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Bookham Commons

Emperors and Admirals on Bookham Commons

Purple Emperor IFS 004lr
Join National Trust Ranger on a walk to discover more about the vibrant butterflies that live on Bookham Commons

Early summer heralds a glorious display of butterflies on Bookham Commons in Surrey; in fact, yearly sightings of these beautiful creatures mean that Bookham Commons are amongst the best woods in England to see one of the UK’s largest butterflies – the purple emperor. Join National Trust Ranger, Ian Swinney, on Sunday 5 July for a two hour guided walk of the commons looking at these fabulous insects.

Ian, who is one of the National Trust’s longest serving Rangers, has a real passion for Bookham Commons and the myriad colours of these bold and blowsy creatures. “Each afternoon male purple emperor butterflies gather at two special clumps of trees and put on amazing territorial displays” Ian says. He continues “the purple emperor season begins around 24th June, peaking in the second week of July. By August the butterflies are over”.

The white admiral is another butterfly commonly seen at Bookham Commons, so much so that in most years the rare black admiral colour form also occurs. These butterflies can be seen in shadier places, from mid-June until late July whereas silver-washed fritillaries are abundant during July and August in Bookham’s woods; look for them feeding on the nectar of brambles and thistles.

Emperors and Admirals is a two hour guided walk with Ranger Ian Swinney on Sunday 5 July from 10am until 12noon. Tickets, which need to be booked in advance, cost £10 per person and can be booked by calling 01372 220644.

Did you know – 5 facts about the butterflies of Bookham Commons
1. The purple emperor is Britain’s largest and most impressive butterfly. It inhabits three annually used territories on Bookham Commons. The female wing span is 70-92mm.
2. The favoured food of the purple emperor is goat willow and grey willow
3. The white admiral has a graceful flight and soars and glides close to the contours of oak trees. It’s smaller than the purple emperor and has more rounded wings.
4. White admiral females look for shaded honeysuckle leaves to lay their small, shiny grey/brown, sea-urchin-like (including the spines) eggs.
5. The silver-washed fritillary is a large orange-brown butterfly chequered with black spots. The male is brighter in colour but the female is slightly larger.

About Bookham Commons
In the summer the commons are buzzing with butterflies. Silver-washed fritillaries patrol along rides in June and July, and white admirals gracefully glide over bramble flowers. And, if you’re very lucky, a magnificent purple emperor might swoop down near you on a warm summer morning in July.