The Duke has Arrived at Steyning Downland Scheme!
A Rocha UK is pleased to share some great news from our Partner in Action network, Steyning Downland Scheme.
Steyning Downland Scheme are excited to be able to at last report that one of Britain’s rarest and most enigmatic butterflies has taken up residence on the downland!
“Way back in 2014, we launched a joint project, with a great deal of support from the South Downs National Park Authority, to help bring back the fabled Duke of Burgundy butterfly from extinction on the South Downs. The Duke is one of the UK’s rarest butterflies and is extraordinarily fastidious when it comes to setting up home. You can read more about it here.
The project was intrepidly led by Sarah Quantrill and her team of enthusiastic SDS volunteers. They opened up new areas of chalk grassland and, with the help of Wakehurst Place, Kew, grew from seed and planted literally thousands of Cowslips and Primroses (the Duke’s favoured food) out on the downland.
All the preparation work took two years to complete. Then teams of trained volunteers began surveying the hills for butterflies and carrying out essential ongoing habitat management.
The years ticked by. Despite careful searching – nothing.
Then in the spring of 2020, the Duke finally made his spectacular appearance! And of course the first butterflies to flutter over the hill were spotted by none other than Grandmaster lepidopterist, Neil Hulme*, who had expertly advised the project from the start.
We’ve had to keep the Duke’s arrival an ‘open secret’ until now, just in case the resulting stampede of lepidopteran enthusiasts damaged its fragile habitat. BUT we are hoping to arrange a limited number of organised visits to see the Duke in action next year. Watch this space for updates . . .
We’re also planning to train more volunteers in butterfly spotting. If you’re interested in joining in, have a look at Steyning’s butterfly page, fill in their Volunteer Form and they’ll be in touch.”
The Partners in Action are a collaborative network of Christian land managers demonstrating active care for the natural world. This network is coordinated by A Rocha UK; we work together in practical ways such as participating in joint conservation work like the Target Ten Project, by sharing ideas and information, and by praying for one another. Find out more at: https://arocha.org.uk/our-activities/practical-conservation/partners-in-action/
Keep in touch with Steyning Downland Scheme at: https://steyningdownland.org/support-us/join-our-mailing-list/