Dukes Project

Duke of Burgundy butterflyThe Steyning Dukes and Downland Project was launched in 2014. A partnership project between the Steyning Downland Scheme, South Downs National Park Authority, Butterfly Conservation South East and Wakehurst Place, Kew, with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, we are working to reintroduce the rare and threatened Duke of Burgundy butterfly to the Steyning Downland. We’re also working with volunteers to monitor all the butterflies which can be found on the scheme and to propagate Cowslip and Primrose, which are the Duke’s food plants.

The project is headed up by Sarah Quantrill, Community Volunteering Officer. To find out more, or to join in, contact Sarah at: sdsvolunteers@gmail.com.

Here’s a press release from the start of the project in 2014:

‘One of Britain’s rarest butterflies has been handed a lifeline in Steyning, thanks to a conservation project between a local charity – The Steyning Downland Scheme (SDS), South Downs National Park Authority and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

‘The Duke of Burgundy butterfly is one of the most rapidly declining and threatened species of butterfly in the UK. Numbers have crashed by over 50% since the 1970s and only about 100 colonies remain. In 2003, only 8 Duke of Burgundy butterflies were seen in the whole of Sussex.

‘However there is hope for this dainty little butterfly. Over the next two years, the nature partners will be working with butterfly expert Neil Hulme and local conservation volunteers to encourage the Duke of Burgundy back to the chalk grasslands of the Steyning Downland.

‘Neil has been working hard for many years to encourage the butterfly to increase in Sussex and has already been successful in seeing it return to Chantry Hill, about 15 Km west of the Steyning Downland.

‘The next step is to bring the Dukes back to Steyning, working with the SDS volunteers to create the right habitat and plant Cowslip, which is their main food plant.

‘Sarah Quantrill, the Project Coordinator said ‘Local people are key to helping with the conservation work to bring the Duke back to Steyning. There will be opportunities to work with Wakehurst Place, Kew to collect Cowslip seed and grow Cowslip plants, to learn how to identify and monitor butterflies with Neil, and to conserve their habitat, working alongside others on the beautiful countryside of the Steyning Downland Scheme. ’

‘Tom Parry, South Downs National Park Ranger, said: “Chalk grassland is one of the most endangered habitats in the country and vital to the survival of rare wildlife such as the Duke of Burgundy. It’s exciting to be working with the Steyning Downland Scheme to increase the range of this important but threatened butterfly in the South Downs National Park.’