Campaigners bidding to resurrect Butterfly World in St Albans

PUBLISHED: 06:00 10 October 2016

Save Butterfly world chairman John Horsfield, committee members Lauren Gormer, Emma Porter and Lindsay McRae at the event in Clarence Park.

Save Butterfly world chairman John Horsfield, committee members Lauren Gormer, Emma Porter and Lindsay McRae at the event in Clarence Park.

Danny Loo Photography 2016

Could the magic of the successful Harry Potter studio tours be stretched as far as St Albans, to help resurrect Butterfly World?

Rory, 5 and Jemima Tilbury, 7 with their butterflies at the Save Butterfly World event in Clarence Park.Rory, 5 and Jemima Tilbury, 7 with their butterflies at the Save Butterfly World event in Clarence Park.

A local group certainly hopes so, as members’ efforts to re-open the sanctuary in Chiswell Green have been bolstered by “overwhelming” community support.

Chairman of Save Butterfly World, John Horsfield, said that about 200 people attended the group’s first Butterfly Fair, held in Clarence Park on Thursday September 29.

He said the event provided “real confirmation of the support from the local community for a re-opening of Butterfly World”.

John said visitors ranged from two very young babies “to a remarkable 99-year-old lady who walked some distance from her home to see the wonderful butterflies painted by local children.

Minni Winnan, 5, has her face painted at the Save Butterfly world event in Clarence Park.Minni Winnan, 5, has her face painted at the Save Butterfly world event in Clarence Park.

“Clarence Park seemed full of wee children with fantastic and gently painted butterfly faces.”

The group will shortly seek a meeting with the sanctuary’s owner, the Breheny Group, which closed the seasonal visitor attraction at the end of the 2015 season.

John said members would present a petition, signed by over 57,000 people, and share the group’s plans, given the “overwhelming support” shown for the re-opening of Butterfly World.

He discussed the campaign with visitors to the fair, and said that people were keen for the sanctuary’s founder Clive Farrell’s vision of an Eden Project-type biome to be built.

John said: “Clive’s original vision was bang on. The location is ideal – it is in an important tourist city, close to two major motorways and the hugely successful Harry Potter experience [at Warner Bros Studio in Leavesden].

“There is a really strong view that a properly run major tourist feature, particularly one with a strong environmental theme, would be a great asset for the town.”

The group has been considerably bolstered by support from St Albans district council, the St Albans Enterprise Agency, local businesses and schools.

John said Save Butterfly World had received “advice about the possibilities of crowdfunding or other creative investment”.

He went on: “We are drawing up plans to take on the project and run it on 52 weeks-a-year basis. We are seeking help and advice from Oaklands College, Herts University and Rothamsted Research.

“The wildflower meadows, a vital habitat for the butterflies, can remain unattended for at least another year, but then intervention will be needed to ensure the environment remains stable and wildlife friendly.

“Every day that passes means that mothballing the site costs the owners money. If these plans come to fruition, we could afford to pay a fair rent. I am sure there is a way we can work together to ensure that this vital habitat survives.”

• Butterflies displayed at the fair can be seen in the children’s section of St Albans Library throughout October. The display includes work from local nurseries and play groups.

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