JOHN GREEN has spent a lifetime climbing mountains all over the globe, from Europe to Africa, from the Himalayas to the Americas, but the completion of a more unusual quest gave him one of his biggest thrills.
A member of The Munro Society – he completed the Munros in 1988 and the Corbetts in 2010 - John, from Morley in Derbyshire, is one of a handful of people to have seen every species of butterfly native to the UK.
There are 58 different types, 59 if you include the Cryptic Wood White, which lives in Ireland. Only one is unique to Scotland, the Chequered Skipper. It is found along Loch Arkaig and in Glasdrum Woods by Loch Creran and there is a new population at the top of Glen Coe. There are now plans to re-introduce it in Yorkshire, where it once thrived.
There is no term to describe someone who has managed to see every butterfly and no register of those who have. It is a different discipline to mountaineering but many days of tramping the Munros, Corbetts and Wainwrights helped provide valuable experience of the types of terrain John faced in trying to find his often elusive targets.
John’s addiction began after attending a lecture, The Quest for the 58. It was based on the book, The Butterfly Isles, by Partick Barkham, which described a mission to see them all in a year.
John, 71, said: “As a mountaineer, I felt this this equated nicely to Hamish Brown's continuous round of Munros. I had the bug. I started with the Swallowtail in 2010 and finished with The Cryptic Wood White in 2016.”
But if preparation and dedication were the key to success, luck also played its part at times.
John said: “I spotted a Clouded Yellow at a nature reserve near our house. It is migratory and difficult to find at the best of times. It is classed as a British butterfly because it breeds here having flown across the Channel, but it cannot survive over winter.
“There are a number of butterflies that are elusive but they are territorial. They can be on a 100-metre stretch of old railway line and if you are not exactly in the right spot you cannot find them.
“A local species to us is The Grizzled Skipper. It is quite rare and we are trying to create the right habitat for it in Nottingham with Butterfly Conservation.
“Then there’s the Mountain Ringlet which can only live above 300 metres. It is found in many places in Scotland but it is an indicator of global warming in that it has to move up as the temperature rises, so it will become extinct when it runs out of mountain to climb.
“The Heath Fritillary lives in Somerset and Devon. It is very rare and you need to be in exactly the right place at the right time but I figured I knew how to reach that spot. I made the long journey south and slept in the car overnight, then spent a long time climbing over gorse and bracken until I saw movement in the vegetation ahead.
“It was definitely a butterfly but it was too far away to be sure it was what I was looking for, so I needed to follow it until it settled. I saw more flying about and settling on the flowers to nectar. After a number of attempts I managed a good shot. When I got back to the car I let out a whoop of joy.
“The sense of achievement when you get that photo and see a creature very few people will have seen is just as tremendous as standing on the summit of a remote mountain.”