Exbury Gardens in the New Forest 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.
The new pond habitat, designed with the help of the UK’s leading dragonfly experts, joins an important network of wildlife hotspots for dragonflies nationwide.
Exbury Gardens is now one of six Dragonfly Hotspots in England – and the first in Hampshire – recognised by the British Dragonfly Society; the world’s largest organisation dedicated to the study and conservation of dragonflies, damselflies and their wetland habitats.
To create the new Dragonfly Hotspot at Exbury, an existing, large ornamental pond 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, and an outdoor shelter has been built to act as a classroom for local groups and school children.
Exbury’s 1 ½-mile Rhododendron Line steam railway has also been updated with a new Dragonfly Halt platform to make it easy for more people to explore the area, with info boards around the pond filled with dragonfly facts and take-away tips on how visitors can attract these wonderful, winged creatures into their gardens.
Dragonflies are vital for our ecosystems and help us to assess the health of our rivers, canals and ponds. They’ve been around for over 300 million years – way before dinosaurs existed – but modern-day development, pollution and loss of habitat have meant dragonfly numbers have fallen dramatically.
Exbury Gardens hope the new Dragonfly Pond will inspire more people to build their own wildlife ponds at home. Dragonflies spend most of their lives as aquatic larvae so need ponds to survive. You don’t need a lot 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.
Exbury Gardens, located in the New Forest near Southampton, is open daily from 10 am to 5.30 pm. Adult tickets cost £13 each, children £4.50, with under 3s free. Arrival time slots must be booked online in advance at www.exbury.co.uk
Main image: Black-tailed skimmer dragonfly