I'm thrilled to say we've got a special guest blog this week from one of our fabulous wardening volunteers Anne Craven, all about a very important job she and a gang of other fantastic volunteers carry out at this time of year - bracken pulling! So why do they do it? Read on to find out.........


Warton Crag is a nearby area of limestone grassland, managed for some very important butterflies including high brown fritillaries, pearl bordered fritillaries and small pearl bordered fritillaries. In the summer we head up Warton Crag to pull bracken from some sunny slopes, to let the sunlight flood onto violets (which are the food plant for the larvae of fritillary butterflies), brambles, hawkweeds, birds-foot trefoil, selfheal, tormentil, dandelion, buttercups and thistles, all of which are some of the nectar plants for these rare butterflies. If we didn't do this, then the bracken would just dominate the area, these plants would not be able to grow and there would not be much food for the butterflies and their larvae.

  Warton Crag with lots of bracken needing to be pulled. 'Before' photo by Chris Craven

When pulling the stems near the bottom, there is a satisfying “tock ”as it separates from the ground. When a few of us are doing it and there is a lull in our chatter, it sounds like horses or cows grazing!

  Me and the rest of the bracken pulling team. Image by Chris Craven

  A successfully cleared area! 'After' photo by Chris Craven

In the past bracken had many uses, such as in soap making, tanning, glass making, animal bedding and fertilizer. Now the Japanese and Koreans eat it and it is being researched for use in new insecticides. Also sheep ticks love it, so you have to check yourself for them after a session - I think that would be a step too far in giving nature a home!

When we've pulled it, we just pile it in heaps to rot down. The morning snack and lunchtime are eagerly awaited - our stomachs adamant that it is later than our watches tell us! Our picnic lunches are enjoyed sitting on the grass in the sunshine with a peaceful view like this:

  Peaceful view by Chris Craven

Up on the Crag there is always something different to see or hear; always lots of fun and laughter. One afternoon bracken pulling earlier this year, we were asked if we could be a little quieter whilst Iolo Williams was filming pearl-bordered fritillaries for a Welsh program! Richard our Warden jokingly said that we were obviously having too much fun.

  High brown fritillary by David Mower

  Small pearl bordered fritillary by David Mower 

Huge thanks to Anne for this fantastic look into some of the behind the scenes work taking place here to help give nature a home!

You can help butterflies where you are by taking part in the Big Butterfly Count.