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Attenborough's Wild Isles visits Gloucestershire grassland

The landmark BBC documentary pays a visit to the county to showcase an incredible insect comeback story

Episode three of Wild Isles pays a visit to Daneway Banks nature reserve, a site of unimproved limestone grassland co-owned by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust (GWT) and the Royal Entomological Society (RES).

Managed by GWT, the reserve has become world-renowned for its population of large blue butterflies, an endangered species that were once extinct here in the UK.

The sequence takes a closer look at the complex and unexpected relationship between the large blue and red ants, showing in minute detail the interconnectedness of our natural world.

Alan Sumnall, lead land manager east at Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, can't wait to see this intimate relationship close up,

"We'll get a chance to see the large blue's lifecycle like we've never seen it before, which is really exciting. The large blue's success story here at Daneway Banks is just one example of how our work to connect habitats across the county increases the resilience of species like the large blue.

"They're now naturally dispersing over a wider area and our management of the reserve is encouraging so many other species to thrive too. It's all about this joined-up approach."

Alan also noted that the work wouldn't be possible without the dedicated and knowledgeable volunteers who support the project,

"Our volunteers carry out regular checks on our grazing livestock and help to manage the habitat on the reserve. Once the butterflies are "on the wing" in early summer, volunteer large blue wardens patrol the site to ensure their safety. It's a real team effort."

David Simcox, conservation project manager at the Royal Entomological Society, is equally excited about the series,

"The success of the large blue at Daneway, which we're proud to co-own with Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, is a great tribute to partnership working and what science-based conservation can achieve. It's one of the most beautiful limestone grassland sites in the UK, festooned with wildflowers and alive with insects."

Having become extinct in the UK in 1979, the butterfly was originally reintroduced to a Somerset Wildlife Trust site in 1992. In the next phase of the project back in 2010, 300 large blue caterpillars were collected from Somerset and released at Daneway Banks. In 2022 the reserve was recorded as having the largest known population of large blue butterflies in the world.

Daneway Banks sits within one of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust's Nature Recovery Zones in the Golden Valley, where the charity are working with landowners and farmers to create large scale wildlife havens.

Filmed over the course of three years, Wild Isles investigates how the UK's woodland, grassland, freshwater and ocean habitats support wildlife of all kinds. Using the very latest technology, each episode captures dramatic and new behaviour across the British Isles, from battling butterflies to mighty killer whales on the hunt.

Episode three of Wild Isles airs on BBC One on Sunday (March 26) at 7pm.

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