17/07/2009
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Rehabilitated: Lady labelled crazy for butterfly hobby

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Britain's butterflies are now widely accepted as an important part of Britain's biodiversity — but that's not always been so.

Glanville Fritillary
Glanville Fritillary, Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight (Photo: Tony Hovell)

This year's annual Save Our Butterflies Week, being held from 25th July to 2nd August, coincides with the publication of a novel featuring a real-life character ridiculed for her passion for butterflies. Fiona Mountain's book Lady of the Butterflies, set in the 17th century in Somerset and London, is a fictionalised version of the life of Eleanor Glanville.

Lady Glanville took a serious interest in butterflies at a time when this was still considered an extraordinary pursuit, especially for a woman. When she died her family had her will overturned on the grounds that anybody who was a fascinated by butterflies must be crazy. However, she gave her name to one of Britain's 57 native butterflies  — the Glanville Fritillary, currently under severe threat and found only on the Isle of Wight.

Dr Martin Warren, Chief Executive of the charity Butterfly Conservation, which oversees Save Our Butterflies Week, said: "Lady Glanville was a true pioneer. It's amazing how much things have changed. Nowadays we have a team of over 20 scientists studying butterflies for what they can tell us about the environment and climate change  — the majority of them women."

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Fiona Mountain will be appearing at many of the events during Save Our Butterflies Week to sign copies of her novel. She said: "Butterflies are a beautiful and crucial part of our natural heritage. Many of us take them for granted and do not realize how important they are. The truth is they are in steep decline and need help".

Butterfly Conservation's 31 branches will be organising events throughout the UK during Save Our Butterflies Week, which aims to celebrate the beauty, diversity and importance of butterflies in light of their huge decline. Dr Warren said: "There's one thing for certain  — you don't have to be crazy to take an interest in butterflies these days."

Chris Collins, celebrity gardener and spokesperson for PlantforLife, an initiative designed to encourage more people to think about the plight of butterflies and how they can help in their own garden, says: "We now know butterflies are hugely important for our garden's ecosystem. They also help attract a wide variety of wildlife".

To find out about events taking place near you and other ways in which you can help butterflies, visit www.butterfly-conservation.org.

Written by: Butterfly Conservation