There’s still time to help Wiltshire Wildlife Trust with their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to save the endangered marsh fritillary butterfly.

The charity has the chance to purchase 44 acres at Upper Minety Meadows, next to the Trust’s existing nature reserve at Emmett Hill in the Braydon Forest. This will allow a much wider site to be managed to provide much-needed habitat for the butterfly, and enable its population in north Wiltshire to recover.

The endangered butterfly was once found widely across the UK, but in recent decades has suffered a catastrophic decline, due in large part to the loss of suitable habitat. Critically, marsh fritillaries need devil’s bit scabious, a pretty, purple flowering plant often found in damp hay meadows, in order to lay their eggs and provide food for the caterpillars.

Ellie Jones, reserves manager (north) for Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, said: “I am delighted that we finally have an opportunity to protect the future of this beautiful and iconic species in North Wiltshire. By creating a new nature reserve at Upper Minety Meadows, we will provide suitable habitat for marsh fritillaries, but also a range of other species of conservation concern, such as forester moth, kestrel and serotine bat. The chance to acquire this land is unlikely to present itself again in our lifetimes, so we desperately need the public’s support.”

The Trust has a conditional offer under the Landfill Communities Fund which will cover much of the land purchase price, but needs to raise £49,200 to reach the full amount needed.

These funds must be raised before the end of February 2021.

Ann Skinner, former senior national conservation advisor to the Environment Agency, said: “Having watched similar meadows in the Braydon Forest area being sprayed, ploughed and re-seeded in 2020, I know just how important and urgent it is for the land adjacent to Emmett Hill, which is not currently protected, to be bought by the Trust. Please join me in helping the Trust secure these beautiful flower-rich meadows, quadrupling the size of their existing nature reserve and managing it for the benefit of wildlife and future generations.”

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