ONE of the country’s rarest butterflies is flourishing on Exmoor thanks to a return to more traditional seasonal weather over the past year.
The heath fritillary butterfly is one of a host of British wildlife species benefiting from a return to colder winters with warmer and initially drier summers.
The native endangered species is found in heathland in South-West England and in some parts of Kent.
The prolonged wet weather and milder winters of recent years made it difficult for some species to hibernate but the National Trust has reported buoyed signs and sightings of mammals, insects and birds this year.
Matthew Oates, the trust’s nature conservation adviser, said: “For the first time in a generation we have experienced a traditional year of weather and our wildlife has mostly responded favourably.
“A cold winter enabled wildlife to hibernate properly while a warm spring and early summer created ideal conditions for insects and led to bumper autumn berry crops in our orchards, woods and hedgerows.”
The trust’s survey also reported a good spring and early summer for many flowers, as dry weather meant they were not overgrown by vigorous grasses.
Mr Oates added: “However, after the coldest winter for over 30 years, contrasting summer months across the UK and this winter freeze looking set to break more records, the extremes of weather patterns within a single year continue to provide a challenge for our wildlife.”