Privet Hawk-moth - John Murray

Schools across Hampshire are being invited to sign up for an innovative new project to reconnect children with nature.

Thanks to a £10,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), made possible with money raised by National Lottery players, wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation (BC) is taking its Munching Caterpillars: Wild in Winchester’ project to schoolchildren across the county to teach them about butterflies, moths and the unique habitats they call home.

Pupils will visit BC’s flagship butterfly reserve, Magdalen Hill Down, which sits just outside of Winchester, where experts will lead them in workshops, moth trapping, butterfly surveys and bug hunts.

The youngsters will also be taught about the reserve itself and the importance of the wildflowers found there.

BC’s Project Officer, Kate Barrett, said: “This is the first time a free education project like this has come to Hampshire and we’ll be working with the Winchester Science Centre to show children just how important our wildlife is and what they can do to protect and support it.

Munching Caterpillars“We know that green spaces aren’t always accessible to young people in towns or cities, but this is all about bridging that gap and helping them to engage with nature by taking them onto one of our beautiful reserves.”

The project is being supported through an HLF grant, £3,500 in matched funding from Santander’s Changemaker Fund and donations from BC’s Hampshire and Isle of Wight Branch and the public.

Kate added: “The support we’ve had is fantastic and it’ll be great to see the kids getting out of their classrooms and exploring the wildlife found on Magdalen Hill Down. We are so lucky to have a site like this in Hampshire. Hopefully it will inspire the children to take an interest in protecting habitats like this when they’re older.”

Magdalen Hill Down is a beautiful expanse of Chalk Downland, one of the UK’s rarest habitats. The site once formed part of a WW1 army camp and is nationally recognised for the many butterfly species it supports – with more than 10,000 seen every year.

The reserve is particularly well known for its abundance of Small Blue and Chalk Hill Blue butterflies.

Schools are being asked to sign up for the free activities now as places are limited.

Email Kate Barrett kbarrett@butterfly-conservation.org or call 07483 039 325 for more information.

Munching Caterpillars