Thursday, 9 February 2012

Fewer flowers, where are the bees?

This photo shows one of the field-scale projects that I have supplied
seed for.  This 15 hectare field was sown with wild flower and
grass seed in 2004. Although the soil was in a very poor state after
having been 'mined' for arable crops for 30 years, the flowers
eventually 'took off' after about 5 years and are spreading every
year. It is topped in late summer and sheep-grazed in autumn, but
now would benefit from some summer cattle-grazing.
Before it was ploughed up in the 1970s this field grew very
good suckler beef. It could once more..

Sarah Raven's excellent new series, Bees, Butterflies and Blooms began transmitting yesterday on the BBC. The first programme featured what's happened to the countryside in past decades, whether village greens or farms, and showcased some positive stories of a farmer and rural community restoring wild flowers around an arable field and on the village green. Yours truly had a minor role, sweating it out on the hottest day in 2010 (you won't see the sweat, carefully edited out) in a Sussex wild flower meadow. Sarah and I agree that our wild flowers are in serious trouble in the countryside. Both of us and others, continue to play our part in getting some of them put back, but the truth is that much of the countryside, whether grassland  or arable land, is wildlife-poor desert devoid of most of the wild flowers which were abundant 50 years ago. Like Sarah says, we can't turn the clock back, but things could be a lot better (sometimes with little effort or cost).

The wild flower restoration charity, Flora locale, with which I am still associated as Technical Adviser, offers really good days out, showcasing methods for restoring wild flowers and their habitats across the UK. This year there are many rural-based events but also some on wildlife gardening and improving wildlife in towns. So, if anyone other than me reads this blog and wants to learn more, then why not visit the website and see what events are on offer this year?