A rare butterfly has been reintroduced to a site in Derbyshire where it’s not been seen for 52 years, thanks to an ambitious project by the National Trust and wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation (BC).

The Grizzled Skipper has declined by 55% across the UK over the last 40 years and disappeared from its former stronghold in Derbyshire – the National Trust’s Calke Abbey near Ticknall – in 1967.  

A joint project was launched between Butterfly Conservation East Midlands, Natural England and the National Trust to re-establish the Grizzled Skipper in Derbyshire and bring the butterfly back to Calke Abbey.

Vital conservation work has also taken place at the property over the last year to restore the habitat in preparation for the arrival of the new Grizzled Skippers.

Grizzled Skipper, Dainton Common, 27.5.19 (Steph Murphy)
Grizzled Skipper by Steph Murphy

The butterfly needs lots of sunny, open areas to thrive and breed, so some tree cover has been removed and grassy areas have been raked to expose bare soil. This encourages the growth of the caterpillars’ food plant, wild strawberry and at least 600 strawberry plants have been added to the estate over the last year.

Iain McGowan, ranger at Calke Abbey, said:

“People often assume that environments in our care look after themselves, but in fact a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to ensure we safeguard nature for years to come.

“We’re delighted to reintroduce 10 butterflies to the estate at Calke and bring this rare species back to Derbyshire. We’ve worked closely with Butterfly Conservation and Natural England to create new habitats for the grizzled skipper and we look forward to seeing them thrive in their new home.

“We encourage visitors to keep their eyes peeled on their next visit and try to spot one for themselves!”

Grizzled Skipper, Stoneycombe Copse, 4.5.19 (Clive Harris)
Grizzled Skipper by Clive Harris

Butterfly Recorder for Derbyshire and BC’s East Midlands Branch, Ken Orpe, said:

“I began working on this idea with the National Trust around five years ago, so to see the butterfly back in the county is just fantastic and shows what working in partnership can achieve.

“The Grizzled Skipper is easily identified by the black and white chequerboard markings on its wings and the best time to see the butterfly is while it basks in the sunshine, usually between May and June.”