So there we were sitting in the dovegreyreader tent awaiting the arrival of Patrick Barkham when a blur, followed by a crowd of blurs, shot across in front of us screeching to a halt at a nearby herbaceous border. I wandered across to get a sighting of our next guest because yes, it was Patrick Barkham concluding his Butterfly Walk around Port Eliot before coming in to see us.
If anyone was feeling a bit sleepy they soon woke up because I doubt anyone can top Patrick for energy and enthusiasm for his subject as he talked us through his butterfly year as recounted in The Butterfly Isles and his search for all fifty-nine species of British butterflies. And we promised not to breath a word about the day he pulled a sicky to notch up another rarity.
At times hilarious... as in the moment when his girlfriend rang him whilst he was halfway up a mountain in search of a rarity to tell him it was all over, she couldn't cope with all the lepidoptery a minute longer. Thankfully they are now back together and with a baby on the way (currently pupating)
At times serious as Patrick recounted the threats to the butterfly population and how intensive farming methods some years ago had caused a serious decline...
'Yes but it kept you all fed,' replied a farmer in the audience and a moment that could have gone either way but handled with supreme tact by Patrick as he talked about the improvements that were made through stewardship schemes when the damage became evident. We live in the midst of a stewardship scheme here; the farm around us now leaves plough margins and hedges are trimmed at appropriate times only, whilst our garden is a haven of neglect this year (building project priority) so we are claiming stewardship and barn owl habitat as our excuse though sadly with no EU subsidy.
We asked what we could do to encourage the butterfly population and apparently you need to prune your buddleias early so that they flower late...or do you prune them late so they flower early...oh help me out someone, I didn't take notes.
Two very delightful small children sat on the floor and knitted their way through Patrick's talk and then told us about the butterfly kit they had bought online which inluded caterpillars, and how they had fed them and watched them hatch and then released them, and we all wanted one. I think it might have been from here.
Knowing that we had captured a rare knitted large blue from Site X ' somewhere in Devon I steered the conversation in that direction and who knew that the real Large Blue has such a precarious existence, relying on a prolonged and parasitic sojourn in the nest of a very particular sort of red ant before emerging resplendent after about ten months (I think).
Anyway Patrick was delighted with his Knitted Large Blue knitsuke and we are delighted it has gone to such a good home.
and we quizzed him about his next book too which will be about badgers.
My thanks to Patrick Barkham for a memorable event and to everyone who came and listened.