Wenthillside

Wenthillside is a privately owned and managed eleven acre conservation site in West Yorkshire. Butterfly Conservation members can visit the land most times by prior arrangement (as it is fenced and has locked gates). It is located about 2 miles South of the M62/A1 crossroads and half a mile NW of Wentbridge on Moor lane grid ref. SE4718. Sat nav. postcode for Moor lane Wentbridge WF8 3JN Off road parking on grass is available and there are several log seats around the site for either picnicking or just observing.

The majority bought in 2013 and the lower field in 2017, mostly down to rough un-farmed grass with several small areas of trees and scrub, the lower 3.3 acre field bare agricultural destined to be a wildflower meadow. A SW facing magnesium limestone hillside with a large and varied wildlife content. To date 23 different species of butterfly, 19 regularly, including a large colony of Marbled White and several Purple Hairstreak. 53 species of moth, 166 species of plants and flowers, 44 species of fungi and 34 species of grasses/sedges long with 22 species of trees and bushes with much more to be discovered and documented.

All the boundaries are being gradually hedged with a variety of trees and bushes to further encourage biodiversity and to give some protection from our Westerly winds. Several access paths have been made but many areas are steep and uneven with occasional rabbit holes and areas of nettle/thistle and blackberry.

From the hilltop there are long distant views both West to the Pennines and East to the many wind turbines in the Humber area.

During early summer 2013, with little or no Westerly winds, saw a Ringlet population in the thousands on one day but the winds since have limited numbers to the low hundreds in any one day. Scrub removal at the lower part of the hill has seen skipper and Meadow Brown numbers increase with definite Essex Skipper on site. Spring sees large areas of Bluebells which bring in Brimstones and recent plantings of buckthorn will hopefully encourage a permanent population. Spring also sees large numbers of Orange-tip on the plentiful hedge mustard and all three whites are common a little later in the year.

Update March 2022

Upper field.

During last summer it was necessary to build a second stock fence along the side of the entire NE boundary roughly parallel to the original boundary fence because of vandalism and inconsiderate dog owners. This has then segregated the public footpath from the majority of the land. Summer saw good numbers of most butterfly species with the special sight of a mating pair of silver-washed fritillary, that’s 22 species breeding onsite. Moth species seen now 167 and as I’m nearly mobile with the moth trap I hope to raise that number greatly. This winter all of the grass areas planned to be cut, have been and a couple of fire break paths. Several areas of yellow rattle seed spread, fingers crossed. Planted primroses are spreading well and more new clumps planted in a second area. Violets and birds foot trefoil doing really well. Oxeye daisy grown from seed last year are being transplanted now. A couple of new log seats have been made. As my legs are the same length I’ve been cross-leveling some of the paths running horizontally. This will be a reasonably long term task but extremely beneficial as slope averages around 1 in 3.

Lower meadow.

On suggestion from the VC63 botanical recorder the lower meadow has been mostly “left to develop”. This has become a bit too rank with greater willowherb, thistles, large grasses and docks dominating large areas. So, an ongoing task of carefully reducing/controlling these plants, but not eradicating. Was good for some, 12+ pairs of whitethroat nested along with mallard, pheasant, partridge and several other small species. Thistles were a fantastic nectar source and generally butterfly numbers were up with exception of brown argus that nearly disappeared. Wide paths have been cut through dividing area into various shapes and sizes and created several large piles of cuttings, some taller than me and 4m diameter. The ground is extremely stony and these are being removed where they are sticking up and may damage machinery during future cutting times. These are then being used to create several stone areas as different environments and also a back support for a small pond being built on the sloping ground. Brushwood from scrub control and some supplied by a tree surgeon friend have been used to created several wood piles and also a “dead hedge” to screen a hide overlooking the eventual pond. Kidney vetch, birds foot trefoil, primroses and others previously planted are all natualising well. The buckthorns are coming on but no evidence of brimstone breeding yet.

General

Plant/flower species now 185, trees/shrubs now 24, grasses/sedges 33 and fungi 72 This winter another 112 hedge/trees planted bringing total to nearly 2,700 since 2014. The gales took out three very mature hawthorn from the NW boundary, a shame and some fence repairs were needed. Two more access routes have been built between lower meadow and top field giving a total of four. I’ve set out a butterfly transect to start this year, a “minus 1” walk last Sunday yielded 4 peacock, 4 small tortoiseshell and 2 comma.

Update October 2020

Fortunately, even during the lockdown, Wenthillside is so close to home I have been able to visit constantly and enjoy/work/observe and record there in isolation. There have been massive improvements and a few small losses in numbers of different species. Herbaceous cover in the lower meadow has increased dramatically with a fantastic amount of nectar sources over a long period with similar increases of insects, birds and mammals.The hedged boundaries are growing well but there are a few replacements required as the very warm dry spring caused some losses of last winter’s plantings. The Alder Buckthorn plants are still small and have not yet attracted breeding Brimstones which pass through in spring.

Speckled Wood numbers have been very low most of the season but late August has seen a return of reasonable numbers but below average. Holly Blue not been seen this year and as everywhere Painted Lady only seen occasionally.

Large Skipper peak was during the wet period and numbers were low but spread over a longerseason than usual, Small and Essex both similar to last year and one sighting of Dingy Skipper which

I’m trying to encourage in from the adjacent land along with Common Blue (several sightings) by planting Birds-foot Trefoil.

Marbled White peak 200+, Ringlet peak 200+, Gatekeeper peak 100+ all similar to last year. Whites are hard to estimate as they do not land for long, but Orange-tip 50+ at peak, Large White, mostly absent last year, recovered this year to 30+. Small White similar at 50+ and Green-veined up at 30+. Peacocks have done really well with summer peak of 50+, Red Admirals at 20+ and Brown Argus rocketed to 50+. Small Tortoiseshell appear to have had two summer broods as there were two separate emergences giving an increase from last year to 30+. Dark Green Fritillary numbers are up with three seen at once and seven in the SSSI across the road also singletons on adjacent hillside. Silver-washed Fritillary were singletons but two different individuals were seen as one had wing damage.

Moths - noted absences (probablyme not looking), Green Carpet, SilverGround Carpet and Blackneck. Yellow Shell numbers have rocketed and Blood-vein are now seen frequently. Crescent Plume and Cinnabar seenregularly; Silver Y are everywhere.

The year’s best newbies were a pair of Eyed Hawk-moth caterpillars that unfortunately stripped off the leaves from two of the small new crab apple trees completely. Never mind they are coming back!

Update May 2020

Butterflies seen so far this year, maximum at any time.

Peacocks 20+ my best spring, commas slightly down at 6, small tortoiseshell down at only 2 (but lots everywhere else I’ve been). Only 1 speckled wood, orange tip 20+ males and more GV, small and large whites than last spring. Brimstone often float through but only seen 2 at once.

Moth total now at 136 having seen a blood-vein 2nd May.

All grass areas that were cut are showing good numbers of target wildflowers especially the violets.

Wild primroses are flowering well and there are some spreading.

Trefoils are coming into flower in several areas, a bit early to assess success.

A total of 604 hedging/tree plants have been planted this winter, mostly hawthorn, blackthorn, hazel and small numbers of 7 other species including small leaved elm.

Some of the older hawthorns have been cut and laid, with most being successful, an ongoing project.

Grasses are steadily covering the bottom field but still a long way to go.

Another 120+ cowslips given by a local grower planted.

A brushwood pile next to the car park has a dunnock and robin nesting in it.

Work on fencing, rustic style, around the car park is just about complete.


The V63 botanical recorder sent me a link to “Geology of UK” and actually the slope of hill is sandstone of the latter end of the coal measures with a cap of Permian limestone at the ridge. As there is a lot of limestone spill over and water run down the slope the topsoil is in the lime range and not acidic. This means that there could be many different soil Ph levels all over the site.


Site Champion and owner - Les Driffield (Vice Chair BC Yorkshire) Bridleways, Darrington Road, East Hardwick Nr Pontefract W Yorks WF8 3DS

07762 943379 les.driffield@yorkshirebutterflies.org.uk