Places to go – Martin Mere

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I’ve been away for awhile but I have been working hard believe me!  Well, my Dad has!  He has been helping me to “do up” my backyard.  We’ve nearly finished so I will do a full post about it soon and share photos and advice.  Today I decided to suggest another place to visit – one of my favourites: WWT Martin Mere.

Martin Mere is a wetland nature reserve near Burscough in Lancashire, managed by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.  I have had a soft spot for this place for a number of years now, because I volunteered with the wardens for a long time through my degree course, so it holds a lot of happy memories for me, regardless of being a great site with a lot to see!  So I was happy when my SO suggested we visited again and thought it was a great reason to get back working on my blog too.

It isn’t free to enter Martin Mere, and if I am honest it’s expensive at nearly £25 for the two of us.  However, if you become a member of the WWT in 30 days they will reimburse your entrance fee which is quite a saving on the overall cost for a year’s membership.

Martin Mere consists of both a “normal” nature reserve with hides and an enclosed area which they call the grounds and is home to nearly 100 species of exotic, rare or endangered birds and mammals, which is where we began our visit.

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As soon as we entered the grounds we were greeted by a gaggle of flamingos, ducks and opportunistic pigeons!  It was really nice walking through the grounds, seeing the huge variety of species and I imagine it would be a great place to take children, particularly if you buy some bird seed.  You’ll be surrounded!  Here are some of my favourite shots…

One of my favourites - Mr. Tufty!

One of my favourites – Mr. Tufty!

Mr. Pink Legs

Mr. Pink Legs

This poor little guy always seemed to miss out on the seed we threw...

This poor little guy always seemed to miss out on the seed we threw…

Shelduck and ducklings

Shelduck and ducklings

Our tribe of cupboard lovers after some food

Our tribe of cupboard lovers after some food

Martin Mere has some impressive wetland mammals on site too.  There’s a joyful family of Short Toe Asian Otters and more reclusive Beavers and they’re both pretty impressive I must say.  Here are some cute pics of the otters just to make you say aww!

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I had heard rumours that Martin Mere is currently home to a Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera) which is a rather rare species I have wanted to see for a long time and we set off hunting for it.  Happily it is fenced off by a rope and a sign saying “Bee Orchid” near the impressive Harrier Hide so it didn’t take us long (I’m lying actually we didn’t see it for looking and it took about 15 minutes!).  I can happily tick it off in my Flora guide (is this normal?), it’s a beauty isn’t it!?

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Near the Beaver enclosure, Martin Mere has planted up an “Eco Garden” with herbs, vegetables and flowers, it’s a quieter part of the site but it was great spending some time photographing the bees enjoy the flowers, this blog is called Bee Kinder after all!

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Thanks for reading, Martin Mere is a great place with loads of things to do and see, they frequently hold classes, workshops and talks too.  Visit their website or facebook group to find out more, and pay them a visit if you’re able – it’s a great place!

P.S Have you seen this app? It allows you to submit your bee counts to Friends of the Earth and will provide vital info to those monitoring populations.  It’s a very practical way to contribute and I daresay it will help improve your ID skills to boot!  Download it here, or from Google Play or the AppStore. See you soon

bee decoration

 

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Follow Friday

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Follow Friday is a well established theme on Twitter, so I thought I’d use Fridays to write on my blog about people in the bee / environment “world” doing cool and inspirational stuff! You could follow them on twitter, check out their blog / website from time to time – whatever you want. I think supporting people on social media may have the positive effect of further encouraging them, it networks caring people together and of course their ideas and passion inspires us, the reader to make changes too!

Brigit Strawbridge is an activist and campaigner, who often uses social media to discuss and protest the threats faced by bees, and hence humans and the wider environment. She writes a blog,and is a frequent tweeter (follow her at @B_Strawbridge or @Bumblebee_Farm). Brigit operates a bee sanctuary and self catering flat in Cornwall, called… as you might have guessed… Bumblebee Farm. It sounds pretty idyllic there to be honest, she has her own hens, grows food and has lots of wildflowers…. maybe I should book myself in.

Finally, here’s a video of her talking about how to garden for bees, which contains a lot of great information.

If you have friends doing up their garden or anything at the moment please recommend they visit my page in particularly “How to Bee Kinder” as perhaps they could build some of the ideas I’ve collected together. Thanks for reading!

 

 

Window Box

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Window box

I love Irises, their colour is so fresh and seems almost exotic, so I was pleased when they suddenly  flowered from the window box my mother in law made for us last year (she keeps our house looking respectable). Apologies for the rather dodgy photo, maybe you can tell but I did take it on my phone!

I got a bit worried when I saw the snowflakes descending yet again but fortunately the late March snow hasn’t managed to kill off my pretty window box. Outside my kitchen window I’ve got another window box I made myself,although  it’s not quite as pretty if I’m honest, but I did try to make it bee friendly.  I’ve planted Snowdrops and Snakes Head Fritillaries as well as an onion shoot that started growing in our compost bin but I’m lacking the “ground cover” that the pansies provide. I don’t really have an idea of something to replace that, have you? When it gets warmer I’m going to scatter various seeds in too, I want it to be in flower for as much of the season as possible.

Have you got a window box? If so what types of flowers do you have? Do you love catching sight of them from inside the house too?! Let me know, I’d love to get chatting.

Pinspiration!

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The most important thing to me about our little outside space is that it, in some small way, supports some of our local flora and fauna. Throughout the last few months I’ve been trying thinking of ways to increase it’s potential for wildlife. I did another post about the potential of our yard a couple of months ago.

Pinterest is a great sources of inspiration and information, and gardeners seem to pin all kinds of advice and interesting ideas which I can benefit from. I decided to use this post to share some of my favourite Pinterest ideas. As I want my yard to be somewhere for us and wildlife to enjoy, some of these ideas are included more for decoration than ecological purposes.

Back gate love - it doesn't help bees per se but it sure is pretty!

Back gate love – it doesn’t help bees per se but it sure is pretty!

Don't know where you could buy the plan pot holders but I want to find out!

Don’t know where you could buy the plant pot holders but I want to find out!

The reality of this in NW England might not be quite the same...

The reality of this in NW England might not be quite the same…

Great way to recycle old milk cartons

Great way to recycle old milk cartons

Stylish Breeze-block planter

Stylish Breeze-block planter

DIY bird feeder - they're pretty expensive in the shops aren't they?!

DIY bird feeder – they’re pretty expensive in the shops aren’t they?!

In my dreams...

In my dreams…

What do you think? I’ve done a bit of a redesign of my yard which I can work through this year to try and improve things. Here you go… what do you think? Please leave me a comment below with any suggestions.

Click to view image larger

Click to view image larger

Current Inspirations – Round-up

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The more research I do for this project the more amazing projects and people I find out about! Its all adding up, shaping my ideas, informing and inspiring me. So I decided to do a round up of my current favourites – maybe they will inspire you too?

Green and Gorgeous – grow beautiful flowers on their Oxfordshire farm, which they cut and form into the most gorgeous arrangements. They provide a brilliant UK based alternative to your bog-standard supermarket blooms, which are mostly grown in far, far away countries, heavily treated with pesticides and then flown over from said tropical climes at great cost to the environment (not so much the consumer as they’re usually suspiciously cheap!). Green and Gorgeous’ flowers are simply,well, gorgeous. They specialise in traditional garden varieties which have amazing scent, colour and vibrancy. I know this because I attended a “Grow Your Own Cut Flowers” course earlier this year, where I learnt a lot and arranged this beautiful bouquet from flowers we cut from their garden. It was a hugely inspiring visit as one of my ambitions is to become an ethical, eco-conscious florist (who looks after bees by planting their favourite meals!). The course provided loads of tips and advice which I’m sure will be invaluable in the future of my own project. I’ve just found their Twitter its @GandGorgeous

Gorgeous… no?!                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (C) Lucy Hesford 2012

In a similar vein to Green and Gorgeous is Higgledy Garden. I’ve recently started following Benjamin Raynard the proprietor of Higgledy Garden on Twitter – he’s a flower farmer who says that he practises “sustainable growing to save the world and impress girls.” Well, Benjamin consider this girl impressed! I also love the Twitter pictures of life around the flower farm – it’s every flower child’s dream! Higgledy Garden have a great blog and as well as selling eco-cut flowers Benjamin sells seeds – well worth remembering. He’s at @higgledygarden on Twitter

I want to read more but my initial glances at Project Maya have been exciting and informative. They are a social enterprise who work to “connect people, place and planet” through education, enterprise, research and campaigns. There’s a lot more to read, but I thought I’d include this diagram I’ve snaffled from their website as it describes how permaculture works. The idea centres around “Earthcare (e.g. restoring soils, habitats and wildflife, recycling and producing no pollution), Peoplecare (e.g. promoting human health and well-being, right livelihoods, and happy communities), and Fairshare (e.g. co-operation, fairly distributing resources and wealth)” – what more could you ask for?! (I copied that quote from their site – they explain it much better than I could!) You can follow them on Twitter @projectmaya

I believe they are funded in part by a rather lovely endeavour which sells seed balls, it’s called er… Seed Ball. You must have heard of them? I think there’s a number of company’s selling them – I even saw them in Waterstones, sometimes they’re called Seed Bombs. They consist of small balls of seeds packed in clay ball form which consist of everything the seed needs to germinate once the conditions outside are good. We, the consumer, simply purchase and distribute somewhere that we think needs prettying up! Et voila, pretty flowers in your neighbourhood with minimal effort and preparation. I’m going to buy some on pay day, they cost £4.50 for 20, and I’ve got some targets already mapped out! Seed Ball’s website is pretty cool and informative too! You can follow them on Twitter @seed_ball.

There’s plenty more sites and projects I’m enjoying reading about but I will save that for an Inspiration Round Up Strike 2! Coming up soon will be some bug-motel building, some winter bird feeding and hopefully some more bee-friendly flower sowing.

Thanks for reading – do you know of any projects, ideas or eco-warriors you think I should read up on? Please leave a comment below!

A spot of gardening

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Yes, it was definitely time for some gardening today…

My mother in law gave me these (once) beautiful begonias. They did really well and were very pretty all summer. It was really quite nice looking out of my lounge window into a begonia jungle, but I think they’ve finally had it. They are pretty plants but apparently they’re a poor nectar source for bees.

So I’ve decided to replace them with something a bit more bee-friendly.

Snowdrop, Fritillary and Daffodil bulbs (c) Lucy Hesford

Today, then, I’ve planted some species of bulbs I’ve read can provide vital early nectar sources for bees. I don’t have oodles of cash so I only bought two lots this time. I chose Snakes Head Fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris), which are my childhood favourite, Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) and some Daffodils (Narcissus sp.) that my mother in law donated (she’s pretty generous as you can tell!). I’m not sure if Daffodils are all that good for bees but they need using up and they’re undoubtedly pretty :o)

Me being me, I rushed head long into buying the bulbs and also had to get some potting compost. I staggered across the garden centre with a massive bag of compost which seemed to weigh about six stone, wrestled it into the boot of my car, out again, and through my house and to our backyard only to find it has blue slug pellets in it. Boo! This hardly goes along with my natural / organic principals, grrrrrrr! I can’t bear to waste it all though so I’ll just use it up in my own yard and avoid taking it anywhere else – lesson learnt!

Here’s hoping my bulbs end up looking  like these, but with more bees!

 

Snakes Head Fritillary (BBC’s image), Snowdrop (Scenic Reflections) and Daffodil (c) Lucy Hesford

Louse Vegas!

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This weekend, I discovered these delightful bug-hotels just outside a multistorey car on Thomas Street (Northern Quarter, Manchester city centre). I love the Northern Quarter, it’s chockful of cute little bars, independent shops and nice eateries, and great things like Bugtannia and Premier Bug, I’m thinking it could offer a source of ongoing inspiration.
As described by the plaque they’ve been designed by school children from Abbott Community Primary. I think they’re really cute, inventive and most importantly useful for insects at this time of year. They also catch people’s interest and show us all something new too!
I’m thinking of trying to create low key versions for our yard. There would be no need for me to put it all in such a lovely unit as these guys have in Manchester, piles of bamboo, twigs and even rolled up newspapers could be left in the messy corner of a garden or easily hidden behind or under something else. Maybe I could attract some of these little guys to come and stay in my yard, I’d appreciate one or two to eat all the aphids I had this summer.
I found this and a lot of other ladybirds wandering around or sleeping on the wooden parts of this fence near my house. Outside a house which, coincidentally (or not?) grew a wildflower meadow in their garden this year – kindred spirits perhaps? Although, I’m not sure if this is a Harlequin ladybird and I’d rather attract the native ladybird species… but anyhoo!
Goals for my days-off-work this week are to make my own bug motel, and to plant some winter bulbs. I hope I can achieve it this week, could show you some evidence of me doing something practical then – that would make me very happy.
How about you? Know of any other bug hotels I should “visit”? Do you enjoy gardening for bugs? Or have you got any tips for providing habitat and hiding places for insects, birds and small mammals? Let me know in the comments.