Friday, 12 February 2016

Bee-Friendly Hay

Back on January 14th, a film was shown at the Globe by a representative of Friends of the Earth. It was called The Bee Cause, and was the start of a campaign. Bees, and other insects, are under pressure all over the world, from disease and from pesticides which kill the helpful insects along with the pests, and from loss of habitat. The Welsh Assembly have agreed to a national pollinator strategy, recognising how important bees are to the environment, and to human food sources. Many crops depend on bees to pollinate them.
On Monday, there was a meeting at Kilverts to follow up the film with Bleddyn, the representative from Friends of the Earth, who is in the slightly unusual position of also being a representative of the Welsh Assembly task force - a campaigner who is working for the government. He'd come up from Cardiff for the evening to meet local people who were interested in a pilot project to turn Hay into a Bee-Friendly Town. They're hoping to run the project along the same lines as Fairtrade towns, where a town has to meet a certain number of criteria to qualify for the title.
There was a Friends of the Earth group in Hay for a while, but it seems to have disappeared, so one of the things that got done at the meeting was to set up a new FoE Hay group.
The people who came to the meeting were a varied crowd. There were three local beekeepers, Lizzie Harper the illustrator (and zoologist!), and her mother - who was interested in turning her patch of lawn into a wildlife meadow so she wouldn't have to mow it! - and Lizzie's little boy and his friend, still in their Hay School uniforms. I was very impressed by the boys, who took a full part in the meeting, and were treated just like the adults in the discussions. They were even taking notes, so that they could go to Fiona Howard, the headmistress, with a proposal for the school to take part in the pilot project.
One of these ideas, which would fit in very well with schools, was to have a bee day, where children could dress up, and do craft activities like making a "bee hotel" for solitary bees to live in, poetry and music (cue me and Susan launching into Arthur Askey's Bee Song!). There's also an area of the school grounds which used to be a pond, but has potential to be a wildflower garden to attract bees, though how this would fit in with building a new school is uncertain.
Other ideas were to have a stall at the Cheesemarket occasionally to promote local beekeepers and to spread information about attracting bees to the garden and whatever community events were planned.
There were lots of ideas for people and groups that could be contacted to get involved. Lots of things are already happening locally, but it tends to be in isolation, and it would be helpful to everyone if the different groups could get together and co-operate on something.
So there's the Community Garden, just across the bridge, and Racquetty Farm, which is organic, and also hosts the Big Skill fairs - where there has been a group working on local hedgerows. There's also the Woodland Group from the Council, which does a lot of work around Hay, especially down the riverside path. There's also Wiggly Wigglers, locally, who grow native flowers for bouquets, and sell plants and seeds and - their main business - wormeries for composting. They would be a potential source of wildflower seeds, for instance. There are also the Wildlife Trusts - Lizzie knows Julian Jones, the Director of Radnorshire Wildlife Trust, who might be persuaded to come and give a talk.
There was discussion of wild flowers on the grass verges around the edges of Hay, which would make a good display in the summer - though this is made more complicated by the fact that half the roads into Hay are controlled by Herefordshire Council, and half by Powys County Council.
Bleddyn drew a hexagon on a piece of paper, and was trying to find a title for activities for each corner. So there's Food - wildflower meadows, gardens and so on; Five Star Accommodation - bee hotels and habitat; Freedom (from pesticides and herbicides) - encouraging gardeners to reduce their use of chemicals that harm pollinators, and allotment holders, and the local authorities and other local landowners; Fun includes the schools, having a pollinator day, planting a wildflower garden - Friends of the Earth already have an education pack they can provide. It would also include talks and film shows, and maybe a prize for best garden.
So that's four titles - they just need two more, preferably beginning with F!
Promoting the project was also discussed, and Hay on TV was mentioned as a possibilty to make short videos.
So there are lots of possibilities, and quite a few enthusiastic people involved already.

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