Once, field naturalists’ clubs could charter excursion trains to the Upper Wye Gorge. Independent tourists would bring rods, guns, tents and even boats by train to “live off the land”, or could hire all they needed here. Tenants of farms and cottages bred butterflies for sale. From about 1850, for 60 years, collectors were duped into thinking that they had found rare specimens so that they would leave a large tip and spread the word to the lepidopterist fraternity to bring more trade to the area. The eccentric country sportsman A. B. Farn, a Past President of the Entomological Society, retired here a century ago to end the fraud: He bred local species and released them - but secretly exterminated colonies of alien species.
Today, there are over thirty indigenous species on the hills around Symonds Yat, but half a dozen of those recorded by “A.B.F.” are extinct. Add our Nature Notes and Spotters’ Guide to your favourites to keep up with the news about butterflies to see on the hills overlooking the Wye Valley Butterfly Zoo month by month. Volunteer Recorders are needed to establish butterfly-count transects and raise the profile for conservation funding in the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Come and see us, or if you want to help elsewhere in Britain, contact the charity Butterfly Conservation.