The Red Lodge Conservation Group has held regular work parties throughout the year, with the exception of March, due to snow. Though few in number, the group works hard to manage the habitat, maintain paths, clear vegetation and litter. The group has improved areas of grassland for wild flowers, especially the rare Breckland Thyme.
The group has tried to encourage the public to appreciate the wildlife on the site through the Butterfly Event organised by Butterfly Conservation. This took the format of an indoor session at the Millennium Centre, where there was a presentation on some locally-collected moths. This was followed by a walk around the heath where 17 species of butterfly were observed. Also noted were the Brassy Longhorn Moth, found in only two sites in Suffolk, and the Pantaloon Bee.
In the autumn a postgraduate student researching the Ivy Bee, (a recent arrival in the UK) was impressed to find the largest number of nests she had surveyed on the SSSI. The heath provides a habitat for many birds, including nightingales, which can be heard singing in late spring. These observations show the importance of the SSSI for wildlife.
In order to inform residents of the SSSI John Smithson, the Ranger for Forest Heath District Council, gave a presentation about the site in February 2018. Although those present found much to discuss, it was disappointing that few residents attended.
One positive event is that Forest Heath District Council has acquired the land adjoining the lorry park. This neglected area, suffering from long-term fly-tipping, will require much work to bring it to the standard of the rest of the site and improve the habitat for wildlife.
One of the challenges facing the group is the increase in anti-social behaviour, particularly in the woodland. The police and fire service have been involved in dealing with incidents and this area continues to be monitored.
I would like to thank the members of the Conservation Group for their hard work, whether in practical work or administration. I would also like to thank John Smithson for his input and support. The group would welcome more volunteers from the community to maintain Red Lodge Heath SSSI as an important and beautiful site for wildlife.