I’VE only seen one once, fluttering across a boardwalk at Ranworth. It was several years ago, before I knew how special it was, before I appreciated that the Broads was just about the only place in this country where you could see the Swallowtail butterfly. They used to be much more common of course. But that was in the days when reed and sedge cutting was a genuine industry; fuelled by the demand for thatch and marsh hay for the horses which pulled London cabs. As Britain started its long love affair with the internal combustion engine, the marshes become overgrown. One of the many consequences was that milk parsley – the main food for the Swallowtail caterpillar - found itself shaded out. But since the 1990s there’s been a “fen management strategy” to replace Edwardian industry. And today the Broads Authority is able to trumpet the first increase in Swallowtail numbers for a century – a remarkable milestone.
* The Broads Authority says the best places to see the swallowtail are at How Hill, near Ludham, Hickling Broad and the Strumpshaw Fen near Brundall. Do any cross the Yare from Strumpshaw into Wherryman’s Way country? Let me know if you spot them. Full press release here. Photo taken from Broads Authority press release.