Magic of Life Butterfly House

Aberystwyth, Wales

History and background

The Trust was established in 2000 with the aim of encouraging an appreciation and understanding of nature. The idea was to set up a centre where people could learn first-hand about plants and animals. Away from books and short-term learning for exams, we wanted a place where people could learn by experience. Watching a butterfly emerge from its pupae says more than a thousand words. It would be both a celebration of the natural world as well as being an informative centre for learning.

Preparations began by searching for a suitable site. One of the criteria for the site was that if we were going to teach about nature the best place to be was out there. The idea was to buy a piece of land with some woodland on it. The manager, Neil Gale, looked in a broad swathe around mid wales from Lampeter to Llanrhystud. After seven or eight times, he came across the beautiful Rheidol Valley cloaked in native oak woodland and fairly close to the coast.

That was the easy bit. It then took a maddening two and a half years' bureaucracy and paperwork to get permission and lease legalities to erect a polytunnel.
The Taro plants grew to five foot in the first season
Once the permissions were granted, the centre was then built and opened within two and half months although there was still a lot of work still to be completed. Like some garden makeover, the plants were put in the night before. The centre was opened on 30th June, 2002 by rain forest biologist and former head of English Nature, the Earl of Cranbrook, and the Mayor of Aberystwyth. In the tropical heat, the taros, bananas and passion vines grew with phenomenal speed and by the end of season, the display was already looking mature.