City Commons find there’s plenty of life in their old trees yet

Spotted: the yellow-legged clearwing

The rangers and staff at City Commons, who work on many of the open spaces and pieces of common land in and around Croydon, are celebrating a significant development in their work, with the sighting of a rare moth following wildlife conservation work.

The yellow-legged clearwing is classified as a “nationally scarce” species and lives around damaged, decaying and old oak trees. Its larvae feed on the decaying wood. It was spotted for the first time this summer on Ashtead Common, south of Epsom Downs.

The City Corporation’s conservation team created the specialist ecological habitat with its veteran oaks, some of which are thought to be more than 500 years old.

Although these trees might appear unhealthy at first glance, the work on standing deadwood and veteran trees means they support a wide range of invertebrates, bats and bird species, including some unusual and rare ones like the clearwing.

Old oaks on Ashtead Common provide the perfect habitat for the moths

In 1995, Ashtead Common was declared a National Nature Reserve in recognition of the importance of the site for wildlife, and the commitment of the City of London Corporation to its conservation.

The Corporation is a major green spaces provider in London and south east England. It conserves over 11,000 acres of green space including Epping Forest, Hampstead Heath and Burnham Beeches, with many of its sites designated National Nature Reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest for their unique ecology and rare plant species.

Andy Thwaites, Ashtead Commons’ head ranger, said, “Managing our veteran trees is hugely beneficial to protecting rare and vulnerable wildlife like the yellow-legged clearwing.

“Their conservation helps improve the biodiversity in and around London which benefits us all in terms of reducing the impact of emissions, promoting conservation and access to nature.”

The City Corporation’s funds its green spaces with over £29million a year. The green spaces – which includes areas such as Farthing Downs, Happy Valley and Coulsdon Common – are protected from being built on by special legislation.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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