Shropshire Council has been given the Bees Needs Champions Award for creating over 5 hectares of pollen-rich hay meadows at Severn Valley Country Park in Alveley and Highley. The Minister for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity, Lord Gardiner, presented the award to the local authority at a high-profile event at Kew Gardens in London on Tuesday 8th November.
Speaking ahead of the Bees’ Needs Champions Awards, Lord Gardiner said:
“Pollinators are essential for food production and the environment. The Bees’ Needs champions show us how to keep our pollinators happy and healthy all year round, and their efforts are an inspiration for us all. They show that whether you have access to acres of land or just a window box, everyone can play a part in helping these vital insects thrive.”
Areas of coal spoil at Severn Valley Country Park have been transformed into species-rich hay meadows covered in native wildflowers. These provide a bumper nectar-source for pollinators. Volunteers have also installed bee hives and trained as bee-keepers, producing local honey. They have also put up nestboxes for solitary bees such as red-mason bees.
Councillor Stuart West, portfolio holder for Leisure and Culture said:
“Shropshire Council are proud to be selected as a Bees Needs Champion by Defra. The work that our staff and volunteers are doing to create wildflower meadows on Shropshire Council parks is exemplary. Creating habitat for pollinators is so important and it is wonderful for our work to be recognised through the National Pollinator Strategy.”
Edward Andrews, Country Parks and Sites Officer for Shropshire Council said:
“We are now starting to transfer green hay from our species-rich hay meadows at Severn Valley Country Park to other parks. This will create habitat for pollinators all across Shropshire. By reducing the area of grass that gets regularly mown on our parks, we are also reducing our costs whilst allowing more flowers for people and pollinators to enjoy. This important work could not be done without the help of our wonderful volunteers.”
The Bees’ Needs Champions Awards, hosted at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, brings together 30 champions to celebrate bee-friendly initiatives, from playgrounds to parks and farms to famous shopping streets. As winter approaches, bee experts are also calling on the public to take action to keep bees buzzing over winter, with tips on providing homes and food as the temperature drops.
The awards celebrate success in six categories: youth groups, schools, local authorities, farming, construction and community groups. They have been judged by a number of organisations on adopting Defra’s National Pollinator Strategy. The champions come from all over England and are responsible for a wide range of projects.
Paul de Zylva of Friends of the Earth, one of the organisations working with the Government to put the National Pollinator Strategy into effect, said:
“These terrific Pollinator Heroes from across the country show how everyone can help bees and pollinators anytime, anyplace, anywhere—all year round and wherever we live.
“The beauty is, you don’t have to wait for summer to start playing your part in reversing bee and pollinator decline. Taking action also helps bring the National Pollinator Strategy alive in homes, at work, at school and in your community. Let’s all be part of the generation to save our bees.”
While the natural lifecycle of many bees in the UK means you will see them less often, pollinators still need food and shelter to survive the winter. Calling for everyone to take action to help bees and pollinators over the winter, Lord Gardiner added:
“Bees are a much-loved feature of English summertime and crucial contributors to our biodiversity and our economy. But it is important not to forget bees’ needs during the winter months too, when providing food and a home are more important than ever.
“Planting evergreens for winter food and leaving areas of gardens undisturbed through the winter to provide homes mean we can all help pollinators emerge safely in the spring.”
Experts have highlighted a number of easy steps everyone can take to help pollinators over the winter:
· Plant flowers, shrubs and trees that thrive in winter. The evergreen mahonia is excellent winter food for bees, while the pendant bells of winter flowering clematis can give pollinators a sugary energy boost. Ivy plants are also an ideal source of food for bees in late autumn - avoid cutting them down.
· Leave suitable places for hibernation undisturbed. Letting areas of a lawn grow long until the spring can provide a hibernation home while cool, north-facing banks are ideal places for bees to burrow. The hollow tubes of dead stems of plants in borders can also serve as a great nesting spot.
· Planting early flowering bulbs like crocus, primrose, snowdrop of coltsfoot that flower in February and March to help support bees and pollinators looking for an early feed. Winter is also the perfect time to plant bee-friendly trees, such as acacia, blackthorn and hazel.
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