Phase I

‘Of all our species of wildlife that are in decline,
our butterflies are faring the worst’

Sir David Attenborough


James Leigh
Founder, Camden Butterfly Trust

“Bring Back the Butterflies” is a community project that seeks to encourage residents of Camden to get involved with wildlife, especially butterfly conservation.

This can be done by creating the habitats wherein nature can thrive; whether in private or public gardens, parks or indeed anywhere where there is space to grow wildlife-friendly plants and flowers.

There are ten categories:

  1. Private Gardens
  2. Street Flowerbeds & Horse Troughs
  3. The Parks
  4. The Grounds of Council Housing Estates
  5. Public Gardens, Squares & Greens
  6. Business premises
  7. The Grounds of Public Local Authorities
  8. Cemeteries & Churchyards
  9. Derelict Sites
  10. Local Nature Reserves

Butterflies are the most highly visible of all the myriad species of insects. These colourful, delicate creatures are a delight to see when in flight or feeding on nectar-rich flowers and plants. Children are especially fond of butterflies and it is through children that we hope to instil a love and respect of nature for future generations.

“We seem to have lost that ancient kinship with nature
that, not so long ago, was instinctive to us”

But what can I do as an individual?

Form a group of like-minded individuals and approach the public relations officer of your local Hospital, School or Government premises. Arrange a meeting when you can discuss the possibilities of transforming parts, (the sunny areas), of their municipal grounds into wildlife-friendly spaces. By creating habitats for wildlife, especially butterflies, the collective effect will be to green our great city and make it full of colour, fragrance and with a variety of species, both flora and fauna, that will enhance the quality of life for all.

What do we do now?

Once your group has obtained a majority in favour of your proposal, may I suggest that you go to the place where you intend to create your wildlife-friendly butterfly conservation garden. Sit there quietly for a while; try to get the feel of the place. Let your imagination drift over the area as the ideas form in your collective minds through discussion and compromise. Determine the places where the sun shines most and where the shady areas are. Establish the lie of the land, its dips, rises and hollows. Make your mistakes on paper by taking photos and drawing sketches. Test the soil for its ph (acid-alkaline) levels. Simple kits can be bought from your local garden centre. Dig a small hole to find out how deep your topsoil is and the condition of the subsoil. If it’s clay, as it probably will be, then it will have to be treated for drainage by adding horticulture (sharp) sand. Take time over this and make sure that you have reached a consensus before you start work.

There are four features to this kind of garden:

The Cultivated Area
The Wildflower Meadow
The Pond
The Hedgerow
The cultivated area is where the flowers and plants that attract butterflies (amongst many other kinds of insects) will be grown. It has to be the sunniest spot and facing south. The soil has to be rich in nutrients and well drained. It has to be sheltered from those withering north-easterly winds. Brick walls encourage the wind to whip over the top and whirl around your garden. Better to erect willow/hazel hurdle fencing. Instead of whipping over the top, these fences dissipate and calm the wind. There will, no doubt, already be some plants in the planned cultivated area. You will have to decide what to keep and what to take out. It would of course be preferable to have the area cleared of all extant vegetation. Then you would have a bare canvas on which to create your horticultural masterpiece.