Bringing the buzz back into our towns and cities

This guest blog post has been written by Charlotte Rankin, one of the Trust’s volunteers. Based in Cornwall, Charlotte has been actively involved in getting the small Cornish town of Penryn buzzing! Read her story here on how small changes have made a big impact to bumblebees and the community…

Our towns and cities are increasingly recognised as important refuges for pollinators such as bumblebees.

Penryn Buzz’s Chaz Wenmoth secured and helped to prepare the herbs and heather area.

With pockets of greenspaces such as road verges and gardens alone covering over one million acres in the UK, urban areas present a great opportunity to provide homes and flowers for our pollinators. Even better, this also means anyone can get involved in creating pollinator-friendly habitats right on their doorsteps. This year I have been involved with a pollinator-friendly planting project in the Cornish town of Penryn, aptly named ‘Penryn Buzz’. Founded by the Deputy Mayor of Penryn, Chaz Wenmoth, Penryn Buzz was inspired by the recognition that changes in land-use has had a damaging impact on the homes and flowers for our vitally important pollinators. As a Conservation and Ecology student with a huge passion and love for pollinators, I jumped (and buzzed!) at the opportunity to get involved with such a wonderful project and help our hard-working pollinators right on my doorstep.

Penryn Buzz is a community project with the aim of ‘bringing the buzz back’ into Penryn by firstly, creating pockets of pollinator-friendly flower patches around the town and secondly, by inspiring locals to make their own gardens buzz. Penryn Buzz has now established six pollinator-friendly flower patches around the town, one of which I was lucky to be involved with this Spring, alongside fellow Penryn Buzz volunteers Kerry and Lauren. Once a flowerless patch at the corner of a small residential car park, it is now a little haven of bee-friendly herbs (rosemary, thyme and lavender) and heathers, ensuring a successive flowering period to support bees while they are out and about.

By the next sunny day, Early and Buff-tailed bumblebees were visiting and fully enjoying the flowers! Within a few days of planting lungwort to encourage longer-tongued bee visits, the first Hairy-footed Flower bees were visiting and exclaiming their excitement with their high-pitched buzzing! I was also very happy to see my first Common Carder queen of the year feeding on the heather, who must have just emerged from hibernation and decided to fuel up on our rosemary as she looked so beautifully fresh. So far, within the first few weeks of planting this patch, I have spotted five of the ‘big seven’ bumblebees enjoying this little patch and I am now eagerly awaiting my first Garden and White-tailed queens to visit!

The designated ‘Penryn Buzz’ herb and heather patch with lungwort.

Another site created this Spring by Penryn Buzz volunteers is entitled the ‘hanging gardens’. Here, recycled hanging baskets have been placed along the railings of a larger car park in Penryn. Once a town that was a hub for local food production, this car park in Penryn will soon provide food for Penryn’s pollinators with vibrant nasturtiums growing in the hanging baskets and purple wallflowers planted in ground containers thanks to Chaz and the Penryn Buzz team.

Chaz and Penryn Buzz volunteers Tracey, Bridie, Amanda and Dwayne creating the ‘hanging gardens’ along the local car park.

Last year, with the help of the County Council’s gardening team, a wildflower strip was also created in Penryn’s War Memorial garden and the bees will be very happy to hear that it is coming back again this year! The Garden is also home to a lavender patch and this year, Chaz has added containers with lavender and grape hyacinths to give bees a further helping hand. At time of writing, numerous other sites are also in progress, including a large patch by Penryn’s Railway Station and a ‘buzzing boat’ soon to contain pollinator-friendly flowers in the coming weeks.

Wildflower strip in the local Memorial Garden in Summer 2017.

Community is integral to Penryn Buzz. The designated flower patches would not be here without the passion and effort of the Deputy Mayor and the help and enthusiasm of locals. The bees currently enjoying the herb and heather patch are there because of the generosity received from locals, families and friends who together funded the plants. Whether adults walking to work, to the shops or children playing outside, everyone can enjoy the sight of the colourful flowers and the very happy bees. With this in mind, an online interactive map has been created to highlight where Penryn Buzz sites are and other areas in Penryn where bees have been spotted. So when the sun is shining and locals would like to spot some bees, they know where to go and they can then upload their bee spots onto Penryn Buzz’s online group.

A happy Buff-tailed bumblebee enjoying the heather funded by the local community.

The local library has turned into an information hub for Penryn Buzz with a dedicated notice board, identification guides and a bookshelf of bee books for children and adults. Whilst planting the heather and herb patch, we caught the attention of adults who praised the work of Penryn Buzz and the attention of young children who were keen to get involved. Of course, our own gardens are also vitally important and Penryn Buzz aims to inspire locals to make small changes in their gardens to help them buzz, such as encouraging the switch from begonias to borage, setting aside a patch for pollinator-friendly flowers or adding a plant pot or two to their patios. Penryn Buzz’s role in spreading the awareness of pollinators is also evident by locals posting on our online group to say that pollinator-friendly flowers have now been planted in their gardens. The Penryn Buzz team engage in community events and dress as bees whenever the chance!

Penryn Buzz demonstrates how small and simple ‘doorstep’ actions taken by the local community can give local bees a huge helping hand. Start with a plant pot, set aside a small patch for pollinator-friendly plants and encourage those around you to do the same. If the right flowers are chosen, bees will come! It is a wonderful feeling watching bees happily buzzing on flowers that you have provided and especially when you know that others in the community are doing the same.

Thank you for reading and I hope that this blog post has inspired you to help get your towns buzzing! For advice on bee-friendly gardening, you can visit the BBCT’s gardening page and use the Bee kind tool to find out how bee-friendly your garden is.

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