Author Nathaniel Hawthorne once likened happiness to a butterfly. When pursued, he wrote, it is always just beyond your grasp, but if you sit down quietly, it may alight upon you. I was reminded of this during my visit to the popular Stratford-upon-Avon Butterfly Farm situated in Warwickshire, in the West Midlands region of England.
Tropical paradise in Shakespeare's country. Author image.
In the flight area, an artificial indoor jungle filled with tropical blossoms, waterfalls and fish-filled ponds, hundreds of butterflies of every colour, hue and wingspan dip, flutter, fly, feed, twirl and dance. The Stratford-upon-Avon Butterfly Farm hosts more than 250 different species of tropical butterflies originating from 20 different countries - around 1,500 individuals in total (give or take a few). And, whether they alight upon you or not, walking through drifts of these ethereal creatures is a magical experience.
Two of a kind. The adult Anartia amathea (Scarlet Peacock) butterfly. Author image.
Birds are a further drawcard in the flight area. Selected because they prefer to eat seeds and fruit (rather than insects), their ranks include budgerigars, Indian ring-necked parakeets, African mousebirds and Chinese painted quail. Keep your eyes peeled too, for a green Iguana from South America who can sometimes be spotted high up in the trees.
The less spectacular phases of the butterfly life cycle can also be observed in the caterpillar room. Careful observation will reveal butterfly eggs, a selection of spiky, hairy, stripy, or camouflaged caterpillars, and a variety of jewel-like chrysalises in which miracles of transformation take place. Then there's Insect City which houses one of the UK's largest collections of insects - including ants, beetles, stick insects, grasshoppers, mantids, and millipedes. There's also a great gift shop so you can take some botanical inspiration home with you!