The return of the chequered skipper to local woodlands

The Chequered Skipper pub in Ashton is named after the beautiful brown and yellow butterfly, the Carterocephalus palaemon. The butterfly was last sighted in England in 1976, in Rutland. But this rare insect will soon be returning to England and is to be released in local woodlands this year.

The chequered skippers will be taken from healthy populations in Belgium and will be released into woodland sites across Rockingham Forest, which used to be the species’ stronghold.

The chequered skipper (15) and its underside (15a)  from British and European Butterflies and Moths [1897]

The chequered skipper (15) and its underside (15a)
from British and European Butterflies and Moths [1897]

More than £7 million has gone into this project, raised by the Rethink Nature partnership and Natural England, to “bring back from the brink” threatened English species.

This is not the first time it has been attempted to bring the butterfly back into England. There was an attempt to re-introduce the species in the 1990s in Lincolnshire, but the project was unsuccessful.

Active management of the woodlands is key to the successful introduction, allowing for open spaces for the butterflies to flourish.

The pub in Ashton was given its name by Dame Miriam Rothschild, roughly 40 years ago. Her home was Ashton Wold, outside the village that was once entirely owned by her family.

Although Ms Rothschild described herself as “an amateur”, she was a celebrated entomologist and regarded as one of the world’s most distinguished naturalists.

Over the course of her career, she published more than 300 scientific papers. It is a given that she would be thrilled by the possibility of the chequered skipper returning to the English countryside.

The newly formed Ashton Society supported this initiative with a talk held at The Chequered Skipper pub in February to discuss the return of the butterfly.

They hope to be spotting the chequered skipper again very soon.

Hannah Wakeford
May 2018