Now one of our most endangered species, the Pearl-bordered Fritillary is facing some of its biggest challenges yet. In a bid to save this beautiful creature, Classic Cottages and Butterfly Conservation Cornwall get down and dirty for one day in Bodmin.
Teased by the weather which flicks between glorious sunshine and dark, brooding clouds, we make our way to our meeting spot near Bodmin, Cornwall. Miraculously, the sun triumphs and we hop out of Classic Cottage’s VW van under a bright blue sky. Ahead of us, a cheery gaggle of Classic staff and Butterfly Conservation Cornwall members and volunteers awaits, along with documentary filmmaker Nina Constable.
The air is chilly but the day so pleasant that we could just be out for a stroll, but in fact we are here for one thing and one thing only: to help the very rare and very beautiful Pearl-bordered Fritillary butterfly.
Experiencing the same issues as many wildlife species, the Pearl-bordered Fritillary, once common, has seen a rapid and drastic decline in numbers and is now one of our most threatened species. Feasting on sun-loving violets, these butterflies have a very particular diet that depends on a particular environment. Fortunately last year, two breeding butterflies were spotted at a site with all the right conditions – and thus, one February morning, we found ourselves at the bottom of a muddy hill.
Katie from the Marketing Department thinks back:
"Skipping through meadows, the sunlight glinting on my long brown hair as a light summer’s breeze lifts it from my shoulders, a cloud of butterflies flits alongside me, gleeful at our heartfelt wishes to save their habitat. Then a prickly branch of gorse smacks me in the face and back to reality. There are no coconut-scented flowers to cushion the blow because this is February. And we’re climbing a steep mud mound in Bodmin.
The butterfly conservation team of volunteers and wildlife experts handed out hacksaws and loppers and we stared up at the towering forest of overgrown thorns with some trepidation. Coffee and homemade flapjack lined our bellies so with the plight of the butterflies in mind, we set to it with great gusto. Six surprisingly sunny but laboured hours later we’d done what we’d thought was impossible and cleared a south-facing bank, ready for the violets to burst into flower and feed the rare caterpillars we were doing this for.
Butterflies are such an important part of our native ecosystem yet their delicate nature is under threat thanks to thoughtless over-development encroaching on their habitats. We were left with a great sense of achievement and an even greater rash of bramble scratches but all in all, a worthwhile day out of the office, even if I did manage to sunburn my face. In February. In Bodmin. I can’t wait to return in the summer to skip through the clouds of butterflies that we might’ve helped save."
With numbers of butterflies in Cornwall and the country falling across the board, the work of Butterfly Conservation Cornwall is crucial to the survival of these stunning, elegant creatures, and yet is mostly carried out by volunteers with little-to-no funding. Consequently, extra hands are always welcome to connect with not only the local environment but community too. Bryony in Classic’s Property Department adds: “There is nothing quite like getting down and dirty with a day’s hard labour, and feeling that you have made a tremendous difference in the protection of such an important species at the end of it all – the pasties, flapjacks and muffins didn’t hurt either!”
Over the years, Classic Cottages has been involved in numerous volunteer and conversation efforts; however, this particular day served to reinforce the importance of putting back into the environment that provides us with so much. Chairman of Classic Cottages, Simon Tregoning noted: “We are lucky to live in a place where people want to holiday and so we should give something back not only out of gratitude and good manners but also good sense - our living depends upon it.”