Year 2 on our First Bee Sanctuary

It is September 2021, and we are clearing lots of organic material off certain areas to stop the soil being enriched and allow the sunlight to reach the ground. This will encourage the wild flowers…. the biodiversity. We are hand pulling unwanted seed heads, strimming, mowing and scything, different areas after a season of abundance for wildflowers, bees and other pollinators.

I think back to this time last year when the first wild flower areas had come good after a long drought. We were thrilled that the flowers bloomed until the frosts set in, because it is our goal to have wild flowers blooming throughout the seasons, to ensure that no bee dies from exhaustion.

In the Autumn of 2020 we were building our 3 ponds, only to have two of them destroyed by vandals throwing in logs and sharp stones to break the ice in winter. The surviving “Wagtail pond” is flourishing, and we have found frogs this year in all parts of the Sanctuary. The top Pond Swallow Pond is being redug deeper, because it was too shallow, and we are replacing the cheap flexiliner with butyl rubber, and adding in a soil layer (as recommended by Mark Champion) to make it less vulnerable to being damaged. The biggest “Robin pond” has been extended, so that we could have a wetland at one end.

In the Winter and early spring of 2021 we created our wonderful Summer Meadows, which have delighted everyone this year with a wonderful display of annuals, whilst our second year areas have been taken over by perennials. We also planted well over 400 native hedge whips, and thousands of bulbs, and were rewarded with a Spring showing of wild flowers, including Snakes Head Fritillary, Winter Aconite and Lillies of the Valley amongst others. The hedgewhips have survived and thrived, and will need to be bent horzontal this winter to encourage hedge formation. The last jobs of this season was to clear and sow the woodland edge areas with a woodland seed mix, and to mend our paths, bits of which had got very muddy.

The early spring gave way to the growing season, and the battle against the bramble, and other invasive species like Sweet Clover that obliterated parts of our Summer Meadows. Our hard work has been rewarded with surprises like finding two bee orchids, having an abundance of Spotted Wood butterflies and the appearance of Blue butterflies, as well as the bees buzzing all around.

We are learning more about how to manage the Bee Sanctuary all the time. The visit of Mark Champion the ecologist in early July, was extremely encouraging. Mark has told us not to be afraid to experiment, or make the occasional mistake, and that we should be explaining what we are doing, to encourage others.