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John's still chasing butterflies at 84.


Wildlife Trust volunteers come from all walks of life and range in age from schoolchildren to the retired. That said, John Zehetmayr is still a pretty unusual example. The warden of Lavernock Point nature reserve in Penarth is fast approaching his 85th birthday, but showing no signs of slowing down.

As well as helping to care for the 14.5-acre reserve, he also teaches skiing, and is looking forward to spending his next birthday in the Alps with his family.

'I've been a skiing instructor for over 20 years, and I teach at the ski school in Fairwater in Cardiff,' he said. 'I like to keep active.'

During the past fortnight, however, John has been devoting a great deal of his energy to his other passion - nature. He and fellow warden Jeff Curtis, along with a team of eager volunteers, have been preparing the Lavernock Point reserve for its annual opening to the public.

Every year, volunteers lead guided walks around the coastal limestone grassland reserve managed by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, and this weekend, from 11am on Sunday, they will be welcoming visitors and showing them just what makes the reserve so special.

'The reserve is a haven for wildlife, and part of it is classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest,' said John, who has been a warden for 30 years, since retiring as the senior officer in Wales with the Forestry Commission.

'My great passion is butterflies, and Lavernock Point is an excellent place to see them. My personal record is 16 [varieties], and I'm hoping to beat that this weekend if the weather is good. Three years ago, some people recorded 17, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

'Visitors will almost certainly see the four browns - the meadow brown, the ringlet, the speckled wood and the gatekeeper - and probably the lovely yellow brimstone, which should be hatching about now.

'Then, of course, there are all the migrants from the Mediterranean, like the red admiral and the painted lady. One of the most exciting things around at the moment, though, is the hummingbird hawkmoth, which is always lovely to see.'

Lavernock Point comprises an inland unimproved meadow and a cliff-top field bearing a mosaic of fine, unimproved limestone grassland and scrub.

The area supports a rich variety of plants such as agrimony, dyer's greenweed, St John's wort, adder's-tongue fern, cowslip, and common twayblade, as well as early purple orchid, common spotted orchid, bee orchid, and greater butterfly orchid.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 18, 2006
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