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Love and Light

Region 4 - Seva at Salcey Forest in Northamptonshire

"Salcey Forest – a unique habitat with a rich history…the remains of Iron Age fortifications…traces of the Roman Empire….evidence of the Norman Conquest….hidden in and buried under the forest..." as described in the official Salcey Forest guide.

Our Region 4 Spiritual Co-ordinator, Rohit Tailor, organised ‘seva’ at Salcey Forest on Sunday 18th August 2013. The time slot arranged was from 10.00am to 2.00pm and then finishing off with a shared picnic – yum!

We had a total of 14 devotees attend - youth and adults from Coventry, Leicester and Northampton.

On arriving, we were met by one of the forest rangers Jo, with her lovely dog Toby and then we followed Jo’s van in our cars to our designated area of the forest for clearing. It was surprisingly far from the car park. Once there, we parked our cars in the small clearing and walked a distance to an opening that looked like a wide walking path. After some sensible health and safety advice from Jo on how to use the tools loaned by the Forest, was given, we all got stuck in. Some picked up small shears, whilst some picked the small saws; others tried the anvil loppers for a more heavy duty cutting.

Everyone worked very hard removing and cutting weeds from the damp ground, cutting the tall bushes; once the bushes were cut we had greater access to the trees behind that were blocking the light.

A lot of the male youth and men got stuck in with sawing the trees – whilst the others trimmed bushes and cleared the frontal areas, piling the foliage and then cutting them down into smaller pieces to throw back into the ditch behind the trees.

So why were we clearing this area? I was very surprised to learn what Joe had to say. She said butterfly conservation relies heavily on volunteers. In the UK we have several different species of butterflies and two thirds of these species are found at Salcey Forest alone. The butterflies feed on a climbing plant called Vetch – part of the legume family, and they bear pea like flowers. The butterflies feed on this plant and need it to survive and to reproduce. The over growth of weeds and other trees, cover these Vetch plants and then become hidden from natural light by the towering trees and plants and eventually get buried completely or die. In effect, the butterflies can’t find these plants to feed on and so stop coming.

One of the species found at Salcey Forest is the rare black hairstreak butterfly and it only breads in black thorn thickets – Salcey is one of the last remaining English strongholds.

The clearing will encourage these Vetch plants to grow and multiply and resume butterfly reproduction.

The four hours we spent flew by very quickly and some of us were just getting into it! But…who can resist a scrumptious picnic? As we finished, the sun came out in readiness for our picnic. Everyone brought something to share and even nature wanted a share as the flies and wasps also gathered eagerly around us hoping to get a quick bite of something!

This trip was certainly very enjoyable, educational and we all hoped that we had contributed in some small way to butterfly conservation. We look forward to the next Salcey Forest clearing and hope that this time it will attract a lot more devotees from the region.

Article written on behalf of all participants