On Sunday the volunteers helped our friends at the Ashridge College with the Plant Fair, which coincided with the opening of the gardens for the National Gardens Open Day. For the previous twenty years the event was held at the Visitor Centre, and organised and run independently by the volunteers raising tens of thousands of pounds for the National Trust, but was abruptly axed last year.
The Trust maintain that large events can have a negative impact on the Estate, and as with the Plant Fair there was a negative impact on sales at the V C, so there was to be a new initiative of promoting wildlife gardening with the public, using bee- friendly plants raised in the Estate nursery by the volunteers. This is a very laudable policy despite the fact that the plan has been deferred for a year and there will be lost revenue.
Kindness is in our power even when fondness is not – Samuel Johnson
Two years ago Peter Nixon, Director of Conservation for the National Trust, said the charity had a duty to help prevent wildlife decline, which currently affects fifty six per cent of British species.
Many of the Trusts one thousand five hundred farmers are already carrying out practices which benefit wildlife and the charity proposed to talk to them to learn how to introduce nature-friendly measures into all of its farmland. The Trust owns almost six hundred thousand acres of land in total, more than one per cent of land in the UK with five farms at Ashridge.
But where does that leave us gardeners? – the Trust would do well to introduce a labelling scheme for the shed-load of garden plants which they offer for sale to the public. Many of the imported plants on sale at present like choisya, agapanthus, lupins, phormium, and grasses are not bee-friendly, but how would you know without a labelling system to encourage you to go “bee friendly”.
Despite several EU measures in place to conserve and protect pollinators, their numbers continue to decline, and the services they provide may already be decreasing significantly.
Pollination is one of the key processes in nature which enables the reproduction of plants and therefore contributes to the maintenance of species biodiversity. In the EU alone, four out of five crop and wild flower species depend on insect pollination. Pollinators are mainly insects, in particular bees and hoverflies, but also butterflies, moths, some beetles and other flying insects. Up to €15 billion of the EU’s annual agricultural output is directly attributed to insect pollinators notably domesticated honey bees, wild bee species such as solitary bees and bumblebees, as well as other pollinating species. Action is necessary to safeguard biodiversity, to support agriculture and protect our food security.
Some ten years ago big business as well as the BBC toyed with the idea of promoting “bee-friendly” initiatives – Haagen Dazs in the USA and the Cooperative in the UK but they did not gain momentum. We need the BBC along with Sir David Attenborough – the bees’ knees.