Friday, 15 August 2014

Butterflies and bugs

We leave at 10 for Aberystwith with two planned stops on the way. First we go to the Centre for Alternative Technology. Its declared mission is to inspire, educate and inform on lower impact ways of living. To be honest, I’m disappointed. The exhibits are interesting but it’s all too homespun and unkempt. I’d like it to have a little more polish, that way it would have a chance of engaging the mainstream. As it is, only those who already embrace low-impact living would respond to it.

The next stop is the Magic of Life Butterfly Farm, which is run by an old school friend of Simon’s. Neil welcomes us warmly and refuses to let us pay the entry fee. He starts by introducing us to some of his bugs, including rhinoceros beetles, stick insects (more like branch insects in some cases!), mantises and tarantulas.

We’re amazed to find out that the enormous moths sitting quietly on a block of wood on the desk, that we thought were replicas, are actually real live moths. Then we go through to the butterfly house, and Neil explains about the origin of the different species and their habits.

Some of them are really tame, and quite happily move on to a proferred finger, others are more skittish. There are some spectacular species – one looks like an owl, another like a dead leaf – at least on the outside, the inside of the wings are brightly coloured. There are pots of sugar water that you can dip your finger in to attract the butterflies, or you can use the sprigs of buddleia that are provided.
We spend much longer here than planned – Neil is easy to get along with and so knowledgeable about the butterflies and bugs, so we chat for ages. We leave with three atlas moth caterpillars – the atlas moth is the huge one we mistook for a model on the way in – and a plan to meet later for a drink in Aberystwith.

Our hotel is right on the seafront, and although there’s a cold wind it’s a beautiful evening. We have dinner and then go out to meet Neil. The bar we choose doesn’t allow children after 10pm so we return to the hotel for a final drink, and then turn in. I’m lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves breaking on the beach. We leave tomorrow morning.

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