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Protect our Pollinators

There’s a brilliant initiative by Bug Life called B-Lines, a countrywide network, rural and urban, of wildflower pathways, providing linked habitats so that pollinating insects can move around freely.  Thoughtlessly planned housing, and changes in farming practices over the last sixty years have damaged the fragile pollinator ecosystem. Bees, butterflies, hoverflies and other insects have declined drastically, their populations often confined to fragmented oases, surrounded by bleak concrete or monoculture crops. B-Lines aim to restore flower-rich grassland, providing a long season of the nectar and pollen needed for our insects to flourish - which of course has a knock on effect all the way up the food chain. As long as the restored sites are less than 500m apart the insects can travel easily.

Our nearest B-Line is in the Chet Valley which covers a three kilometre wide area following the river from Poringland to the Yare. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a Tas Valley B-Line?!  How about getting started here in Forncett, perhaps inspiring other villages to join in?  On our stretch of the River Tas we already have a newly planted farm hedgerow, two bio-diverse churchyards and a flower-rich SSSI, so that’s a great start. It’s very encouraging that a growing number of Forncett folk are making their own gardens wildlife friendly.

If you’d like to join this growing community, you can begin by avoiding using harmful chemicals, planting pollinator-friendly flowers (and shrubs), leaving a patch of long grass and providing a source of fresh water. If we all did this it would give a great boost to wildlife wellbeing, and it’s amazing how quickly it would help to re-establish insect numbers.  If you want to experiment you could participate in the ‘No Mow May’ idea. Leave the mower in the shed during May and let your lawn flower! If you like the effect and enjoy seeing and hearing bees and butterflies drifting and buzzing around, consider keeping part of your lawn as a mini meadow, adding a few native plug plants if you like. Or you could cut it to different lengths at different times throughout the growing season. 

2 Spring flower patch for early pollinators. Photo C Wakeford sm
Spring flower patch ready for early pollinators Photo: C Wakeford

 I have a grassy patch for snowdrops, crocuses, wild daffodils, fritillaries, wild primroses and cowslips which is lovely from February till May. I cut it in June and it reverts to a lawn for family picnics, while in another part of the garden a summer wildflower meadow takes over. Together they provide food for insects for months on end. This kind of thing can be done on any scale.

But how about the agricultural landscape? Instead of being subsidised according to their acreage, farmers will be rewarded for ‘public goods’. This means they will be able to consider the economic as well as environmental benefits of practices such as minimising herbicide and pesticide use, creating strips of pollinator-friendly flowers, making beetle banks, restoring hedgerows, using no-till and other regenerative farming methods and turning over suitable areas of land and riverside to rewilding. All these initiatives  are already happening around Norfolk farms; there are fields of flowers growing locally, sown to attract pollinators, and on a grander scale, the enlightened and ambitious Wild East project has gathered wide support. It will require a very different mindset for some, but it is ultimately a most exciting challenge for the guardians of our countryside, and of immeasurable benefit to our pollinators and the whole web of wildlife.

Let’s all work cooperatively, doing what we can towards a more sustainable future for our beautiful planet and all who dwell here.

April 2021

Other Resources:

https://www.wildeast.co.uk  (following an excellent talk on wildlife ponds to Diggers and Dibblers Gardening Club, try Professor Carl Sayers’ article on restoring wetlands - click news and blog

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