Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Natural Environment Partnership

Case Studies – Your Projects

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Garden Ivy

Our garden was full of ivy and it really needed to be trimmed back. But we left an area of ivy free to flourish and grow in one corner of our garden. And once it started to bloom, it was full of butterflies and bees!

Submitted by Anonymous, Aylesbury.

Which ‘bee-friendly’ plants attract the most bees?

Rosi Rollins, of Rosybee, has been conducting research into bee-friendly plants for the past three years and has recently updated her findings. The scope of the 2016 study included 58 plants; 13 native and 45 non-native taking the total number of plants studied, to date, to 79 of which 59 have 2 or 3 years of data. Rosi has compiled the data into a list of the top 30 plants for attracting honey bees.

Topping the list is the hardy and beautiful, Helenium autumnale, or common sneezeweed, which flowers from late summer through to the autumn. Other strong performers include calamint and vipers bugloss (echium vulgare) – view the full list of pollinating performers and read more about her research on her website: http://www.rosybee.com/research/

Widmer Fields – Grange Area Trust

Widmer Fields lie within the Chiltern Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and are classified Green Belt. The Grange Area Trust has adopted a structured Land Management Plan for the Widmer Fields that is sympathetic to the care of the natural habitat which is ‘home’ to a wide variety of wildlife. This will enable the fields to fulfil their public amenity role.

Widmer Fields are being maintained as amenity land for the public at large to enjoy informal recreation. There are many informal entrances, some wide enough for disabled access. An extensive network of official and permissive paths covers most of the area. For all users, part of the pleasure is derived from the natural character of the fields that has been allowed to develop over the last 40 or so years since they were last farmed.

Residents are encouraged to make and supply bird nesting boxes, bat boxes, bumble bee homes and local bee-keepers are encouraged to install hives. The Trust welcomes donations of fruit and nut producing trees to enhance the supply of springtime nectar. In November, volunteers were joined by children from Cedar Park School to plant daffodils which, combined with previous years efforts, produced a superb display. Another recent initiative saw 90 linden trees planted along the access drive and into the Oak Paddock, to commemorate the Queen’s 90th Birthday and to provide a stunning entrance to the Fields for years to come.

The Grange Area Trust undertakes almost all of the land maintenance required using just volunteers. If anyone wishes to help by volunteering or to learn more about the Trust, please visit the Grange Area Trust website.

The Future Generation

Submitted by Tania Hopper.

I had my son 5 months ago and all I see in my home town is new homes being built on what used to large green areas.

We have honey bees residing above my neighbours front door and in order to continue growing flowers we need the bees. Therefore we’ll look after the bees and they’ll look after us.

I want my son to grow up appreciating nature and wildlife and not to take our beautiful country for granted.

We’ve planted 2 rose bushes in our back garden and are currently growing sunflowers as well.

Berkhampstead Field – Chesham Wildflower Sites

Following discussions about the health of wildflower sites across Buckinghamshire and the publication of the State of the Environment Report, Chesham Town Council has begun the process of trying to materially improve the quantity and quality of wildflower sites in and around the town.

Berkhampstead Field is located next to Nashleigh Hill Recreation Ground off Vale Road and is just over 2 ha in size. The field is managed as a chalk grassland habitat in partnership with Chesham and District Natural History Society (CDNHS) and is a designated Local Wildlife Site. The field has been recorded as containing 38 wildflowers species and 12 grasses, including some key chalk grassland species. Seven butterfly species have been found there, including the dinghy skipper, which is declining in range in the UK.

The field was grazed by cattle belonging to a local farmer through an informal agreement between the 1940s and 2008. When the farmer retired, the field initially underwent amenity grass cutting to keep the field “looking tidy”. A member of the public alerted the Council to the potential of the field as a chalk grassland habitat. 80% of naturally managed chalk grassland has been lost from this country since World War Two, making the site potentially very important for wildlife. The Town Council teamed up with CDNHS in 2010 to trial a more natural approach to the site’s management. The grass is now cut once a year and the cuttings are taken away to ensure that the soil nutrient levels are poor; a key ingredient for a diverse grassland. The new management system has enabled the wildflowers and grasses to flourish, culminating in the designation of the field as a Local Wildlife Site. You can find more information on the Chesham Town Council Parks and Open Spaces website.

Castlemead Bee Orchids – Pitstone Parish

During the early months of 2016 we identified nearly 300 small plants which we thought were bee orchids over the whole of Castlemead housing estate in Pitstone. Having obtained advice from the experts at nearby College Lake (managed by Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust) and the biodiversity officer at the district council, we chose to protect 3 areas of grass verge/open space along Westfield Road where the fledgling plants grew in the greatest density. The parish council obtained the support of Taylor Wimpey (current land owners) and Aylesbury Vale District Council (who will take ownership of the land upon transfer) who agreed to suspend grass cutting in these areas to enable the orchids to flourish and we advised residents of the project.

We were delighted that well over 100 bee orchids and dozens of pyramidal orchids flowered within these relatively small areas and we understand that to see orchids in such a large quantity in such a small area is quite rare. Some of the orchid spikes were over 40cm high. As well as the orchids, there was also an abundance of other beautiful wildflowers in these plots which in turn attracted butterflies and insects, including the rare small blue butterfly.

The initiative was in line with the parish council’s stated policies, and the community aspirations, identified within the Pitstone Neighbourhood Plan.

Sustainable living in Wantage Grove

In 2015 Grove Parish Council offered the use of a 600 sq metre site, and contributed financially to assist Sustainable Wantage in the creation of a wild flower nature reserve, to be made available as a public amenity. A grant was provided by Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment (TOE2), who are supported by Grundon Waste Management through the Landfill Communities Fund.

With the help of approximately 85 volunteers from the local community, including about 50 children, and with many donations of plants, saplings and bird boxes, what was a wilderness 12 months ago is now transformed. Annual wild flowers have been sown in about a third of the area this year, and there are plans to sow perennials in the remaining part in the future.Sustainable Wantage is a Community Action Group working to promote and facilitate sustainable living in Wantage Grove and the surrounding area. To find out more about the wildflower nature reserve and their other projects visit www.sustainablewantage.org.uk or follow them on Facebook (Sustainable Wantage).

Photograph courtesy of Peter Kent and Dave Mattam.

Letting the Garden Grow

Sometimes doing more for pollinators can mean doing less, and everyone can be a gardening hero. Susanna in Chesham keeps her garden pollinator-friendly with only a few simple steps:

– allowing wild plants to flower

– leaving wood, cuttings and plant matter in a corner for insects

– never using any pesticides

– overall interfering very little and letting the plants grow!

Planting for the future

Planting fruit trees on our patch in Ivinghoe Aston – great for pollinators – and for us!

Allow Road Verges to Blossom

In Milton Keynes changing the numbers and timings of grass cuts such as on this road verge outside a Council depot is allowing more flowers to grow. Even unusual plants such as these two Bee Orchids can appear alongside more common flowers!