by Jasmine Bennett from the Pickwell Foundation.
The Pickwell Foundation, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and the North Devon National Trust came together to facilitate the sowing of wildflower seeds on Easter Saturday.
With over 80 residents turning up to help between the two sites, participants learnt about the importance of wild bees, how they differentiate from honey bees, and about the issues faced by our wonderful wild pollinators.
Bees support the production of a third of the food that we eat with their tiny but vital role in the food chain. The most prominent issues faced by them include climate change, as bees (especially furry bumblebees) struggle in hotter temperatures, pesticide usage, and loss of habitat – with 97% of wildflower meadows disappearing since WW2. North Devon is home to some of the rarest of species of bumblebee in the UK, whom are on the brink of extinction. The Brown-banded carder bee and the Moss carder bee have both been sighted in the North Devon area – one of the last places in the UK that they have been seen.
The Bumblebee Conservation Trust have been working with local farmers, other wildlife conservation organisations and community members to support the bees through restoring habitat, so that they can hopefully return to a healthy population.
Confronted by these stark facts about the drastic situation that wild bees find themselves in, Georgeham and Croyde residents set about sowing wildflower seeds at a shared space in each village. Supported with ground preparation work by Ruda’s Ranger Rose and the National Trust’s Paul South and his volunteer team, in the days preceding Easter Saturday, residents and holiday makers alike were able to fork, rake, sow and water their way towards rewilding these little bits of land. One site is situated on the corner of Moor Lane in Croyde, the other on the bank of the village green in front of the shop in Georgeham.
The organising team behind the simultaneous events had also worked with an organisation called Life on the Verge – who advised a particular wildflower seed mix to be most appropriate for the two sites, according to the soil type, sunlight exposure and grasses that were already on the site. In order to grow wildflowers the soil quality must be kept poor, so that the grass does not take over again. So we will now be cutting and then clearing the cuttings from our patches in late September to give our wildflowers the best chance.
The event also provided the opportunity for participants to make their own ‘bee hotels’ to take home with them, fashioned from recycled plastic bottles, locally cut bamboo sticks and garden string. These brilliant residencies for insects and solitary bees have now been hung in gardens and on allotments in the parish, and further afield too.
The residents and organisers hope to create a bee-friendly environment in the parish, providing more valuable food sources and nesting sites for bumblebees and other pollinators, while increasing the diversity of plants arising in shared community spaces.
At the event there were also small wildflower seed packets given out by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust for people to take home and plant in their own gardens. You needn’t have a huge space for planting, nor any gardening knowledge. Just sow the seeds into cleared soil, rake, water, and watch them bloom in the coming months.
If you would like to create your own small bumblebee-friendly sanctuary you can buy your own pack of seeds here as part of a bumblebee ID guide set.