The North Pennines AONB Partnership launched the Nectarworks project in the summer of 2013.
Our aim is to enthuse, educate and enable communities to take action for bumblebees and other pollinators by restoring and increasing flower-rich habitats across the AONB. The project will run until March 2017.
Wildflowers and bumblebees are of immense importance to us all as they are intimately bound to the production of our own food. Through Nectarworks we are focusing on places that are rich in wild flowers within the farmed environment and are working with local people to create new school and community nectar gardens.
For full details of what we will be doing, please download our colourful Nectarworks project summary. This short film gives a flavour of some of our work through this project:
During the summers of 2013 and 2014, Ruth Starr-Keddle, the AONB Partnership’s Nectarworks Project Officer has surveyed 60 flower-rich banks in hay meadows. These were the most botanically rich places that Ruth has visited since she started work for the Partnership in 2009 which goes to show how special they are. Following each survey, Ruth meets with the farmer to talk about how these rare habitats are managed and then writes a detailed report with recommendations for how they can be maintained or enhanced.
During the summer of 2014 we employed entomologist Andy Jukes to survey the nectar-feeding invertebrates on ten flower-rich banks in Upper Teesdale and Allendale. He recorded a total of 177 different species of which 54 species were hoverflies and 49 species were beetles. The rare moss carder bee (Bombus muscorum) was recorded from a number of the banks in Upper Teesdale. This is excellent news because the presence of this bee indicates not only the existence of a rich diversity of flowering plants but also a functional connectivity between flower-rich sites. For this and many other species to persist, at least the current extent of diverse, flower-rich habitat needs to be retained. Another key finding of the survey was the importance of the wetland elements of the flower-rich banks. All the species of high conservation interest recorded are associated with wetland habitats and if these species are to persist, the wet character of these sites must be retained. For a detailed summary of the survey, download North Pennines nectar-feeder survey 2014 - summary
Each year we run training events for people who would like to take part in our botanical survey work. To find out more, please visit our Volunteering page.
This short film shows one of the spectacular flower-rich banks of the North Pennines and some of the special plants that are found there:
Spreading the seed
Flower-rich banks have the potential to be a wonderful source of wild flower seed which can be used to enhance nearby meadows. Collecting the seed poses a particular challenge, however; by their very nature these places are steep and difficult to access. To solve this problem and working in partnership with the AONB team, agricultural contractors Niels and Tom Kristenson have designed and built a special piece of equipment. Mounted on a long arm, this new harvester is able to reach 6m up or down a bank from a tractor to gather wild flower seed in ‘green hay’. This is then spread on a nearby meadow using a mini muck spreader. During 2013 & 2014, seed was harvested from 10 banks, 5 road verges and 3 meadows in this way and spread on 15 meadows with a total area of 60.6ha.
This short film gives more detail of the techniques we use and shows the harvesting and spreading machinery in action:
Support for smallholders
Many people in the North Pennines live and work on small plots of land. Some of these smallholders look after the best remaining flower and nectar-rich hay meadows in the area. Others are really keen to restore their meadows to their former glory and make them more wildlife-friendly. Over the winter months of 2013 we ran a series of workshops to meet and talk to smallholders and identify their most pressing needs. We have followed this up by starting a series of events for smallholders which focus on the issues they were most interested in. You can find out more about our work with smallholders by visiting the Nectarworks for Smallholders page.
Even in rural areas, gardens can play an important part in the lifecycle of bumblebees. A bumblebee-friendly garden will supply pollen and nectar at times when there is less around in the surrounding countryside, such as in early spring or after the hay is cut.
People can genuinely help to support and increase bumblebee populations in their area by planting a succession of bumblebee-friendly flowers. This not only provides a plentiful source of nectar and pollen from early spring to late summer, but also creates colourful and beautiful gardens that are buzzing with life. To find out how to help bumblebees in your garden and which plants are most likely to survive in the North Pennines, you can download our leaflet: Gardening for Bumblebees - top tips for the North Pennines
During the spring and summer of 2015 we will be training volunteers so that they can survey bumblebees in local residents gardens. You can find out more about this exciting opportunity by visiting our Volunteering page.
Getting kids buzzing!
Inspiring and educating some of our youngest residents is an important part of the Nectarworks project. Mandy Oliver, the AONB Partnership’s Nectarworks Community Officer, is working with several primary schools across the North Pennines, helping children to understand why our bees are so valuable and so fascinating. You can find out more about this strand of the project by visiting our Nectarworks for Schools page.
This short film shows children from Church Brough Primary School taking part in the project in 2014:
Want to know more or get involved?
Rebecca Barrett, Project Development Officer, (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ruth Starr-Keddle, Nectarworks Project Officer (email@example.com)
Mandy Oliver, Nectarworks Community Officer (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Nectarworks is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund and by Northumbrian Water through the Branch Out fund.