Last month, on the 25 February, passengers on the London – Birmingham railway line spotted a gaggle of 24 Network Rail orange Hi-Viz tunics working in a field adjacent to the line somewhere in deepest Buckinghamshire; but they were not on duty.
They had volunteered to help the Upper Thames Branch of wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation (BC) to create a new habitat for a threatened local colony of Duke of Burgandy butterflies, a rare species that has only just recovered from a catastrophic decline over the past 10 years.
The colony – one of just three in the UK - currently resides on private land near Princes Risborough, just north of High Wycombe, which has recently come up for sale.
BC hopes that creating a new habitat nearby will encourage the butterflies to expand their range, so that whatever happens to the current site, they will face a more secure future.
Lucie Anderton, environment manager for Network Rail said: “It’s great to help support Butterfly Conservation. The habitat site is by the railway line which we will be upgrading as part of East West Rail and confirms our commitment to engage with local conservation groups to help preserve and protect the environment.”
Upper Thames Branch Chairman, Nick Bowles said: “The status of this butterfly has been improving in other parts of the UK, but it has been completely lost from Oxfordshire and is in danger of disappearing from Buckinghamshire too.
“We are thrilled that Network Rail not only allowed us to work on this site, a former breeding ground for the butterfly, but also that so many of their staff volunteered to help. This is all part of our efforts to strengthen the Duke's population and increase the number of colonies in Buckinghamshire.”