Monday 9 February 2015
For the last two years Chenies Manor near Amersham has been running a project aimed at raising funds and awareness to help protect our beleaguered honeybee and bumblebee populations. Their Bee Coffee Mornings, with expert speakers, have raised over £5000 for conservation and research charities and more are taking place this year.
Last year Manor owner, Elizabeth MacLeod Matthews, decided to expand her Bee Project by sowing a 1200m2 strip of land with annual native wildflowers for bees and other pollinating insects. The area was sown in March 2014 and was starting to flower by early June. Throughout the summer visitors were delighted by the glorious sight of corn cockle, corn marigold, corn chamomile, cornflowers and poppies (with extra seed added to mark the World War I Centenary). These were joined by other self-seeded species to create a vibrant meadow.
Since World War II we have lost 95% of our wildflower meadows, so most of us will have had little opportunity to enjoy the sights and sounds of this type of natural habitat. The loss of wildflowers has coincided with huge declines in the numbers of pollinating insects, which are vital for the security of our food supply.
Species spotted among the Chenies wildflowers included butterflies such as Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Ringlet, Marbled White and Comma, several species of bumblebee, honeybees, ladybirds, lacewings, wasps, hoverflies and beetles, with birds and small mammals also benefitting from the food and shelter provided by this area.
The Chenies wildflowers proved very popular with visitors and pollinators alike, and Mrs MacLeod Matthews has decided to create a second area of meadow in 2015, making a total of over 2400m2 of wildflowers. She hopes that more Chiltern landowners will follow suit by sowing strips of wildflowers at the edges of their fields.
Local schools are welcome to visit the Chenies Manor wildflowers this summer. Many families visiting last year commented on how much their children enjoyed experiencing the sights and sounds of a real meadow and learning more about the natural world and the importance of pollinators. Children might also be inspired to create their own wildflower areas at school or at home – something that can be done in a tiny plot or even a container.
Chenies is also expanding its popular Bee Coffee Mornings in 2015 to encompass talks on other pollinators too, with speakers this year to include:
The mornings include a talk, coffee, cake and free entry to the garden plus a tour of the Physic Garden with a Manor gardener. The whole ticket price and raffle proceeds are donated to conservation and research charities such as the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. For more information on dates and how to book a ticket see www.cheniesmanorhouse.co.uk/bee_project