BUTTERFLY conservationists are buzzing after the first year of the Steyning Dukes and Downland Project.
More than 40 people gathered in the Saxon Room at the Steyning Centre on Friday to hear the latest news on the project, which plans to restore the South Downs around Steyning as a haven for butterflies.
Richard Goring, whose family set up the Steyning Downland Scheme, gave a warm welcome before a number of presentations explaining this year’s work.
The Heritage Lottery Fund granted £28,000 for the project in a bid to encourage dainty Duke of Burgundy butterflies back to the chalk grasslands.
Sarah Quantrill, project co-ordinator, said volunteers had cleared invading scrub to encourage wild flowers to grow.
Tens of thousands of cowslip and primrose seeds had already been collected and 25 people have volunteered to grow on hundreds of seedlings, which will be planted on the downs this autumn. These are the food plants for the rare Duke of Burgundy, which experts believe can be brought back to Steyning after going extinct in the area decades ago.
Steyning Grammar School teacher Cecily Tidley said her students had monitored butterflies and one day had seen more than 250 butterflies.
Neil Hulme, naturalist and butterfly expert, has been working with the two-year project, having already been successful in seeing the Duke of Burgundy species return to Chantry Hill, about 15km west of the Steyning Downland Scheme.
He reported a total of 4,298 butterflies had been seen on the land during 2015, including the rare Adonis Blue and Silver Spotted Skipper.
The Dukes project is a partnership between the Steyning Downland Scheme, the South Downs National Park Authority, Butterfly Conservation and Wakehurst Place, Kew.
To find out more or to get involved, email SDS@wistonestate.co.uk for more information.
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