The butterfly isles

Patrick Barkham The butterfly islesPatrick Barkham (Granta Publications)

What happens when a passion for butterflies’ tips over to an obsession? You set yourself a goal to see all fifty-nine species found in the British Isles in one year…

…and then you write a book about it. Well I for one am glad that Patrick’s passion spiralled into an uncontrollable, all-consuming obsession, and that he sent us this postcard from the edge.

Part autobiographical, part travel journal, part historical and scientific review of butterfly conservation, this book will draw you in as much as any modern thriller. You find yourself living Patrick’s quest with him, routing for him when he has travelled miles only to find the weather has become decidedly butterfly unfriendly. At the same time, you’ll be learning fascinating facts about butterflies like: how the large blue went extinct and was then re-released into Britain; why ants and rabbits are important in a butterflies’ life cycle; and which species you will only see if you kick up a stink!

I won’t spoil it by telling you how many butterflies Patrick did see on his quest but I will tell you it was not fifty-nine!

Allan Archer – talk: Wildlife

September 2016