In mid-September Butterfly Conservation announced the results of its Big Butterfly Count 2023 and it was a mixture of good news and not so good. Good: the number of butterflies recorded in 2023 was the highest since 2019. Not so good: “longer-term trends show worrying declines for some of the UK’s most common butterfly species.”

The Wey & Arun Canal and its banks are a marvellous place to spot butterflies. Canal Trust members had a look to see which of the declining species we had seen in 2023 and the answer was “most of them”. Just picking out three, the results tell us “Species that saw a decline from last year include Ringlet, Common Blue and Speckled Wood, all of which also show long-term declines.” In one visit to the Hunt Nature Park in Shalford on 6th August we spotted Common Blue and Speckled Wood butterflies and on 9th July a Ringlet.

Butterfly Conservation say “If butterflies can feed, breed and shelter, they can thrive. By creating a Wild Space in your outdoor area you can help to reverse the massive losses of wildlife-friendly habitat”. This is exactly what the Wey & Arun Canal Trust is doing in Shalford and many other locations. During the summer months we minimise cutting vegetation on the canal banks so that wildflowers can grow and benefit all sorts of wildlife including bees, butterflies and caterpillars. We are very happy to see that our efforts are producing such positive results.