VOLUNTEERS are needed to help save a rare butterfly at a beauty sport and nature reserve near Ludlow.

It is all happening in Mortimer Forest this Sunday (January 19).

West Midlands Butterfly Conservation, working in partnership with the Forestry Commission, will be undertaking management work to improve habitat for the rare Wood White butterfly which occurs within the forest.

Local people with an interest in wildlife and heritage are being urged to support the day which starts at 10 am, meeting at the FC car park at High Vinnalls on the Ludlow to Wigmore road. The Forestry Commission is providing a free lunchtime barbecue for all helpers.

The Wood White butterfly is one of the most threatened species in the UK and has undergone a 65% decline over the past 30 years.

A recent study has shown that only around 50 colonies of this butterfly remain in England - putting it at high risk of extinction.

More than half of all remaining colonies are found on land belonging to the Forestry Commission which has a key role to play in ensuring its survival.

Recent work in south Shropshire has shown that the butterfly responds well to work aimed at opening up tracks and the creation of glades to allow more sunlight to reach the woodland floor and this will be the focus of the work planned for Mortimer Forest.

“As well as practical work on the day, we’re keen to enlist local volunteers to help us continue surveying butterflies and other wildlife over the summer months,” said Mike Williams of West Midlands Butterfly Conservation.

“The Wood White is on the wing in May and June and again usually in early August and we need volunteers to undertake butterfly counts at its known sites and to look for it in new locations.”

Alan Reid, Forestry Commission wildlife ranger for South Shropshire, emphasised the importance of the Mortimer Forest.

“Forestry Commission England recognises the importance of South Shropshire for the Wood White and are keen to work with Butterfly Conservation to provide new areas in which the butterfly can flourish,” he said.

“The site we plan to work on is the site of a Bronze Age encampment so by clearing scrub from the site we will also be enhancing its archaeological value.”