Once, field naturalists’ clubs could charter excursion trains to the Upper Wye Gorge. Independent tourists would bring rods, guns, tents and even boats by train to “live off the land”, or could hire all they needed here. Tenants of farms and cottages bred butterflies for sale. From about 1850, for 60 years, collectors were duped into thinking that they had found rare specimens so that they would leave a large tip and spread the word to the lepidopterist fraternity to bring more trade to the area. The eccentric country sportsman A. B. Farn, once President of the Entomological Society, retired here a century ago to end the fraud: He bred local species for release, and secretly exterminated the alien colonies.
Today, there are over thirty indigenous species on the hills around Symonds Yat, but half a dozen of those recorded by “A.B.F.” are extinct. Add our Nature Notes and Spotters’ Guide to your favourites to keep up with the news about butterflies to see on the hills overlooking the Wye Valley Butterfly Zoo month by month. Volunteer Recorders are needed to establish butterfly-count transects and raise the profile for conservation funding in the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Come and see us, or if you want to help elsewhere in Britain, contact the charity Butterfly Conservation.
We manage our own Nature Reserve. We engaged Barnaby Millard, Conservation Landscape Architect to improve the range of habitats to benefit insects, birds, reptiles and small mammals from the start. We’ve preserved existing habitat zones, and enhanced habitat microdiversity to shelter and sustain wildlife and create ecocline gradation through trampling. This preserves and creates habitat niches suited to the specific preferences of various fauna and flora. We hope to change its habitat classification from “improved grassland” to “wildflower meadow” in three years.
Barnaby has now taken a post with the RHS at Wisley. He was our second Conservation Landscape Architect. We’ve also provided work experience for University College Worcester’s Sustainable Development Advocacy (Professional Practice) MA course, and a paid internship surveying local lepidoptera.