Forest of Flowers, 


Private Biodiversity Project

Site Description

Recorders: David and  Jenny Rhodes, Jess Chappell and Alwyn Craven                  Altitude 20m                 Distance:  3020m.                 Walk Time 1-1.5hours

Forest of Flowers Huby, York is a private nature reserve previously a farm now devoted to restoring nature and is largely the vision of Alwyn Craven. This GradeB land proved agriculturally unproductive and the big decision was made not to farm. After deep inversion ploughing to a depth of 1 metre to bring the subsoil to the surface  this new 74-acre woodland and wildflower meadow was planted in 2015. The project has planted 42,000 trees and shrubs, along with 35 native wildflower species and now has a specialised wetalnd arae (near s3) with 15 ponds. Only the original pasture field (S1) has been retained 



Section 1  starts near th house with a mix of garden and then woodland edge of the old pasture field which had the largest counts of Ringlet and Meadow Brown and Small Skipper. 

Into S2 and we start to see Common Blue in  more numbers due to the quantity of Bird foot trefoil but also  Large Skipper enjoys the longer grasses.  

S3 is more woodland  and  hedge  with a big peak in Speckled Wood . 

S4 along the east side of the hedgeline  is the particualr favourite of the Gatekeeper and all the other browns but also Peacocks.  

S5 is similar but the Small Tortoiseshells favourite. 

S6 is the favourite of both the cabbage whites. 

Wall has been seen in S7


County wide 2023 results reflect  the 2022 and  2023 spring heat & drought with Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock nearly halved for the second year against their 5 year average. Red Admiral arrived in force in July and took advantage of soft nettle growth of the rains and had their best year ever. Drought sensitive species on thin soils were badly hit,  particularly Dark -green Fritillary and Northern Brown Argus but also Ringlet, Green-viened White and Small Heath.  Less drought affected species along with the hottest June on record built even more on gains last year leading to Comma, Brimstone, Holly Blue and most Browns  having a fantastic year reaching all time highs. A increase of 9% overall was mostly due to sheer numbers of Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers ment 2023 nearly pipped 2014 as best year in modern times.  Most noticeable was the large differeces between moisiture retaining mineral soils of the valleys and thin, dry limestone or sandy soils. A large number of damp grassland, hedgerow and woodland  dominated sites benefitted hugely with 3 sites seeing more than 50% increase . A smaller number of thin, chalky, sandy or craggy sites did badly some down up to 25%.

The Forest of Flowers  even with its patchy thin sandy soils saw a nice increase in numbers equalling the county average and species trends roughly follow the county  ones .  Skippers and Whites were mixed but there does seem to be a decline in Small Skipper numbers a species that favours long grass. Brimstone numbers doubling again thisyear is very common.  Nice to see the Purple Hairstreaks coming down from their lofty Oaks to be spotted as they usually we dont see them when they are feeding on Honeydue on tree tops but this year this has been  washed off.  Another Marbled White visitor again this year brings promise as this species is now becoming much more widespread  in the Vale of York and in southen england a countryside butterfly while only a few year  ago it was confined to the Wolds in Yorkshire. The Wall is really good news that it is breeding here and although it has been a poor year for this species it has persisted and was relatively easy to spot  and has made around the old farm its home.  The big winners,  adding 500, to the counts,  was the boom in Gatekeeper and Meadow Brown but also universally this was balanced by the steep decline of   eacock and Small Tortoiseshell. The boom in Comma  almost equally the huge increase in Red Admirals  both having remarkable years. Speckled Wood also doubled. Common Blue continues to increase and Brown Argus has also made it home now . Ringlets numbers  were however well down which was almost universal across the county  due to last years drought. 

Transect reports


Counts are down 15% this year mostly as a results of both Meadow Brown and Ringlet being down which bucks the trend  in Yorkshire where mostly sites have see increases.  Gatekeeper was, however, up as it was pretty much universally and great to see  Marbled White appear for the very first time but not surprised as it seems to have popped up in some numbers in what appears to be a big dispersal year. 

Wall Brown also appeared in numbers after the very first last year. This is also had a good year in many places which is good news for a endangered species . The Tortoiseshell and Peacock had a bad year universally.  The skippers were alos pretty much universally down across the county while Orange Tip and Brimstone showed increases in most localities. Good to see an increase in Common Blue and Small Copper which have had poor years in recent times 


Overall numbers were down somewhat especially the Skippers and the Whites and the Vanessids which is not unlike most transects this year. Mainatining their numbersor improving were Brimstone and orange tips which is in accordance with other transects Most encouraging is teh big increase in common blue which bucks the trends ekleswhere and is very welcome. Gatekeeper also saw a large increase  as were ringlets and togther compensated for the losses elewhere.