Paradise for bees in Surrey meadows
In 2009 Farnham’s water meadows, an open area of grassland, came up for sale for the first time in around 80 years. Four locals got together to raise the money and buy the meadows, saving them as a vital green space for people to enjoy in the heart of Farnham.
Alex Scrivens who trained as a landscape architect, joined the Trust about a year into the project. He is obsessed with the ‘spirit of place’ and wanted to find ways to invigorate this particular space. He thought that wildflowers would be brilliant in Bishop’s Meadow, because “being amongst wildflowers is intoxicating, hypnotic”.
So, an acre of the meadow was ploughed by Andy McLaren and his splendid red vintage tractor. The seeds were provided by Friends of the Earth and Farnham Town Council and a group of volunteers sowed them by hand. The seedlings took a while to grow, but they were blooming just in time for the Farnham in Bloom and Britain in Bloom judges.
Corn cockle, blue cornflower, fumitory, meadow marigold, wax flower and poppies are just a few of the meadow plants which have turned an acre of the Oak Meadow into an insects’ paradise. They provide food and habitat for a wide range of insects including several varieties of bumble bee, honey bees, soldier beetles, cardinal beetles, ladybirds, devils coachmen, hoverflies, at least four types of butterfly and two kinds of moths.
Friends of the Earth also helped arrange a ‘bee dig’ as part of The Bee Cause campaign. Volunteers from Melvita, an organic beauty brand whose foundation is supporting Friends of the Earth’s Bee Worlds, helped work on the site for a day.
The meadows are surrounded by monoculture, mainly rapeseed, and as Alex Scrivens explains, "the Bishop’s Meadow Trust wanted to provide sustainable bee forage, a nirvana for bees. The way we want to look at it is to say to ourselves, 'bees are our clients', we need to give them a voice."
"Initially when I told people that with wildflowers the meadow would be covered in bees, hoverflies, butterflies, flies they were like, 'yeah, yeah, yeah.' And now the wildflowers are there and covered with pollinators, everyone is saying, 'But where do they all come from?', they are amazed by their abundance."
Pippa Hoyland, a Director of the Bishop’s Meadow Trust agrees: “The bee meadow has been amazing and has surpassed all our expectations. People who use the Meadow regularly to walk their dogs have commented on how wonderful it is. Initially it was a bit slow to get going but then all of a sudden it exploded into a riot of colour. There are definitely more bees and also butterflies, moths and other insects. I am sure I am getting more bees in my garden too!”
Join the Bishop’s Meadow Trust, and be part of the generation that saves British bees.
Thank you to Kim and Mark Taylor and naturepl.com for the wildflower and bee images in this article.