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Butterfly population boost at Derbyshire quarry reserve

Wall butterfly

Wall butterfly species makes remarkable comeback at Hoe Grange Quarry 

A BUTTERFLY species which has suffered huge declines in the UK is making a comeback at Hoe Grange Quarry, Derbyshire’s only butterfly reserve. The quarry site, which is owned by Longcliffe Quarries Ltd, is working with wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation (BC) to preserve and create habitat for species such as the Wall.

According to Butterfly Conservation, the Wall butterfly has declined by 87% across the country in the last 40 years, but experts say the butterfly is thriving at Hoe Grange, located on the southern edge of the Peak District, between Brassington and Elton.

Last month (July) people were invited to help count the Wall butterfly at the quarry reserve, as well as the other 26 species, and the event proved to be a resounding success with over 500 visitors.

Ken Orpe is a Derbyshire-based butterfly recorder for BC’s East Midlands branch and helps manage Hoe Grange, alongside the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. He commented: ‘I’ve been monitoring the Wall butterfly at Hoe Grange Quarry for the last nine years and I can confidently say this is now the best place in the country to see this rare butterfly.

‘The Wall is really struggling nationally and has completely disappeared from most of central southern England, so it’s really special to have it here in such high numbers and this could be the butterfly’s best year yet.’

The Wall is aptly named after its habit of basking on walls, rocks and stony places and the butterfly’s delicately patterned light-brown underwing provides good camouflage against a stony or sandy surface.

The open day event at Hoe Grange Quarry took place during the Big Butterfly Count 2019, which is the largest survey of its kind in the world and runs from 19 July until 11 August. Mr Orpe added: ‘People also had a chance to discover what moths we have here too. Last year we found a first for the site – the rare Chalk Carpet moth.’

Viv Russell, group managing director of Longcliffe Group, said: ‘Once again we are delighted to have hosted the open day for members of the public. Thanks to the micro-climate created by the surrounding cliffs and trees, our former limestone quarry has been transformed into a unique butterfly haven, demonstrating one of the largest butterfly colonies in the Peak District.

‘Due to the fantastic success of the nature reserve, when the review of the site planning permission of the former quarry was due this year, Longcliffe promoted the idea to voluntarily agree to relinquish it without compensation and thus we are delighted to continue to support the site as a nature reserve.’

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