Exbury Gardens in the New Forest has joined an important national network of wildlife hotspots for dragonflies, and will now be encouraging visitors to attract the insects into their own back gardens.
The south coast visitor attraction has been designated a Dragonfly Hotspot by the British Dragonfly Society thanks to its new Dragonfly Pond learning zone which has been officially opened by naturalist and broadcaster Nick Baker.
Dragonflies are crucial bio-indicators of the health of the UK’s rivers, canals and ponds but modern-day development, drainage and pollution have meant dragonfly numbers have fallen dramatically.
Designed with the help of the UK’s leading dragonfly experts, the new pond area at Exbury boasts info boards filled with dragonfly facts and take-away tips on how visitors can attract the wonderful creatures into their gardens.
An existing, large ornamental pond at Exbury has been adapted for the insects with dragonfly-friendly, native aquatic and marginal plants. Floating pontoons allow visitors to get close to the wildlife action, an outdoor shelter has been built to act as a classroom for local groups and school children, and Exbury’s popular Rhododendron Line steam railway has a new Dragonfly Halt platform to make it easy for more people to explore the area.
Exbury Gardens is now one of six Dragonfly Hotspots in England, and the first in Hampshire. Nick Baker said: “Most people think of ponies when they think of the New Forest, but I think of dragonflies. Exbury Gardens is now a Dragonfly Hotspot, within a dragonfly hotspot, so what better place to come to know your dragonflies!”
Experts and dragonfly ambassadors Ruary Mackenzie Dodds and Kari de Koenigswarter have helped Exbury with the project. Ruary said: “The Dragonfly Pond at Exbury will hopefully inspire more people to build their own wildlife ponds at home as pollution and loss of habitat has caused real issues for these wonderful creatures which are so vital for our ecosystem. Dragonflies spend most of their lives as aquatic larvae so need ponds to survive. You don’t require lots of space or a big budget to install a pond at home and you’ll be rewarded with beautifully coloured insects that will add a new dimension to your garden.”
Dragonfly Hotspots are special places, carefully chosen by the British Dragonfly Society because they support a good variety of dragonfly and damselfly species, are easy to access, and can provide opportunities for local communities to get involved with dragonfly conservation and events.
Exbury Gardens, located in the New Forest near Southampton, is open daily from 1 March 2021 10am – 5.30pm. Arrival time slots must be booked online in advance at www.exbury.co.uk
Thanks to its unrivalled collection of rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias, Exbury Gardens is famed for its riot of spring colour, as well as a vast array of beautiful, mature rare trees. Over recent years the Hampshire garden has been expanded for all-season interest with areas designed to show off summer and autumn ‘flower power’, as well as an extension of its 1 ½-mile Rhododendron Line steam railway.
Admission prices – Adult £13, Child £4.50 and Under 3s Free
British Dragonfly Society – Over the last 60 years we have witnessed the extinction of two species of dragonfly in the British Isles (Norfolk Damselfly Coenagrion armatum and Orange-spotted Emeral Oxygastra curtisii ). At least a third of the remainder are considered to be rare, localised and have specialised habitat requirements. The British Dragonfly Society (BDS), set up in 1983, is the world’s largest organisation dedicated to the study and conservation of dragonflies, damselflies and their wetland habitats.
It is a volunteer-led membership organisation, carrying out and supporting research on dragonflies, and leading practical conservation, education and public engagement activities to teach people about the importance of dragonflies and their wetland habitats.
The greatest threats to dragonfly populations come from habitat destruction and fragmentation, pollution, inappropriate habitat management, alteration of site hydrology and the impacts of climate change. It works hard to research and identify changes in populations, as well as to advise on creating and managing suitable habitats, and to educate and engage the wider public to engender greater care for these charismatic insects.
- They have been around for over 300 million years, way before the dinosaurs existed.
- They can indicate the quality of both aquatic and terrestrial habitats thanks to their fascinating life cycle.
- They are climate change indicators, as they will respond to air and water temperature changes by expanding or contracting their range.
- They have a 95% success rate when hunting, making them one of the most efficient hunters on the planet.
- Some larger dragonflies have been recorded flying up to 30mph