The Marsh Fritillary at one time was common right across the old county of Cumberland on wet grassland and still had many colonies until the end of the 1950s. Land usage was changing after the Second World War however and huge areas of previously unused marginal land were brought into agricultural production. The rapid change to intensive farming methods resulted in much wet grassland being drained, ploughed and 'improved' by applying fertiliser, so that from a wildlife point of view, habitat was lost and the Marsh Fritillary butterfly suffered badly. In 2004 this butterfly had only one colony left with only one egg batch there. A decision was made to take the resultant larvae into captivity to form the basis of a captive breeding stock and a licence was obtained from English Nature to do this. A programme was put together for a re-introduction when selected sites had been properly prepared and success was likely to be achieved. That re-introduction was made in 2007 to four sites throughout the old county of Cumberland. There is much more information about this project elsewhere on our site at The Marsh Fritillary Project.
Where to look
Three of the four Cumbrian sites are on private land and so the locations have not been made public. The site at Finglandrigg on the Solway Plain at NY283572 is a National Nature Reserve which does have access. Natural England usually hold guided tours during the flight season also lay out a well marked trail to get you to the right part of this large reserve.
When to look
Mid-May until near the end of June.