This is Britainís only montane species and was probably one of the first species to colonise the country after the last ice age and as such is our oldest butterfly. The Lake District fells are the only location in England where this butterfly is found. It inhabits discrete colonies on the The Lake District fells are the only location in England where this butterfly is found, It inhabits discrete colonies on the mountains between an altitude of 250m (750ft) and 850m (2500ft). There were fears that this species could be adversely affected resulting from climate change with increased temperatures causing the butterfly to move continually uphill to cooler locations until there is no suitable habitat remaining. But there is currently no firm evidence of significant uphill movement and the fact that some colonies have thrived for many decades at low altitude, and hence higher temperature, tends to make this scenario seem unlikely. Colonies are almost exclusively found where the underlying geology is Borrowdale volcanic rock and in a relatively narrow band of latitude from Wasdale in the west to Mardale (Haweswater) in the east. The species can be difficult to locate on the fells as one needs to be in exactly the right location and the weather must be both reasonably warm (15 degrees minimum) AND sunny for adults to fly. Look for a small chocolate brown butterfly flying purposefully 30cm above the vegetation. Cumbria branch usually runs two field trips every year for Mountain Ringlet. For much more information about the Mountain Ringlet by Peter Wilde a local naturalist and member of Cumbria branch go to Cumbria Wildlife
Anyone visiting the Mountain Ringlet sites must be aware that mountains can be a hazardous environment, especially for those new to mountain walking who should learn about sensible precautions to ensure a walk is safe and enjoyable. Mountain weather can change rapidly resulting in loss of visibility and hazardous conditions. The latest mountain weather forecast can be found on the Mountain Weather Information Service Lake District webpage.
Where to look
Details of all the known sites for Mountain Ringlet are shown in the Cumbria Branch report Distribution of the Mountain Ringlet in Cumbria. This is updated annually and contains dates of slightings. Directions to two of the most reliable and easily reached colonies are below.
The easiest site for access is Irton Fell in Wasdale, (Grid ref, NY 135023), click here for directions. The Irton Fell colony usually emerges in the third week of May, higher colonies mid to the end of June.
The Honistor/Grey Knotts/Brandreth site, (Grid ref, NY 216134) in Borrowdale/Buttermere has access that is steeper but shorter, click here for directions.