Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Making a Haven for Butterflies and Bees

Ali Murfitt
Events Officer

When you think of wildflowers, what do you see? All too often people think of the countryside - meadows, bluebell woods or country lanes - but there's plenty of places in our towns and cities that can (or could) play host to them too. And where you get wildflowers, you get pollinators too: butterflies, bees and hoverflies. So when the Co-operative asked Plantlife to help it provide a "wildlife makeover" of seven unloved patches of urban land as part of their Plan Bee campaign, it wasn't hard to say "yes please!"

Hundreds of people nominated a patch of unloved, overgrown land in their local area to be turned into a "pollinator patch". The seven winners were then chosen by Co-operative members from across the UK. One of these was at Galston in East Ayshire and in October 2013 headed off to get started. Our mission: to help create a wildflower haven for bees, butterflies and the local community.

© Andrew Macdonald
The land in question surrounds Barrmill Hall, a communal building used by the people of Galston to provide daily activities for children, their parents and carers. When we arrived we were greeted by the very enthusiastic ladies of Galston Babies and Toddlers group and work soon got underway.

The main task was preparing the ground for wildflower seed sowing. In nature, plants generally shed their seeds on earth that hasn't been prepared, but a bit of a rake over increases their chances of germinating successfully by getting them into the ground as opposed to on top of dry or rocky soil. Everyone got stuck in, there were rakes a plenty and lots of muddy boots by the end.

Meanwhile there was apple planting to get on with...

© Andrew Macdonald

We dug fairly deep holes and put in plenty of compost to give them a good start. One was a crab apple, who’s sweet scented flowers bloom in late spring and are loved by bees. Its apples though sour to us are eaten by a variety of mammals and also by birds like the blackbird and thrush. We also planted a Galloway Pippin, a local variety which bears large yellow apples.

© Andrew Macdonald
We weren't just planting apples either. Creating a wildlife haven was thirsty work and the apple juice pressed as we worked by John (and helpers) from Scottish Orchards definitely helped.

It was also great to have Paul from the charity Buglife who came along to give a hand building bee boxes (see photo on the right). These should provide homes for a variety of solitary bees.

The last order of the day was to sow the wildflower seed. All the seed we sowed came from Scotia Seed and is native to Scotland. Some wildflowers are more likely to germinate if you sow them in the autumn as they need a period of cold before they will sprout.

© Andrew Macdonald
With the winter now over, we can’t wait to go back and discover the fresh new shoots of wild flowers. I'm really looking forward to seeing plants such as the delicate yellow flowers of ladies bedstraw, the pink-coloured red campion and - later in the year - the blues of field scabious brightening up that patch of ground and providing food and shelter for pollinators.

We hope that the  our work at Barrmill Hall will not only have a positive impact on the local environment, it will help the local community, providing children with opportunities to explore wildlife and discover the natural world.

Our next work day is on the 16th May, where we will be sowing more seed, planting plug plants, creating a herb bed, and installing more homes for pollinators. Perhaps you'd like to help us? Or aid another pollinator patch in the UK? Plan Bee has buzzing schedule of work days and activities this spring. Find out more on their events page.

No comments:

Post a Comment