Butterfly World, Chiswell Green, reopens but biome delayed

BUILDING the rainforest biome which will be the centrepiece of Butterfly World is not likely to happen until next winter because of funding problems encountered by the Chiswell Green environmental project.

But despite the setback, the tourist attraction reopened for its third year last Friday offering several new attractions and managing director Angela Harkness is confident that it will secure the remaining financial backing and come to fruition.

She explained that Butterfly World had securities, little debt, and knew it was sitting on a “fantastic part of Herts” but the banks were being very cautious about investments.

So far �12.5 million has been spent on Butterfly World and it would only cost another �6 million to complete it – one third of the overall cost.

Angela went on: “We have lots of people nibbling about and we are confident that we are going to get this thing up and done.”

In its first year when it was just named Future Gardens, the project attracted around 25-27,000 visitors and last year that figure leapt to 82,000.

Opening for its third year even without the biome is a crucial step in demonstrating the viability of the project and attracting the necessary funding.

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Angela said that even if the money was forthcoming, a business decision had been taken that there would be no construction work on the butterfly biome during the summer opening period.

The aim now is to start work on it next winter and concentrate on offering new attractions coming on stream during the next couple of months.

Not that the winter months have been quiet – among the projects that have been worked is the drainage because of the problems caused by how high up the site sits and the way the land drops away which led to flooding in the tropical butterfly house.

New planting has been going ahead in a couple of the gardens and among the attractions for the season is a natural play area scheduled to be fully open in the second week of May and featuring willow tunnels, slides and swings.

A new interactive exhibition will open in the insect study centre at the end of April which will allow children to get close to cockroaches, stick insects, caterpillars and African snails while leaf cutter ants live up to their name and cut leaves before taking them back to their nests via rope walkways.

There will be no additional wildflower planting along Miriam Way which leads into the site this year but crowd-pulling wildflowers will be planted on the aprons of the car park and within the Butterfly World site.

Stressing that the focus would again be on education this year, Angela added: “There really is plenty going on.”

Butterfly World is remaining open until September 30 and further details of Easter activities and a Bank Holiday Monday butterfly bonanza family fun day can be found at www.butterflyworldproject.com