Bomber tower clears take-off for butterflies
PUBLISHED: 11:48 18 July 2014 | UPDATED: 12:05 18 July 2014
A former World War Two control tower, which sits at the heart of Shropshire's most important butterfly reserve, opens to the public today.
The tower, at Butterfly Conservation’s Prees Heath near Whitchurch, once formed part of RAF Tilstock - an airfield where pilots were trained to fly bombers.
The building was left derelict after the war, but after months of restoration work by local architects, builders and volunteers from RAF Shawbury, it is now open for tours and guided walks.
The outside walls have been painted in camouflage colours, the roof has been fixed, a secure door fitted, bird and bat boxes have been installed and information panels have been set up around the exterior detailing its historic past.
The opening ceremony, led by Reserve Warden Stephen Lewis and attended by the Mayor of Whitchurch, will see the door to the building officially opened by Martin Noble – whose father worked in the control tower during World War Two.
Funding for the project came from the Heritage Lottery Funded Meres & Mosses Landscape Partnership Scheme and Natural England, after an appeal from Butterfly Conservation to restore the tower to its former glory. The wildlife charity came to own the airfield after purchasing the land in 2006 to help protect the rare Silver-studded Blue butterfly, which is only found at this one site across the county and the whole of the Midlands.
Mr. Lewis said: “The plans had to deliver something that would not only conserve the building as an historic artefact in itself, but also be sustainable in the long term – therefore no glass in the windows, and a secure door. We also needed to make it beneficial to both visitors and wildlife.
“What makes today particularly special though is the fact this year marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the outbreak of World War Two. Hundreds of airmen were based here for training and 35 were killed in crashes in the surrounding area. This is a small tribute to them.”
Also attending the event is Chief Executive of Butterfly Conservation, Dr. Martin Warren, who said: “Prees Heath is famous as a refuge for wildlife and especially the wonderful Silver-studded Blue, but we are also keen to preserve its military heritage. The restoration of the control tower helps us explain the important role the site played in two world wars.”
Silver-studded Blues are now flying in good numbers around the reserve and the first ever guided walk to include a visit to the control tower will take place on Sunday July 13 starting at 2.00pm.
For more information about Butterfly Conservation, visit: www.butterfly-conservation.org