There used to be a Butterfly Farm in Great Yarmouth on the Norfolk Coast. I visited it when I was smaller. It was a very interesting place, with lots of butterflies of varying shades and hues. They fluttered around in the heated greenhouse and made a spectacular display of colour, catching the eye with the wonderful patterns on their wings. It is a shame that it isn't there anymore, but I have fond memories of watching these small, delicate creatures flitting by.
When I was even smaller I went on a family day out to Loddon Bridge in Norfolk one scorching summer’s day and found a huge green caterpillar undulating down a plant stem. My dad encouraged me to look after it, so we dug a box out of the boot of the car and put it carefully inside, with a few leaves from the plant to munch on its way. We kept the caterpillar in the shed, giving it a nice view out of the window so it could see its friends outside, we weren’t cruel or anything like that, and fed it plenty of tasty leaves. It grew and grew, then one day it seemed as if it was undergoing a strange transformation. It writhed and wriggled all over the box, a peculiar liquid goo pouring from its mouth in stringy strands. I wondered just what was going on, and if it was at all well. After a while, the strands formed into a kind of smooth shell, which I had an idea was called a ‘cocoon’, after the Steve Guttenburg film of the same name. I wasn’t certain that it would eventually hatch into Steve Guttenburg, but kept the cocoon in the corner of the shed, nevertheless.
Months passed without a stir. The egg casing was still there, but it had a bit of dust on it, and had gone quite dry. Occasionally when I went in to get my bike I’d look in at the small brown lump in the plastic box, and wonder if there was anything inside, but nothing was happening. I touched it a couple of times to see how it felt, it was cold, soft and a bit sticky and not as velvety as it looked. Time went on and I forgot all about it when winter set in and it was too dark and wet to go out on my bike.
A month or two after winter had passed and spring had come again, I was in the shed looking for some rollerskates or something like that when I heard some scratching. I wondered what it could be. Mice perhaps? Seemed unusual, but possible. Then something caught my eye, there was something moving in the box! It was the cocoon! Something was hatching, although it wasn't Steve Guttenburg, fortunately! It wiggled about for what seemed like ages, and then something appeared, probably the rear end of whatever it was. Not the most glamorous way to enter the world, it must be said, but who said Nature had to be glamorous? That was the way that the creature came out, slowly, gradually in reverse. It pushed and pushed until finally, there, unfurling itself, was a huge purple moth! It was enormous, and spectacular to look at. I sat there, peering at it airing itself coolly, shivering in the slight breeze of the afternoon. It stayed perched for a while, just getting used to its new world. I was transfixed, the massive thing just sat there, taking its time, acclimatising. I went in to tell my mum and she came out to have a look. It was still there, airing itself. We found a book to tell us what kind it was, my Find 50 insect spotters guide, and there it was, right in the middle - 50 points! An Emperor Moth, no less! Wow! I'd seen the birth of an Emperor! I was well impressed. The day wore on, and the moth began to flex its wings gently. Evening descended, and when it was ready, the moth was off! It flapped for a while against the window, crashing its wings heavily, then soon found the gaping door that I held open for it and tripped out into the moonlight. It flew away into the night, towards the moon, a soft flapping of its wings still audible in the warm spring evening, then it was gone. The feeling of nurturing something to its adulthood was one that has stuck with me and gives me a great beaming smile to this day.
Here is my poem dedicated to that wonderful moth:
My beloved moth
Please do not scoff
The cloth. Thanks.
Another time I was out at How Hill in Norfolk and caught a glimpse of a very rare Swallowtail Butterfly! I felt honoured to be in its presence. It was a great big thing, bigger than your hand, with long spatz-like tails waving out behind it - very refined indeed! I thought I would end with a little poem about this experience:
By the windpumps of How Hill where the wherries sail
I caught a glimpse of a swallowtail
It flashed before me in the blink of an eye
Then was gone, this rarest, shyest butterfly
Oil Companies and The Environment
There is a Butterfly Effect around the way that big businesses, especially oil companies, are affecting the environment. By upsetting the delicate balance of Nature, eco-systems become decimated and the inter-connected structures that sustain life begin to untwine.
According to this article: http://uk.news.yahoo.com/earth-crisis-wildlife-numbers-plummet-031832018.html
“Earth is a planet in crisis with wildlife populations declining by more than 30% in the past four decades.”
The UK butterfly population is in decline: http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/18283251
What kind of a species are we that we can accept this sort of environmental decimation? It is a despicable state of affairs, and the people responsible for perpetrating it are a disgrace.
Halliburton opened the docks at Great Yarmouth, that are now disused. Perhaps they could have built a new Butterfly Farm instead? But what value would that be?
Tom Read, Norwich Greenpeace Member