Review and pictures: Stratford-upon-Avon Butterfly Farm opening weekend

Have you ever wondered what a quaint butterfly farm in the heart of Stratford-upon-Avon has to do with the ancient Maya civilisations and the rainforests of Belize?

Well now you don’t have to following their recent major refurbishment programme, with the farm celebrating its grand re-opening on July 22.

The opening ceremony was attended by the High Commissioner of Belize Perla Perdomo, Stratford-upon-Avon Mayor Juliet Short and internationally renowned Maya Archaeologist Dr Diane Davies to sign copies of her brand new book ‘Maya, A Journey Through The Maya World’ and bringing along her authentic Maya relics for attendees to peruse and learn more about.

Activities ran throughout the weekend for patrons to become acquainted with the new-look butterfly farm, from handling sessions to personal tours that we were invited to take a part of.

Upon first entrance to the farm, you are greeted by the new look Papillion Gift Shop and renovated seating area with stunning graphics adorning the walls to inform those relaxing of the conservation links Stratford Butterfly Farm has with the people of Belize and the positive effects this has – an otherwise little-known link between the two that the farm now believes is told we are told by marketing director Jane Kendricks.

Jane greeted us warmly and accompanied us upon our first adventure into the brand new Butterfly World, littered with around   30 replica Maya sculptures and artefacts which originate from the ancient rainforest civilisation in Belize and tell the fascinating story of the people of ancient Maya – a story that has us thoroughly engrossed from start to finish.

Not only are the statues for decoration and to add to the rustic environment the farm wishes to create, but the butterflies too benefit from their installation as they absorb the natural salts located within for their own nourishment

As a whole the farm has embraced interactivity like never before with an increase in feeding table across the flight area for visitors to gaze upon the beauty of the butterflies within, handling sessions for all the family with the knowledgeable and friendly staff that inspire a love of nature through their passionate work,  facts and figures easily accessible across newly decorated walls and a stunning, hand-drawn information booklet littered with breath-taking illustrations and writing to help you identify the butterfly breeds you see and learn even more about the ancient history of the Maya.

Their handling sessions are held in the Discovery Zone, filled with plants native to Belize such as pineapple, passionfruit and avocado that are beneficial to both humans and butterflies alike. Not only can you watch these plants come to fruition, within the Discovery Zone you can experience the life cycle of the magnificent butterfly like no other with caterpillars of all shapes, sizes and ages in their natural habitats before they form their chrysalis.

When this happens, they are placed in the emerging tank where if you’re lucky, you can watch a butterfly spread their wings for the first time. Their emerging tank has been given a whole new lease of life with bright and colourful depictions of all of their resident butterflies and brand new apparatus for the chrysalis to be kept safe and displayed upon.

Mini-beast Metropolis has also had some brand new residents with their leafcutter ant colony that walk from one side of the exhibit to the other in gigantic hordes, right over your heads on a rope that the staff themselves devised to emulate their natural habitat in which they find leaves to create compost and fertilise the food for their colony and queen.

Aside from this they still have their resident variety of creepy crawlies and lizards that have captured the hearts of visitors across the world as well as the butterflies, such as their donated iguanas, blue tongued skink and quails that live in harmony with their winged-friends and patrons.

The brand new Maya ancient civilisation rainforest exhibit has brought an enchanting and mythical edge to Stratford Butterfly Farm, complimented by their wide array of striking creatures, interactive activities for all the family and deeply-ingrained passion and approachable nature of all of their staff within. The refurbishment has brought a new, vibrant edge to the already renowned farm, that highlights the important conservation links the farm has with the community of Belize and it’s importance in Britain.

By Becci Stanley

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