By Ann Evans Photos: Rob Tysall of Tysall's Photography
Just as butterflies emerge from pupae into the beautiful creatures that they are, so the Stratford Butterfly Farm has undergone a stunning transformation too. The Butterfly Farm overlooking the River Avon in Warwickshire has always been an enchanting place to visit. The landscaped tropical greenhouses are home to around 1,500 of the worlds most spectacular and colourful butterflies. With 250 different species from 20 different countries it makes this the largest collection of tropical butterflies in the UK. It really is like stepping into a tropical rainforest with all the sounds, humidity, exotic plants, fish-filled pools and cascading waterfalls. And since the £250,000 refurbishment, there are also beautiful new replica Maya sculptures which originally came from the ancient rainforest civilisation in Beliz.
The award winning farm which first opened in 1985 now has a beautiful new entrance and gift shop and large new interpretation and information panels in the new Activity Area and Discover Zone. In fact the Stratford Butterfly Farm is one of just a few UK attractions able to offer schools access to Maya resources in line with the National Curriculum and special guided tours of the Maya are now incorporated into school visits. The High Commissioner of Belize, Ms Perla Perdomo, cut the blue ribbon at a prestigious ceremony on July 22 to celebrate the newly refurbished butterfly farm. Around 85 guests attended the event including the first lady of Belize, Mrs Kim Simplis Barrow, Minister Counsellor for the High Commissioner, Mrs Laura Frampton, Stratford-upon-Avon Mayor Cllr. Juliet Short, Clive Farrell, the owner of the butterfly farm, general manager Richard Lamb and renowned Maya Archaeologist, Dr Diane Davies. Speeches were made by Clive Farrell as well as the High Commissioner, Stratford Mayor and Dr Diane Davies who emphasised the importance of the Maya and the legacy they have left us. She explained that it was the Mayans that were the first to discover cocoa in 900 AD. Without them there would be no chocolate. The Butterfly Farm has recently planted a Cacao tree in the Flight Area to mark this fact.
Jane Kendrick, Marketing Manager at the Stratford Butterfly Farm said, “Our opening ceremony was a fantastic celebration to mark the significant changes made to improve the Butterfly Farm. We were honoured that so many diplomats from Belize were able to attend and join us in celebrating the Maya and its ancient civilisation. We now look forward to welcoming our visitors, who I’m sure will be delighted with all the improvements we have made.”
Everywhere now is bigger and brighter and even more beautiful with its pools of fish and leafy undergrowth, with all the trees and plants having been carefully selected to suit a particular species of butterfly to feed on and lay its eggs.
Some of these butterflies are bred at the Stratford Butterfly Farm and others are imported from the tropics coming from conservation projects or village projects, where butterfly breeding is the main source of income for the villagers. Breeding operations have been set up to enable communities to earn a living without causing damage to the environment or the wildlife.
All areas of the farm have been given a wonderful new look, including the Mini-beast Metropolis where you will discover such creatures as the Giant African Millipede, the African Land Snail and Stick Insects. And fascinating to watch are two species of leaf cutter ant, working tirelessly, marching along overhead ropes to and from their colonies. And behind the safety of glass tanks are an array of Tarantulas in Arachnoland including the Brazilian Fire Red which can grow up to 25cm in length.
Other creatures to look out for are a Royal Python Snake so named because rulers in Africa would wear the python as jewellery. There’s also Archie, the Farm’s resident Veiled Chameleon, tropical non-insectivorous birds who feed on fruit and seeds, and a couple of iguanas.
But of course the emphasis is on the many hundreds of spectacular butterflies with their vibrant colours and markings that flutter gently about you as you explore.
The Stratford Butterfly Farm is open from 10am to 6pm every day of the week. For more information including admission prices and group rates, please visit the website at www.butterflyfarm.co.uk or telephone on 01789 299288.