Farmers to give rare butterfly a helping hand


One of Britain's rarest butterflies is set to benefit from a new project on the Devon and Somerset border that will see farmers working together to help local wildlife, Butterfly Conservation (BC) has revealed.

The nationally scarce Marsh Fritillary is declining across Europe, but can be seen in small numbers at sites in the two counties, including the Blackdown Hills. Landowners and farmers joined Neil Parish, Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton, for the official launch of the 'Blackdown Hills Farming and Woodland Group' on Friday 20 July. The three-year project is run by BC and the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), with financial support from the EU and funding from Natural England.

Marsh Fritillary is one of our most attractive butterflies, yet also one of our rarest (Bob Eade).

BC's Project Facilitator, Gavin Saunders, said: "There is a lot of great work taking place within the farming community to help wildlife that often goes unnoticed.

"This project is about shining a light on those good practices, sharing experiences and providing support and training for landowners in ways that will benefit them and the environment."

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Tim Youngs, Manager at the Blackdown Hills AONB, added: "We are delighted to be a part of this project, helping to support the Blackdown Hills Farming and Woodland Group who will collaborate to secure a viable future for the rich heritage features across their collective land holdings in this nationally protected landscape and at the same time build more economically resilient farm businesses, at this time of unprecedented change."

Neil Parish, MP for Tiverton and Honiton, commented: "It is fantastic to be officially launching this project, which is all about supporting the local farming community and protecting this unique landscape.

"It is also very important to me in my role as a Species Champion for the Marsh Fritillary, which requires me to promote good land management for this butterfly – something I am hopeful this new project will do."