Butterfly centre saved

With the bulldozers on standby and ready to roll, it seemed there was nothing Michael Crosse could do to save his precious tourist attraction in London, which was home to thousands of butterflies and birds.

With the bulldozers on standby and ready to roll, it seemed there was nothing Michael Crosse could do to save his precious tourist attraction in London, which was home to thousands of butterflies and birds.

Time was running out for the London Butterfly House and, despite a huge campaign to save it, the order was made for closure so that builders could move in.

For Mr Crosse and his wife Merle, it looked like the bitter end to their dream. Despite desperately searching the country, they had been unable to find somewhere to relocate.

But fate, it seemed, had taken an extraordinary twist. By chance their son had been travelling in the Lincolnshire area last summer, when he heard on the radio that the Butterfly and Wildlife Park at Long Sutton was for sale.

It seemed too good to be true, as it was the perfect venue for the London Butterfly House which is in the grounds of Syon House at Syon Park. Now, following months of delicate negotiations, the Crosses have bought the park.

And when Syon, which is believed to be the oldest butterfly house in the western world, closes for the final time in October, the couple will move the soft-billed birds, amphibians and insects to their new home in Long Sutton.

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Mr Crosse, 57, said: “We were just very lucky: it was like fate. When we heard that we had secured the deal to buy the park there was a real mix of excitement and relief, and almost disbelief.

“We call this Little London and we are just starting to find our feet here. It is a much bigger attraction than the one in London and now we own a pot-bellied pig and water buffalo.

“The gems of the London Butterfly House are already here - they are purple sugar birds and they are beautiful to see.”

He added: “The dream was to own my own business and it seems the dream has grown. The park has so much potential and it needs a little bit more TLC and we are planning to expand and enhance it.”

There are currently between 2,000 and 3,000 butterflies at the London attraction as well as more than 50 birds and other insects.

A butterfly's lifespan can be as short as two weeks, so many of them will be left to live out their life at London, when the tourist attraction closes in October. However around 500 are expected to be transported to the new home in Lincolnshire either in nets or special envelopes, stacked in neat little piles. The birds will be transported by the RSPB.

Mr Crosse, a former librarian, bought the London Butterfly House in 2000, as it had been his dream to own the tourist attraction after he visited it 20 years ago.

He bought the house, despite knowing the lease was close to expiring. The owner, the Duke of Northumberland, planned to build a hotel nearby and English Nature wanted the location of the butterfly house to be turned into grassland and trees.

A huge campaign was launched to save Syon. It was supported by Mayor of London Ken Livingstone and 10,000 people signed a petition to save it.

But the order was made and the lease for the house will expire this October.

The Crosses, along with their business partners Peter and Emma Smeaton, are believed to have paid in the region of £1m for the Long Sutton park and, as part of the deal, they got all the animals including a crocodile, water buffalo and even wallabies.

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