A butterfly which has suffered huge declines in the UK is making a comeback at Derbyshire’s only butterfly reserve, wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation (BC) can reveal.
The Wall butterfly has declined by 87 per cent across the country in the last 40 years but experts say the butterfly is thriving at a restored quarry on the southern edge of the Peak District, between Brassington and Elton.
Hoe Grange Quarry, which is owned by Longcliffe Quarries Ltd, was left to wildlife in the 1970s and throughout 2018 at least 120 Wall butterflies were counted at the site – more than anywhere else in the county.
People are being invited to help count the Wall butterfly at the reserve when it opens its gates to the public for the first time this year on Sunday, from 11am-4pm.
Ken Orpe is Derbyshire butterfly recorder for BC’s East Midlands Branch and helps manage Hoe Grange alongside the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust.
He said: “I’ve been monitoring the Wall butterfly at Hoe Grange Quarry for the last nine years and I can confidently say this is now the best place in the county to see this rare butterfly.
“The Wall is really struggling nationally and has completely disappeared from most of central southern England, so it’s really special to have it here in such high numbers and this could be the butterfly’s best year yet.
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“We’ve already recorded at least 90 Wall butterflies at Hoe Grange Quarry so far this year and if the weather stays warm, we should see plenty more in July and August – so we’re asking people to come along between 11am and 4pm on Sunday to help count them and the other 26 butterfly species found at the site.”
The Wall is aptly named after its habit of basking on walls, rocks and stony places and the butterfly’s delicately patterned light-brown underwing provides good camouflage against a stony or sandy surface.
Sunday's open day at Hoe Grange Quarry is taking place during the Big Butterfly Count, so visitors will also have a chance to take part in the largest survey of its kind in the world.
Ken added: “We’ll be handing out Big Butterfly Count ID charts and people will also have a chance to discover what moths we have here too. Last year we found a first for the site - the rare Chalk Carpet moth - so we’re hoping to see that again.”
Visitors to the reserve will be offered guided butterfly walks, free ice-cream and beer samples from local brewery Aldwalk Artisan Ales. There will also be stalls selling plants, tea and cake.
Viv Russell, group managing director of Longcliffe Group, said: “Once again we are delighted to host the open day for members of the public. Thanks to the micro-climate created by the surrounding cliffs and trees, our former limestone quarry has been transformed into a unique butterfly haven, demonstrating one of the largest butterfly colonies in the Peak District.
"Due to the fantastic success of the nature reserve, when the review of the site planning permission of the former quarry was due this year, Longcliffe promoted the idea to voluntarily agree to relinquish it without compensation and thus we are delighted to continue to support the site as a nature reserve."
More information on the open day and the reserve can be found by visiting www.butterfly-conservation.org/HoeGrange.