04 March 2009
Our wildlife meadow...
When I was a child (over forty years ago!) my grandfather showed me a feral honey bee nest on his allotment and the good they were doing for his veg and flowers. Ever since that moment it has been a personal ambition to keep honey bees. Once the dust of moving into our new property at Pauls Lane had settled, Pat helped me bring this dream into reality.
The nursery had previously been divided into the glass house area, with a separate half acre field left fallow, and used as a general builders tip. The rubble has been recycled as hardcore, and the assorted rubbish sorted and re-used where possible. This was the basis of the wildlife meadow.
This picture shows most of the meadow. It is nearly cleared of all the rubbish and ready for a skim with old soil then an overseeding of clover.
My first task was to provide any future bees with a selection of nectar and pollen producing plants close to home, so with the help of Hedges Direct we purchased 100's of mixed natural hedge species, blackthorn, hawthorne, dog rose, hazel, elder, field maple, crab apple, bramble and many more. With a generous donation of dung from our neighbouring horses the Decorfolia team and friends spent hours digging trenches and planting. As Pat had always wanted an orchard we also planted a selection of apple and pear trees giving a good variety of blossom throughout the spring. These measures were an instant hit with our local deer population, so we had already created a place for local fauna!
Even our two office cats loved the improvements as our photographs illustrate.
Iggy is in the first picture and Gandalf in the second.
With the help of a motor mower and strimmer the uneven tufty grasses were eventually levelled out and I made an oversowing of clover, phacelia and mustard as nectar rich bee and insect fast food. With all of this preparation and following a training course at Hartpbury College in Gloucestershire I felt confident that I would give the bees a good home, so when the bee nucleus arrived in mid-June there was plenty of local nectar and pollen, along with the unlimited supplies of "always in flower" gorse bushes just 500 metres away on the open forest and of course the late summer heather...
The bees soon settled and my knowledge, with the help of the New Forest Bee Keepers Association has grown with the colony, how wonderful to spend a Sunday afternoon out in the field watching the bees fly in and out of the hive and sharing this precious space with butterflies and birds.
The next project was to add water, both for the bees and local
animals, but also to add to the varied selection of creatures sharing
this site with Decorfolia. As the pond is to be a wild-life pond (not a
gold fish pond) Pat insisted that we have good beach areas for swimming
mammals, together with islands for the bees to drink from.
By the end of summer 2008 the bees had produced enough honey for us to all have a taste of things to come, they were settled down for the long winter months and the field and pond ready for additional planting the next spring...
I hope the pictures show how far this project has come in the last ten months. It has been a labour of love at weekends and evenings and now it is coming to a finale I hope that the Decorfolia staff and the rest of the wild life around here will enjoy it...
The first picture shows the pond ready for planting (March 2009) and the second how it looks as of Summer 2010.
Below are a few links to places that helped me along the way.