THE long, hot days of summer are when many of us head for our parks and open spaces. One warm afternoon recently I went along to Harnham recreation ground to find out whether the swathe of wildflowers planted there by the city council were attracting any butterflies.

I found six different species, from tiny skippers to the more vivid small tortoiseshells. There were also numerous bees and other insects, from hoverflies to brightly coloured beetles. The area had literally ‘come to life’.

There has been a massive decline in insects over recent years following the intensification of farming and the widespread use of chemicals. Our parks and green spaces, road verges and gardens give us an opportunity to begin to reverse this trend by leaving some areas of long grass to allow the wildflowers to thrive, or by sowing wildflower seed. The fifth national Big Butterfly Count is taking place now until August 10.

Last year, 100,000 people across the UK took part, so why not join in this time?

Butterflies are not only incredibly beautiful but they are also indicators of the health of the environment; where there are butterflies many other insects will thrive and the bird population will increase too.

Go to to download the ID chart and enter your results. This can be a fun activity for all the family and provide important information. Visit your local park or green space and help to build up a picture of which areas are full of wildlife and which are a bit ‘dead’. If you have suggestions for areas that could be more ‘natural’ write to the city council’s parks department, tell them the results of your butterfly count and where you think they could leave some long grass and plant wildflowers or native hedges. The council wants to bring more wildlife back to our parks and would welcome public support.

Pam Rouquette,