Butterfly Conservation (BC) is to play a key role in a project to help the UK's rarest butterfly, the High Brown Fritillary, in one of its last remaining strongholds.

The butterfly is restricted to a handful of sites in North West and South West England and one in Wales.

BC will provide conservation advice on a new scheme led by the National Trust to transform 60 hectares of lowland heath and wood pasture into prime butterfly habitat in the Heddon Valley in Exmoor, Devon.

The project has been made possible as part of a generous award by the People’s Postcode Lottery.

The striking orange and black butterfly once bred in most large woods in England and Wales but its population has declined by 66% since the 1970s due to climate change, habit loss, changes in woodland management and agricultural intensification.

BC have been working with partners for many years in the Heddon Vallley to improve habitats for the butterfly.

Jenny Plackett, BC's Senior Regional Officer, said: "We’ve been working with the National Trust for many years to reverse the declines in the High Brown Fritillary on Exmoor, and I'm thrilled that players of People’s Postcode Lottery are supporting important management work in this landscape.

"Exmoor's Heddon Valley supports the strongest population of High Brown Fritillary in England, but even here the butterfly remains at risk, and ongoing efforts to restore habitat and enable the butterfly to expand are crucial to its survival."

National Trust butterfly expert Matthew Oates said: "We've witnessed a catastrophic decline of many native butterfly populations in recent decades but initiatives like this can really help turn the tide. Combined with increased recording and monitoring efforts there is significant hope for some of our most threatened winged insects."

Clara Govier, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said, ‘We are thrilled that funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery to the National Trust has increased in 2018, supporting the charity’s nature programme for the first time, alongside continued support for Heritage Open Days.

"We are delighted to see players’ funding supporting significant conservation activity across England and Wales to improve a range of priority habitats, from coastal slopes and chalk grasslands, to woodland pasture, and to safeguard species that call these places home."