
The reserve has since seen some major developments. It has now been fenced in order to create a series of paddocks where Longhorn Cattle and Sheep graze creating the perfect habitat for grassland butterflies.
Left: Longhorn Cattle graze on our reserve in July 2011. Grazing is an essential part of the management of the site. Photo copyright Terry Southgate 2018 .
Ryton Wood SSSI
Just south of our reserve is Ryton Wood, a 258 acre 105 hectare SSSI most of which is owned by the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust with some parts leased for 999 years from ARC Aggregates Ltd. Ryton Wood is one of Warwickshire's largest surviving semi-natural ancient woodlands with Oak, Hazel and Small-leaved Lime coppice. It is important for butterflies supporting several key species including Silver-washed Fritillary, Wood White, White Admiral and Purple Emperor.
Ryton Wood is part of an important group of woodlands in the area. These woodlands are collectively known as the Princethorpe Woodland Complex with our reserve at Ryton Wood Meadows at its heart.