Year 3 on our First Bee Sanctuary

This year we have finally got our own Volunteer Centre up and running. The fitting is taking a while, but we are getting there. It has now been painted with a glorious mural, thanks to local spray artist Richard Preston.

We are now, much more proactive in recording wildlife of all kinds, from fungi, lichens, mosses, ferns, and wildflowers, to bugs, bees, butterflies, birds, pondlife, amphibians and mammals. This is thanks to our own, specialist observers and recorders, and also the wonderful “Bioblitz Event”, organised by Tony Hall, where many experts came together to collect data about the wildlife in one 24hr binge. It was great fun and even involved camping out in the middle of the Sumner meadows.

The wildflower season was foreshortened by a heatwave and drought conditions, so we failed to have abundant flowering throughout the seasons, but a few flowers have come back to flowering. The drought would have devastated wildlife if it was not for our ponds. We are also glad of the amount of shaded areas, that offer lower temperatures and a greater retention of moisture.

Sweet clover was still prevalent in some areas this year, however a massive weeding has cleared the seed heads once again, so we expect less next year. We allowed some stands of Rose Bay Willow Herb, but cleared other areas to prevent it becoming dominant. Bramble as always is an ongoing fight, but some areas have little or none now in year 3. Hurrah!

Sadly the impending housing development has started, but fortunately it only started after a final stunning bloom of buttercups. We will miss the feel of countryside when we become overlooked by houses, but at least we like the fence they put up and we gained a few inches of space for planting hedgerow.

Kell started the Highfield Fungi Farm next to the Bee Sanctuary, (Forest Floor Fungi – Highfield Mushroom farm | Facebook) and we have become very interested in the potential of Myco remediation to accelerate the generation of biodiversity in soil generally. We have already observed the rich biodiversity of fungi, much encouraged by the logs and chippings. We talked with the RHS Britain in Bloom Judge, and also Will, our new RHS link about this work. Kell showed the RHS Judge around the Fungi Farm and this, plus the Bioblitz, probably made a significant contribution to winning “North West RHS 2022 Biodiversity Award”. This is a huge honour for all of us, considering there are well over 1200 projects! It is also most appropriate to what we are trying to do….. that is to bring biodiversity and abundance of bees and wild flowers and wild life back to what was a neglected area of historical landfill.

It is fascinating to bring ideas together, and to see how things work out in practice. The area has matured, and we are doing much more scything, and brush cutting, using the mower less. We are more confident in our wildlife gardening decisions, shaping the environment. Our mowing season starts in August and we tend to do the areas with too much grass first, still sowing Yellow Rattle and wildflower seed mixes, but this year the Yellow Rattle seed we are sowing is our own. We are concerned that cutting the herbage will disturb over wintering creatures and will leave some standing until spring.

Many more bird boxes and bat boxes were installed last winter, and we now have a woodwork workshop set up where we can make nesting box kits for this winter and spring in order to run workshops on the Bee Sanctuary.

Vandalism is an ongoing problem, but we do not let it under our skin, as it would destroy our motivation. Our ponds are all full and Robin Pond and also Swallow Pond are now well protected with a more expensive liner. The first Bee Hotel that was built was kicked to pieces in late Summer. We quickly removed the material to prevent arson and decided to remake it well away from the bench, so it is not such a temptation. Littering is constant, but we are vigilant, and we have possibly the youngest litter picker of them all, just 4 years old.

All our adventures and events are recorded on our facebook group blog page

A huge thank you to all of our Volunteers, young and old. We have made huge progress this year, and look forward to what year 4 will bring.