Butterfly effect: Hopes winged wonders will stop Deer Park development

Darcy Fitzgerald, aged six, during the Deer Park Big Butterfly Count in Old Catton

Darcy Fitzgerald, aged six, during the Deer Park Big Butterfly Count in Old Catton - Credit: Jennie Fitzgerald

Campaigners have found a pretty way to protest the development of a beloved green space in the form of butterflies. 

The Big Butterfly Count took place at Old Catton's Deer Park on Tuesday with around 40 children learning about why the Grade II* listed area is so important to the area.

There are fears within the community over the future of the park after it was purchased by Devlin Developments from the Old Catton Buxton family in March.

Roberta Hughes of the Deer Park Action Group organised the butterfly count to highlight the variety of wildlife which needs protecting.

During the count, the group witnessed 169 sightings of butterflies.

Sixteen different species were identified - some of which would move away if the environment changed, an expert has warned.

Families taking part in the Big Butterfly Count at Old Catton's Deer Park

Families taking part in the Big Butterfly Count at Old Catton's Deer Park - Credit: Kathy Branson

These included Small Tortoiseshell, Painted Lady, Speckled Wood, Comma, Ringlet, Small White and Red Admiral species. 

Kathy Branson, chairwoman of the Deer Park Action Group, said: "The Deer Park is grazed by horses and we believe the ragwort weeds are contributing to the number of butterflies we have. 

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"Our concern is that there is a lot of wildlife at the top end of the park away from the road and that is their home.

A Comma butterfly which inspired the Old Catton Deer Park Big Butterfly Count 

A Comma butterfly which inspired the Old Catton Deer Park Big Butterfly Count - Credit: Carol Jordan

"For me the real power of the event was the young people getting involved. It was magical."

The Big Butterfly Count is a UK-wide survey aimed to help assess the health of the environment by counting the amount of butterflies.

Harrison Fitzgerald, aged nine, doing a word search during the Old Catton Butterfly Count 

Harrison Fitzgerald, aged nine, doing a word search during the Old Catton Butterfly Count - Credit: Jennie Fitzgerald

And the Old Catton event will be used as part of the evidence submitted to Broadland District Council objecting against homes being built when a planning application is submitted.

A sunset over the Deer Park in Old Catton 

A sunset over the Deer Park in Old Catton - Credit: Kathy Branson

Developer Lee Devlin has not revealed when an application will be submitted but it is widely anticipated this could be within the next year.

During the Old Catton count, children were invited to draw pictures of butterflies in the Maids Head garden as the pub opened up its space for the event.

As well as craft activities, there was also storytelling and a short quiz to keep families entertained. 

Readers of the Evening News recently came up with the name Hope for a newborn foal in the Deer Park

Mr Devlin has said there are currently no updates on the Deer Park.

An expert view on the Deer Park butterflies 

Andy Brazil is the county butterfly recorder for Butterfly Conservation Norfolk.

He said species identified during the Old Catton count including the Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Small Copper and Gatekeeper rely on open grassland habitats.

They would have to move away if homes were to be built, according to Mr Brazil.

Andy Brazil, the county butterfly recorder, searches for butterflies along the Lakenham Way in Norwi

Andy Brazil, Norfolk's county butterfly recorder, searches for butterflies - Credit: Denise Bradley

The butterfly buff added: "That is a good quantity of butterflies in the Deer Park. There is not a rarity among the species identified but it does show it's a very good habitat.

"There are more butterflies than you would expect in most parks within the city boundaries.

"If you wandered around Earlham Park you would not expect there to be that many butterflies." 

Mr Brazil said butterfly populations are generally in decline across the UK with a 50pc decrease since 1976.

Butterfly Conservation Norfolk has 10 meetings a year to discuss plans to support butterflies and moths.