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Butterflies and Moths: The County


In order to maintain continuity of recording area and to help put historical records in to context, we have adopted the boundary of Staffordshire as it was in 1852 (the vice-county of Staffordshire[1]) and as it was prior to the changes of 1974. It thus includes some areas, such as Sandwell Valley, that are no longer within the present county boundary. There is even an outpost of Staffordshire in the Wyre Forest!

Staffordshire measures, at the extremities, some 56 miles (90km) north to south by 38 miles (60km) east to west and ranges in height up to 1,684ft (513m).

The county can be divided into three distinct physical regions: the northern hills, the central plain and the southern plateau.

The hills in the north-east, which reach 1,684ft (513m) at Oliver's Hill, comprise an extensive area of moorland and represent the southern tip of the Pennine Chain. They are composed of Carboniferous grits, shales and limestones.

To the south and west we find an area of hill country between 400ft (122m) and 800ft (244m) which is dissected by a series of rivers that flow NW to SE into the Dove and Trent.

The central plain, composed largely of Triassic marls, is a low-lying area of land drained by the River Trent which rises near Knypersley Pool and flows eastward towards Stafford and thence to Burton-on-Trent.

The Southern Plateau, comprising Triassic sandstones and pebble beds and Coal Measures, rises to 800ft (244m) on Cannock Chase; an important site for lowland heath. On its western flank the River Penk flows north to join the River Sow near Stafford while to the east the River Tame flows north to join the Trent. There are also a couple of limestone inliers, notably around Wren's Nest near Dudley.

The county thus encompasses a wide range of habitat types including limestone dales, gritstone moors, acid heaths and bogs, deciduous and coniferous woodland, upland and lowland water bodies, and even a small patch of saltmarsh!

Given its central position, the county is also home to species that are at either the northern or southern limits of their ranges.

The scope for the lepidopterist is indeed extensive.

From a recorder's point of view the county covers all of twenty full 10km squares with another 19 being partly in another county; 662 (+226 in part) tetrads (2x2km) or 2,806 (+482 in part) 1km squares of the National Grid. Unlike birdwatchers and botanists, lepidopterists are thin on the ground and so the distribution on anything finer than a 10km grid is partly a map of the distribution of lepidopterists for some of the less common species. Nevertheless, the maps do show if a species is widespread or local, northern or southern, eastern or western, whether it is declining or expanding, and where the gaps in our knowledge are. As more records are received then we will be able to refine the maps.


  1. An account of the vice-county system can be found here

Printing of this publication for educational purposes is permitted, provided that copies are not made or distributed for commercial gain, and the title of the publication and its date appear. To copy otherwise, or to republish, requires specific permission from the Author or Staffordshire Ecological Record.

Created by SER © 2018 The Wolseley Centre, Wolseley Bridge, Stafford. ST17 0WT Last updated 27/04/2015
Operated by: Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, Staffordshire County Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council