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National Trust News: Chasing Butterflies With The National Trust

"A powerful symbol of freedom and beauty, nothing quite sums up the British spring and summer like the butterfly. This spring, National Trust naturalist Matthew Oates has picked ten of his favourite spots to see these colourful creatures as they gently fly through the countryside and gardens,'' announces Stephen Field.

All of the walks, which vary in distance, are free to download from the National Trust website with route maps and points of interest marked along the walk.

Matthew Oates, a butterfly fan for more than 40 years, said: “Butterflies are fascinating in the extreme. They take you to the most captivating of all places – woodlands, mountains, grasslands and the coast – and the more you learn about them, the more you realise there is to be learnt, and the less you know.

“Over the last two decades a minor social revolution has occurred: butterflies have become cool. They have found their way into all aspects of our life from advertising to diaries and notebooks.

“Butterflying is now as popular a hobby as it was in the heyday of collecting, back in the 1890s, with the big difference that enthusiast are only armed with cameras.”

A new book by Matthew Oates, Butterflies: Spotting and Identifying British Butterflies, will be published this month. It will help both beginners by explaining the key points and fundamental principles of butterfly spotting, and more experienced butterfly watchers in need of expert tips and sharpening the focus.

Containing lots of identification tips, the book is a guide on how to get yourself into the right frame of mind when looking for and observing butterflies. It includes chapters on the history of butterflying and on the English and scientific names of butterflies together with useful summary chapters on photographing butterflies and gardening for butterflies.

Matthew Oates’s top ten National Trust places for butterflies are:

Arnside Knott, Cumbria – Low hill covered with limestone grassland and mixed woodland, which is renowned for butterflies. On the one mile walk it’s possible to see the very rare High Brown Fritillary, the graceful Pearl-bordered Fritillary, the unique Northern Brown Argus and easily identifiable Scotch Argus. There are also outstanding views to the summits of the Lake District and over Morecambe Bay. For more information contact: 01524 701178.

Ashclyst Forest, Devon – In the spring and summer months this broad-leaved woodland is teeming with butterflies. A muddy 1.5 mile walk may reveal Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, the Silver-washed Fritillary which is known as the ‘happiness butterfly’ and especially attracted to red and orange clothing and the bramble loving White Admiral. For more information contact: 01392 881345.

Cissbury Ring, South Downs, West Sussex – This Iron Age chalk hill-fort overlooks 78 miles of coastline and is steeped in history. Along the moderately steep one mile walk you might spot the Adonis Blue and Chalkhill Blue amongst the horseshoe vetch, the elusive Brown Hairstreak and the bumbling Dark-green Fritillary. For more information contact: 01903 740233.

Fontmell Down and Melbury Beacon, Dorset/Wiltshire border – Bought in memory of Thomas Hardy, to protect the landscape in which his novels are set. The chalk grassland and scrub habitat means it’s a great location for butterflies, moths and glow-worms. On the longer, steeper 2.5 mile walk look out for the electric Adonis Blue, the metallic sheen of the Chalkhill Blue, the UK’s smallest butterfly, the aptly named Small Blue, the unmistakeable Marsh Fritillary and the fast, low-flying Silver-spotted Skipper. For more information contact: 01672 539167.

Hod Hill, Dorset – A chalk grassland Iron Age hill-fort that is renowned for its downland flora and fauna. On the steep one mile walk watch for the prominent red, yellow and black of the Marsh Fritillary, the shimmering Adonis Blue and the light Cambridge blue of the Chalkhill Blue. For more information contact: 01297 489481.

Box Hill, Surrey – A three mile slog around the steep terrain of Box Hill is well worth it. The chalk grassland paddocks rich in wild flowers and areas of yew and broad-leaved woodland on steep slopes above Dorking. The flora is extremely rich, including the rare native box. This is one of the richest areas for butterflies in Britain, with over 40 species occurring annually, including silver-spotted skipper, chalkhill, Adonis and small blues, dark-green and silver-washed fritillaries, and white admiral and purple emperor.

For more information contact: 01306 885502.

Newtimber Hill, South Downs, West Sussex – A longer walk on the moderate slope of chalk grassland surrounding Saddlescombe Farm. Newtimber Hill is home to some of the best chalk grassland in the country where you can see wonderful displays of downland flowers, insects and a ten thousand year-old ancient woodland. Resident butterflies include the Adonis Blue and Silver-spotted Skipper skimming the short turf. For more information contact: 01273 857712.

Selborne Common, Hampshire – A muddy steep trudge along the 1.5 mile walk through this fine example of ancient wood pasture is well worth it. The woodland glades provide feeding grounds for many butterflies, including the Brown Hairstreak found lurking around Ash trees, the Purple Emperor high up in the canopies, the Silver-washed Fritillary underneath the oak trees and the honeysuckle-loving White Admiral. For more information contact: 01794 340757.

Ivinghoe Beacon, North Chilterns, Hertfordshire – Ivinghoe Beacon is rich in archaeological remains with Bronze Age barrows and an impressive Bronze Age hill-fort at the top of the Beacon. The slopes hold one of the strongest colonies of the tiny Duke of Burgundy fritillary butterfly in the country, the Dark-green Fritillary as well as many other scarce downland insects and a range of downland flowers. For more information contact: 01494 755557.

Cwm Soden, New Quay, Ceredigion – A steep combe running down to the sea leading to a small stony bay, through oak woodland and gorse and bracken glades. One of the last places in Wales where the Pearl-bordered Fritillary, small Pearl-bordered, Dark-green and Silver-washed fritillaries can be seen. For more information contact: 01545 560810.

All of the walks can be downloaded for free from www.nationaltrust.org.uk/walks from 9 June 2011.

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