Nether Heyford Community Wildlife Area – July 2019

Take the time to just stand back and watch the bees in your garden and you will be amazed at their variety. Its the sound they make that is so wonderful, from the high pitched hum of a bee swimming in the stamens of a poppy to the deep drone of a queen bumblebee.

On the wildlife patch on the allotments I have counted ten different types of bee so far. They come in all shapes and sizes ranging from the tiny “hairy footed flower bee” (I think that is the best name ever) that darts about and hovers in front of flowers. The females are black with orange hairs on their back legs for collecting pollen. Red and buff tailed bumble bees on the other hand seem huge in comparison, and the flowers bend under their weight. Honey bees and bumble bees are social insects, where the queen lays eggs and daughter workers do all the work. Solitary bees work on their own and make their own nests in different locations, from a hole in the ground or brick or cob wall. You will often find their holes grouped together but each nest is completely separate.

Amongst the bees that I have spotted so far are two that are called nomad bees that on first sight appear to be tiny wasps for they have bright yellow and black markings, but in fact they parasitise solitary bee’s nests. They lay an egg inside host’s nest and the nomad grub then destroys the host’s egg or grub and proceeds to feed on the food store.

The best thing we can all do for bees is to grow a variety of flowers in our gardens particularly those which flower early and late so providing nectar for the longest possible period. Different species of bees have tongues of different lengths so need flowers of different lengths of tube. This doesn’t stop some short tongued bees from cheating. You can see this happening if you stand by a clump of comfrey; not all the bees will be entering the flowers but some will bite a hole at top of the flower to get the nectar. This unfortunately prevents the flower from being pollinated.

For the allotment holders having such a number and variety of bees in the wildlife patch is good news for they will be out and about pollinating the fruit and vegetables. The best crop of runner beans we ever had was when the beans were planted next to our lavender bushes (a good reason to grow some flowers amongst the vegetables, which also looks beautiful).

To make a solitary bee nest site:
1. Cut the top off a plastic drinks bottle.
2. Fill the bottle with lengths of hollow woody plant stems, reed stems or bamboo cane to make lots of tunnels for the bees to crawl into and make their nests.
3. Hang the bottle up in the garden (at a slight angle so the rain doesn’t get in) where it will get some sun but not be baked all day..

Mary Newstead

Nether Heyford Community Wildlife Area – June 2019

Some readers will be aware that a group of vacant allotments have been taken out
of commission to be used as a “Wildlife Area”. In the same way that the Community Orchard is a project undertaken on behalf of the community as a whole, this Wildlife Area is also a Community Wildlife Area. The following is brief explanation of the “Hows and Whys” of the project to bring readers up to date with progress and to outline plans for the future development of this area.

Who is doing this? Under the umbrella of the NHPC Allotment Committee Mark and Mary Newstead and Pauline Musson with me overseeing are using our knowledge and expertise to plan, manage and develop this project from concept to fruition. We expect to involve others when necessary as appropriate as the project develops.

What are we doing? We are providing a safe area where local wildlife will be able to live, flourish and be enjoyed by our Community.

Why are we doing this? A recent study by 30 scientists has concluded that Right now our Natural World is at more risk than at any time since Human Beings first walked this Earth. Whilst we cannot change the world, we can change a bit of Nether Heyford to form an area where our local wildlife (plants and animals) will be safe and able to increase rather than decrease. Not only will this benefit our wonderful wildlife but it has been proven that being able to spend time in such an area (however small) benefits our own health and well being.

Where are we doing it? A patch of about 5 vacant allotments forms a rough triangle toward the Sports Field end of the Allotment field along the Watery Lane Hedge Border. This patch has been taken out of allotment use to form the Wildlife area.

How are we doing this? It is a known fact that if one provides the habitat, the wildlife will move in to make use of it. For example, nesting boxes were in use within hours of being put on our site. With this in mind we have chosen to provide a range of connected habitats that seek to restore the area to a state in which it may have been many years before it was ploughed or became allotments.

We know that a brook ran down that side of the field. We cannot provide a brook so we have planned a Wildlife Pond in the Area. There will be three other main
habitats. Sown along the length of the hedge, to a depth of up to 3m will be plants associated with hedgerows. This will be mown once a year. Other areas will be Wildflower Meadow which will also be mown once a year. We intend to establish “Tussock Areas” which will not be mown at all. These latter provide invaluable habitat for small mammals with many insects and other invertebrates benefiting from the undisturbed life. There will also be a wildflower lawn square with seating, surrounded by small trees to provide a peaceful area. This will all be achieved by using purpose designed seeds mixtures which are readily available on the open market and good management.

When will we do all this and how long will it take? We have already started the work and are busy recording the current Flora and Fauna for future reference. The area has been fenced off and pathways cut into the grass and the seating area has been mown. We have no wish to destroy any wildlife that already occupies the area and all development will be gradual, enabling life to move to suitable areas as patches become bare before replanting. If you were to visit this summer there will be an allotment size patch of old fashioned Arable Field Wildflowers in bloom. This patch will be re-sown with a Meadow Mixture in autumn to grow on in 2020.

The Pond should also be in place and some planting and landscaping around it.
There will be areas covered in plastic sheeting. This is to kill the present flora in order for us to sow these areas with appropriate mixtures in autumn 2019. We don`t expect the whole area to be sown till the autumn of 2020 or even 2021.

Unfortunately we have not yet established safe and sensible, unescorted public access to the Wildlife Area. This will come in the future. In the meantime we would be very pleased to welcome interested visitors. If you would like to visit the area please feel free to contact me on 01327 344461 or e-mail davemusson073@gmail.com

I would be glad to arrange an escorted visit with myself or another team member.

Dave Musson