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500 species recorded: Why Oswestry's ancient hillfort is a hive of wildlife activity

By Jonny Drury | Oswestry | News | Published:

A new survey has revealed Oswestry's 3,000-year-old Hillfort is a magnet for wildlife, with almost 500 different species recorded.

Oswestry’s Iron Age Hillfort has been found to be home to more than 500 different species by a survey

Following months of work to verify results, organisers have published the findings of the Hillfort BioBlitz, a 24-hour ecological survey carried out at Oswestry's Hillfort.

The event was organised by Turnstone Ecology in association with English Heritage, guardians of Old Oswestry, and hillfort conservation group, Oswestry Heritage Gateway, with funding coming from The Charlotte Hartey Foundation and Three Parishes Big Local.

The organisers have reported a final list of 500 species, which includes 290 types of invertebrate improving significantly on the handful previously recorded.

Numbers of invertebrates in the UK, such as bugs, spiders, butterflies and worms, have fallen by almost half in the last four decades, highlighting the contribution of the hillfort and its environs to Oswestry’s ecology.

The work was carried out by Turnstone Ecology

Other finds including a number of species on the hillfort compared to small numbers elsewhere around the county and the West Midlands.

Among highlights were six species of bat including the lesser horseshoe (Rhinolophus hipposideros) and Leisler’s bat (Nyctalus leisleri), detected during the night.

Helen Allen of English Heritage said: “We have long known about the fascinating story of human activity at Old Oswestry, but these findings provide us with a new picture of the natural story of the 44-acre site.

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"I am grateful to Turnstone Ecology and Oswestry Heritage Gateway for all the efforts they have put into this interesting project.”

The hillfort is one of the main attractions in the town, and brings in thousands of visitors to Oswestry ever year.

Sometimes known as old Oswestry, it has been described in the past as one of Britain's most spectacular early Iron Age hill forts, and is said to have probably been the stronghold and principal settlement of an Iron Age tribe.

The landscape features grassland and pools

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Now it is a hub of wildlife, with campaigners interested in the number of beetles that have taken up residence at the site.

Some of the younger generations helping with the survey were keen on the spiders, with around 30 types found, and no less than 85 types of butterfly.

In addition, a total of 171 plants and six mammal species, excluding bats were recorded.

A team from the Shropshire Botanical Society led the challenging task of plant identification, recording an impressive 166 species to add to existing data for the site.

The area is popular with tourists

Work to replenish water levels has been a focus of landscape management activities with the help of the Oswestry Heritage Gateway, and volunteers returned to the ponds earlier this year to clear overgrowth to maintain the improved water volumes.

There are now plans to come back and do another survey, as organiser Clare Knight explains: "There are plans for a follow-up BioBlitz, potentially in 2020, once the landscape management programme is well underway."

Jonny Drury

By Jonny Drury
@JonnyDrury_Star

Senior reporter covering Oswestry and Mid Wales.

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