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Page last updated at 08:15 GMT, Tuesday, 27 April 2010 09:15 UK
Nature lovers claim Ventnor as 'Butterfly town'
Glanville Fritillary
The Glanville Fritillary is one of Britain's rarest butterflies

A wildlife enthusiast wants Ventnor to be recognised as a 'Butterfly Town'.

The campaign is the idea of butterfly enthusiast Rob Wilson who thinks the Isle of Wight town could be the first such place in the country.

The island is one of the few places in the UK that the very rare Glanville Fritillary butterfly can be found.

It is hoped that the Butterfly Town project will raise awareness of the unique fauna of the area.

Butterfly walks

The plan is to create two separate walks, using existing public rights of way, which take in the best butterfly habitats. The routes could total six miles across Ventnor, Bonchurch and St Boniface Down.

Rob Wilson, co-ordinator of the local butterfly conservation group, said: "It may very well be the first time it's ever been tried. Because we have this special micro-climate here in Ventnor we get unusual things turning up."

Mr Wilson put his proposal to the local town council this month.

He said: "It was very well received. I was pleasantly surprised."

In addition to literature and signage to support the walks, he is also thinking about using his musical skills to compose a song to accompany the project.

isle of Wight coast
The heat and sandy soil make the Isle of Wight a butterfly haven

A number of surveys will be completed before the autumn, and then the scope and cost of the project will be calculated. The trail could be launched as early as April 2011.

'Front-line trench'

Matthew Oates is an advisor on nature conservation for the National Trust which manages some of the key areas of butterfly habitat on that part of the Island.

He said: "The National Trust downland above the town is immensely rich and important for butterflies. It's of top national importance."

"Because of its southerly location, Ventnor is a major immigration route for wildlife. It's the front-line trench of where things happen."

Mr Oates added that he supports the proposal. He said: "If we bring these creatures up as things that are valued deeply in our culture, then that sets the pathway for all the action to follow".

He even had his own suggestion for the region.

He explained: "One of the things that Ventnor Town Council could do is plant more butterfly friendly plants."

He believes that flowers rich in nectar would not only support rare butterflies, but other insects in the area.

Glanville Fritillary

Arguably the most famous butterfly to be found near Ventnor is the Glanville Fritillary.

Glanville Fritillary
The Glanville Fritillary is attracted by large-leafed ringwort plantain

It is named after Eleanor Glanville, who helped to reveal the science and natural history of Britain's butterflies more than 300 years ago.

It is one of Britain's rarest butterflies. The butterfly, and its caterpillar, love the heat which reflects off the bare, sandy soil of the coast and the large-leafed ringwort plantain.

The species of butterflies known as fritillaries are so-called because of the chequer-board pattern on their wing.

Eleanor Glanville studied butterflies in the 17th Century, when they were thought to symbolise the spirits of the dead.

It was a time when women were not 'allowed' to dabble in science and she was accused of witchcraft. Finally she was declared insane on the grounds that only a lunatic would obsess about butterflies in the way she did.

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