Babiččino údolí National Nature Monument

The territory of the “Grandmother’s Valley” lies close to the Ratibořice Chateau and the town of Česká Skalice in the Královéhradecké kraj - Hradec Králové Region and is protected as a national monument in two categories. The valley is a national cultural monument for its architectural and cultural values and is the setting for Božena Němcová’s classic novel “Babička – Grandmother”. The Babiččino údolí National Nature Monument was declared to protect its near-natural forests and meadows on the alluvial plain of the Úpa river.
 
Here the Úpa river is incised into predominantly sedimentary rocks. The Quaternary travertine is of specific note as it was formed from the deposits of dissolved compounds from springs of calcium-rich waters.
 
The steep valley slopes support stands of species-rich woodland with considerable numbers of sycamore, lime and beech, along with scattered oak, hornbeam and firs.
 
Unfortunately, most of the meadows in the monument have been drained, which led to a reduction in their species diversity. The fringes of the large meadows, the smaller meadows and the old orchards have kept more of their original species.
 
Kingfishers (Alcedo atthis) nest in the river banks and the dipper (Cinclus cinclus) and the river warbler (Locustella fluviatilis) are also bound to the river. The Babiččino valley is also the home of a great many ancient and solitary trees.
 
The occurrence of two butterflies which are rare throughout Europe is of significance in the valley – the dusky large blue (Maculinea nausithous) and the scarce large blue (Maculinea teleius). Populations of these butterflies have survived here as a result of hay not being harvested from around the drainage ditches of the historical drainage system.
 
Both of these butterflies have an interesting life cycle. Their caterpillars develop from eggs which the female lays on the flowers of the garden burnet. After the caterpillars change their skins several times, they fool worker ants into taking them to their anthills. The caterpillars then feed on the larvae and chrysalises of the ants. The adult butterflies drink almost nothing but the nectar of the burnet flowers.
 
The task for the Agency for Nature Conservation and Landscape Protection is to find balances between a numbers of contradictory needs. We leave part of the meadows uncut so that the butterflies can live out their life cycle and so that cutting the grass does not damage the anthills. Cutting and removing the grass to reduce the nutrient levels on the meadows is also important to maintain the valuable landscape, maintain plant communities and prevent the spread of ruderal plants. Sheep grazing, as well as cutting sections of the meadows in strips, is helping to return the previous diversity to the valley.