With Nature's Home July issue at the printers yesterday and my job done (on that issue at least!), I treated myself to a day off and headed to Fermyn Woods in Northants.

Butterfly enthusiasts will know that the first week of July is the time when people from all over the country make the pilgrimage to the woods to seek out arguably the UK's most spectacular butterfly: the purple emperor. Here's a shot from my visit last year. Bear in mind that the shots below were taken on my iphone, so you can be sure of getting some incredible shots with a camera!

Pick the right day in the emperor's July peak and you can enjoy views like this (Mark Ward)

It's a big, bold butterfly of southern woods and can be very difficult to get a good view of because they spend much of their lives in the treetops. However, males do descend to the many tracks in the woods to take up nutrients from the tracks - and I'm afraid poo, as can be seen from these shots

It was an amazing day yesterday and I hit the emergence absolutely bang on. I walked for mile upon mile, carefully checking all the rides and from 10 o'clock onwards, the males started to come down, with the first nearly landing on me.

I can't match Nature's Home magazine's star-studded array of photographs, but not a bad effort for a low-spec camera phone (Mark Ward)

Between 8 o'clock and 3 when I left, I'd seen 81 different purple emperors, which was a monster total, but a great sign that butterfly populations are bouncing back this summer. The "double purple" shot with the purple sheen showing on both wings (above) is the one everyone wants.

In a couple of weeks time, you'll have the chance to read Patrick Barkham's superb feature on the UK's butterflies in Nature's Home and there will be more butterfly-themed blogs here on Nature's Home uncovered so do check in. Meanwhile, here's a couple of shots of yours truly getting up close and personal with our most spectacular butterfly to perhaps inspire you to get out and enjoy our brilliant butterflies.

Here's me getting up close and personal with a purple emperor (Mark Ward)

Meanwhile, if you can get to Fermyn over the next week, go for it. The emperors soon finish their time as adult butterflies and the show will be over quickly. 

Emperors will even take salt from your skin - this one snacked away for a good while (Mark Ward)