Bees bounce back in South Downs thanks to major project

·3-min read
Grants for wildlife projects in the South Downs have been used to create wildlife havens
Grants for wildlife projects in the South Downs have been used to create wildlife havens

THE South Downs has become a hive of wildlife havens thanks to an "inspiring" nature project.

Bee Lines is going from strength to strength, with the South Downs National Park Trust giving 11 grants in recent months to create new wildflower havens at farms, community fields, recreation grounds and road verges.

Eight projects received funding last year and have now blossomed into areas for bees and butterflies to flourish.

Early reports show biodiversity has increased significantly in the new wildflower patches.

Bee Lines launched three years ago to create a new network of wildflower corridors to help support bees and other pollinators.

The insects have been on a steep decline across the UK for decades and are now under threat from climate change.

The trust said the new planting will create a “road system” for pollinating insects, allowing them to move through the landscape more easily.

Among the projects has been the transformation of a field at Sompting to create a wildflower meadow.

The Argus: Sompting meadow before and after
The Argus: Sompting meadow before and after

Sompting meadow before and after

Meanwhile, wildflower corridors have been created at Sussex Meadow, a farm and holiday let business near Petworth.

Lewes Cemetery has also been transformed thanks to wildflower planting, with a recent survey finding a total of 55 different species of wildflower at the site.

Peter King, director of Ouse and Adur Rivers Trust, said: “The funding from the South Downs National Park Trust has allowed us to create 2.5 hectares of wildflower meadows on Sompting Brooks.

“Since sowing the seeds, the field has seen exceptional growth and diversity of species.”

Mr King said the trust has recorded a 72 per cent increase in pollinator species using the site since the arable fields were reverted to meadow.

The Argus: Bees are bouncing back in the area
The Argus: Bees are bouncing back in the area

Bees are bouncing back in the area

It has also seen an overall species diversity increase of 98 per cent of monitored species, including birds, bats, reptiles, invertebrates, and small mammals.

Chris Bibb, who works at Lewes District Council as a consultant on green projects, said: “The wildflower seeding and plug planting was a great success and the variety of flowers has been popular with visitors to the cemetery and butterflies, moths, bees and bugs alike.”

Although the £75,000 target has now been reached thanks to community funding, the trust is continuing to seek donations to help further wildflower projects.

The Argus: Red-tailed bumblebee on kidney vetch Picture - Tim Squire, South Downs National Park ranger
The Argus: Red-tailed bumblebee on kidney vetch Picture - Tim Squire, South Downs National Park ranger

Red-tailed bumblebee on kidney vetch Picture - Tim Squire, South Downs National Park ranger

Nick Heasman, who leads Bee Lines for the National Park, said: “It’s wonderful to see this wildflower planting making a significant difference to biodiversity and that effect can only multiply in future years as the habitat becomes more established. Bees are vital ecosystem engineers and it’s so important we try to halt and reverse their decline.

“This is nature recovery in action and a key strand of our overarching ReNature project to create new wildlife habitat in the National Park.”

Anyone interested in future rounds of Bee Lines funding should contact Miriam Swan at grants@southdowns.gov.uk.