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Council worker mistakenly mows meadow used for David Attenborough's Big Butterfly Count

Butterfly species previously spotted there include holly blues, ringlets, commas, marbled whites, peacocks and painted ladies

Harriet Agerholm
Monday 10 September 2018 14:51 BST
Stop squabbling over Brexit and start counting butterflies, says Sir David Attenborough on BBC Radio 4 Today

A council worker has mowed a meadow being monitored for a wildlife project spearheaded by David Attenborough, destroying the wildflowers that grew there.

The site, in Sidmouth in Devon, was home to eight different species of butterfly surveyed as part of the Big Butterfly Count.

But an East Devon District Council (EDDC) employee tasked with cutting a pathway from a car park to the gate accidentally cut nine acres of the meadow. The local authority has apologised for the blunder.

East Devon District Council has apologised (Apex)

Ed Dolphin, who had been counting butterflies for the national survey, said he was “horrified” to discover the destruction of the habitat.

“It wasn’t just the number but the sheer variety of butterflies there — at least eight different sorts. The day after there was just one: a good old cabbage white.

“It’s tidy, but it’s more like a desert. Mowing it when they did and leaving the cuttings on is going to mean fewer wildflowers next time.”

Butterfly species that had been seen there included holly blues, ringlets, commas, marbled whites, peacocks and painted ladies.

Mr Dolphin continued: “I don’t know how long it will take to recover.

“If the cuttings are removed some wild flowers may come back next year.

“The council sowed wild flower seeds there a few years back. The orchids only started appearing five or six years ago.

“Originally the site was a water meadow back in the 1860s​. It is a blunder.”

An East Devon District Council employee tasked with cutting a pathway from a car park to the gate accidentally cut nine acres of the meadow (Apex) (MARK PASSMORE/APEX)

The Big Butterfly Count was established by conservationists to increase knowledge about the insect.

Launching the nationwide scheme in July, Attenborough said: “I’m asking people to turn their mind away from the squabbles and problems of what is facing us with Brexit, sit in a quiet place where the sun is shining and see how many butterflies come, and count them.”

An EDDC spokesperson said: “We regret that one of our operatives misunderstood the instructions he was given and cut the arena area by mistake, instead of just cutting some pathways and a flat area to help those using the park for walking through.

“We agree this shouldn’t have happened and will be taking measures to ensure that this doesn’t happen again next year.”

The local authority said it would be bringing in a machine by the end of next week to pick up the cut grass.

Apex News contributed to this report

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