The Butterfly Effect. In Gloucestershire, we've borrowed a term associated with Chaos Theory, a curious idea that postulates that a butterfly flapping its wings in one place could cause a massive storm elsewhere.
Thankfully, we've escaped the chaos side of things, and now our project, funded by Restore Our Planet, is beginning to enjoy a storm of creativity. We're breaking new ground for Butterfly Conservation as enthusiastic volunteers, enabled and empowered, begin to deliver on their own good ideas supported by our project officer, Matt Brierley.
We'll shortly be rolling out our offer to Silver Duke of Edinburgh participants across Gloucestershire. In working towards the service section of their award they'll be able to join winter work parties, survey for rugged oil beetles with Back from the Brink, complete the Garden Butterfly Survey and - next year - support our public-facing events too. This particular scheme is the brainchild of volunteers Karen and David Nichols. Butterfly Conservation has never made an offer to Duke of Edinburgh students previously - but we feel it's the perfect way to encourage a love of nature in secondary school children, an age group who otherwise risk being disengaged from nature.
On that note, at Kingshill Secondary School, Cirencester, the arrival of a rented turf cutter this week heralds the start of a transformation. An unloved [but nevertheless regularly mown] area of the school grounds is to be seeded as a wildflower meadow. Children in need of a few quiet moments will, as of next Spring, be able to immerse themselves in nature. Volunteer Helen Taylor - who works at the school - has played kingpin on this project.
The Butterfly Effect holds environmental education dear. We want children to see, touch, feel and wallow in nature. We want to give kids experiences away from screens and iPads that fill them with awe and wonder and encourage them to grow up to be custodians of nature.
Colin Bennett - who recently led a guided walk at a summer club in Calcot for primary aged children - sent me a wonderful summary: "I took some Small Tortoiseshell butterflies to release and a red admiral chrysalis in its nettle leaf tent to show them. On the walk, we spotted a Painted Lady and a couple of Common Blues but the highlight was finding a couple of Elephant Hawk-moth caterpillars on the Rosebay willowherb. It's such an impressive insect and the kids loved having it crawl on their hands and seeing how its eyespots enlarge to scare off birds".
Now that's the kind of stuff kids will remember and carry into adulthood! But what of those who've reached adulthood without catching the butterfly bug? Well, in August we ran our first 'Butterfly for Beginners' walk for the Friends of Pittville Park, Cheltenham, and we'll be running similar events in urban Cirencester and Gloucester next Spring and Summer. I'll be keeping a weather-eye out in case a butterfly flaps its wings.
Project Officer (Butterfly Effect)