Brent Borough Council is sowing a 7-mile long ‘bee corridor’ of wildflowers to support dwindling bee populations in the city.
London Borough of Brent, North-West London.
The 7-mile long corridor is being created over a three year period (2019-2021).
What problem did it address?
Bees and other pollinating insects are in decline globally. The reasons for their decline are largely down to:
- Habitat loss – due to increased levels of urbanisation and intensive farming practices.
- Climate change – warmer winters and changing weather patterns is disrupting bee behaviour following the winter period.
- Pesticides – widespread use of pesticides reduce the breeding success of bees as well as their resistance to disease.
The bee corridor is an attempt to counter this decline by providing much-needed habitat within a densely populated urban area, and providing connectivity between habitats.
How did it do it?
In 2019, the council embarked on a 3-year project to sow a ‘corridor’ of wildflower meadows across 24 of its parks and greenspaces.
To do this, the council designated a particular area of each park that would become meadow, leaving the grass to grow longer in these areas. Each meadow area was divided into three, with one area designated to have wildflowers sown each year.
Areas were selected near to pathways and entrances to parks so that the wildflowers could be easily visible to members of the public. Wildflower seeds were carefully selected which were compatible with the London clay soil.
By the beginning of March 2019, drifts were being created and sown with seeds. Each drift was purposefully dug in a non-linear natural form. Seventy per cent of wildflowers sown were perennials and thirty per cent annual.
While this was happening, the council was spreading the message to residents via social media and other communications channels to explain why areas were being dug up and raked in their local park. This helped to manage the expectations of local residents as their support was integral to the project’s success.
Who has benefitted and how?
Bees and other pollinating insects, such as butterflies, are benefitting due to the increase in habitat. The initiative raises awareness of the need to protect bees, and how spaces within urban areas can be used to support wildlife conservation.
The initiative also benefits local residents, workers and visitors to the area, who now enjoy the burst of colour throughout many of the local parks.
The council is also making significant cost savings as the meadow areas now only have to be mown once a year (compared to 16 times previously).
What was the cost and how was it developed?
Brent Borough Council funded the project using its own resources, however managed to offset the upfront cost against the cost savings made by not having to mow the grass as often. The total upfront cost of wildflower seeds was approximately £50,000. The initiative will continue to provide cost savings for the council well into the future.
Evidence of success
The initiative won the APSE Parks Innovation award in 2019. It has also won a number of internal awards within Brent Borough Council.
The council is monitoring the meadows’ impact on biodiversity, and have recorded a species of butterfly that had not been seen in the area for many years.
Leaving the grass to grow longer has seen the emergence of a type of long grass called ‘Yorkshire Fog’, which is attractive to caterpillars and the small skipper butterfly as a source of food.
Feedback received from local residents and visitors has been very positive, many of whom have taken photographs of the wildflowers and posted them on social media, with one resident posting: “Best initiative Brent has carried out”.
Initially, the council faced some opposition from local residents as the wildflowers took a long time to flower. Residents were critical of the scheme after seeing large areas of long grass with no apparent colour initially appear in their local parks. The council took to social media to try to build up local support by raising awareness of what they were trying to do. However, once the wildflowers bloomed, feedback was incredibly positive.
Some local residents had come to expect that the park should be used only for recreation, and so the sudden introduction of large areas which could no longer be used for this was controversial at first.