STUDENTS restoring sections of coppice woodland on a local estate recently made a surprise discovery of a butterfly not seen on the site for decades.

Students from the Royal Agricultural University Environmental Conservation and Heritage Management course spotted a female Pearl Bordered Fritillary laying eggs in and around violets, an essential food plant found in the newly created open woodland habitat.

Once common, the Pearl Bordered Fritillary butterfly, nicknamed the Woodman’s friend, is now a very threatened species.

Its drastic decline in numbers is mainly due to the cessation of coppice management in woodlands.

The close affinity this species has with the practice of coppicing led to it being associated with those making a living from this ancient practice, hence its nickname of the Woodman’s friend.

FdSc Environmental Conservation and Heritage Management course manager, Dr Ian Grange commented: “This is a fantastic result. As well as students learning about the theory of habitat management, they are actually getting out there and creating habitat opportunities for wildlife.

“This hands-on experience gained by students is also highly recognised by employers in the environmental sector who are seeking students with both the theoretical knowledge and practical skills.”

The RAU is soon to enhance learning in this sector with the introduction of the new FdSc in British Wildlife Conservation, starting in October 2014.

For further information please contact Ian Grange at