For centuries Prees Heath was an open heathland common. It was used for warfare training during WWI and as a bomber airfield during WWII. The old aircraft control tower is still present and provides a reminder of part of the areas past history. The heathland was gradually destroyed during the decades following WWII. Fortunately a small part was given protection as a Site of Special Interest in 1991. Thanks to the great efforts by Butterfly Conservation, Cheshire and Shropshire Wildlife Trusts and members of the public during the Prees Heath Appeal sufficient money was raised for Butterfly Conservation to purchase 148 acres of the heathland. Work towards restoring the heathland to its former glory has already commenced with funding received from Grantscape and Natural England.
Prees Heath is the last place in the West Midlands where the threatened Silver-studded Blue butterfly is found. The species has declined in Britain by 50 per cent since 1980. To survive the Silver-studded Blue butterfly requires the presence of ants together with open ground containing short heathland vegetation. The females are known to utilise bell and ling heather and bird's-foot trefoil, near to ants' nests, when laying their eggs. The chrysalis is formed underground within chambers of the ants nest. The caterpillar is tended by the ants as it feeds on the leaves and shoots of its food plants. The benefit to the ant is a tasty honey-like dew excreted by the caterpillar which the ants find irresistible.
To see the Silver-studded Blue butterfly visit Prees Heath between mid June and late July. The area also provides good bird watching opportunities throughout the year.
The reserve is a popular place, and rightly so. We do ask all visitors to treat it and the creatures that live there with respect, so please:
- Clear up after your dog and use the bin provided
- Ensure you dog is kept on a short lead between 1st March and 31st July in areas where signs indicate there are ground-nesting birds present
- Ensure you do not damage the Site of Special Scientific Interest in any way
- Do not handle or pick up the wildflowers, fungi, caterpillars or other living organisms - many are easily damaged or injured and some can cause skin irritation or are poisonous.
Leaflets giving information about the reserve and Butterfly Conservation are available in the wooden box by the entrance gates.
We welcome everyone who loves Prees Heath Common to get involved in looking after it for future generations. If you feel you can help in practical tasks, recording wildlife, monitoring vegetation or recounting the history of the common then please get in touch. Stephen Lewis is always happy to show people around the reserve, and to give evening talks to local community groups.