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Celebrate World Bee Day this May with expert advice to make your garden a bee friendly haven

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This month sees the return of ‘World Bee Day’ (Thursday 20th May), celebrating the importance of bees and the significance of the iconic black and yellow striped pollinator. 

Following the recent launch of their #sustainabledobbies campaign, the experts at Dobbies Garden Centres have shared their top tips to help make your garden a bee-friendly haven. 

Not your average garden centre, Dobbies is committed to educating about the importance of both wildlife and environmentally friendly practices, products, and sustainable solutions. To support World Bee Day, Horticultural Director at Dobbies Marcus Eyles has shared easy ways to support pollinators in your garden. 

Marcus said: “Our gardens are natural playgrounds for bees but with some bee species in decline, we need to do everything we can to ensure their survival and, with a little effort, it’s easy to give them a helping hand. Bees play a vital role in the natural world and it’s everyone’s job to do all we can to protect these precious pollinators. From the addition of some front garden flowers to letting grass grow a little longer, there’s something to be done in all gardens, no matter the size or style.” 

Best blooms for bees…Nectar rich flowers for a garden buzz 

  • Lavender: Famed for being beautifully fragrant, the purple flowers of lavender not only add a lovely touch to the front of a border but are extremely rich in nectar for the bees.  
  • Clover: Don’t rush to trim your lawn if it’s full of clover. Growing in most terrains, these native garden flowers are great animal fodder and a magnet for honeybees. Let a patch of your lawn grow and watch the bees flock to your garden.  
  • Honeysuckle: A versatile climbing plant with a beautiful scent, honeysuckle is a great addition to the garden – and bees love it. It grows well scrambling up a trellis in a semi-shaded spot, with the sweet nectar attracting garden bumblebees.
  • Foxglove: A cottage garden favourite, foxgloves are tall and elegant, with long-tongued bumblebees able to drink easily from the tubular shape of the flower. Full of rich nectar, the little tubes also add a pop of vibrant summer colour to your garden.  
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5 tips for garden pollen power

1. Plant a variety of flowers 

Bumblebees have tongues of different lengths, designed to feed from different shaped petals. So a good variety of flowering plants is essential. Traditional cottage garden flowers such as Lupins, Hollyhocks, Lavender and Foxglove work well. Sunflowers are excellent too. Avoid flowers with double or multi-petalled blooms, which are difficult for bees to access. Marjoram, Mint, Fennel, Sage and Thyme are attractive herbs for bees. Trees, shrubs and grasses are also useful. Bees need food throughout the year, so think about plants such as heathers and winter-flowering trees that will provide good foraging in leaner times. Ask your local Dobbies’ expert for advice if you aren’t sure.

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2. Cater for thirsty bees 

Don’t forget drinking water. A pond, water feature or even a shallow dish filled with stones for bees to land on will provide a good source.

3. Give bees a home 

Different species of bees nest in different habitats. Some solitary bees nest in the ground, but others will appreciate a simple bee house. Position it out of direct sunlight in a south-facing spot, if possible.

4. Give the mower a rest 

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Grasses and lawn weeds, such as dandelion, give bees shelter and feeding spots. So, you can let the grass grow longer with good conscience. You should then cut your lawn in late summer once all the meadow flowers have finished and set their seeds for the following years blooms.

5. Take care with chemicals 

Limit the use of pesticides as far as you can. Insecticides used to control aphids, for example, also harm bees. Always follow label instructions and never spray open flowers. As part of our #sustaintabledobbies, there is additional focus on the safer range of pest control products, to reduce the impact on beneficial garden insects and wildlife. We do not stock weedkillers that contain glyphosate or slug killers that contain metaldehyde, and rodenticides have been delisted. 

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Carmarthenshire

PCSO works to bring end to unscrupulous cockle pickers in Kidwelly, Ferryside, Llansteffan and Laugharne

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PCSO Helen Fender has been recognised at Dyfed Powys Police’s awards for her efforts in tackling anti-social behaviour associated with unscrupulous cockle pickers descending on the communities of St Ishmael, Kidwelly, Llanybri, Llansteffan and Laugharne.

To effect change, PCSO Fender looked at the issue and its cause – pinpointing an old by-law that allowed anyone to get a free permit to pick cockles in the Three Rivers Fishery cockle beds.

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PCSO Helen Fender (Image: Dyfed Powys Police)

In 2017 there were more than 1,000 permit holders and the only regulation for obtaining a permit is to give a name, address, contact details and a photograph for ID.

“I noticed that something had to be done, it couldn’t go on this way as it was causing no end of issues for the community and the genuine fishermen who relied on picking cockles for a living,” she said.

“On the Bury Inlet there was no issue as it was much harder to get a permit.”

PCSO Fender set about working with the Welsh Government to try and make the Three Rivers Fishery regulated as other cockle beds are.

A three-month consultation is being launched with the aim to bring in tougher legislation for permits to be issued – with requirements to include training, minimum kit standards, their employment status for HMRC and an annual fee of £800.

“I’ve worked with the communities and with the local fishermen on this, and they are supportive,” said PCSO Fender.

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“When you’ve got 1,000 permits handed out to people from all over the country, there is going to be problems for the community and it impacts the local gatherers who depend on this industry to make a living.

“It was having a really detrimental effect on the lives of people in the area and it was proving dangerous, with numerous quads on the beaches and villages, even crossing railway lines.”

The issue has caused problems over the years with the Welsh Government Marine and Fisheries Division closing the Three Rivers Fishery cockle beds from 2012 to 2017 due to serious reports of anti-social behaviour, including people sleeping rough, litter not disposed of properly, no toilet facilities, and large articulated lorries trying to access small village roads.     

Sgt Gemma Davies said: “Helen has conducted a thorough and detailed enquiry into the underlying issues at the location, has sourced expert opinion and discussed numerous options to try and implement change for the better for the cockling community and the people living near to the cockle beds.

“We’re hopeful to achieving a regulated permit system which can be monitored and ‘policed’ by the fisheries more effectively.”

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Lead image: File photo of cockle picking in the Burry Inlet (Image: Natural Resources Wales)

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Environment

Seeds of change sown for crops to be grown on Morriston Hospital land

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Healthy eating will soon take on a whole new meaning with exciting plans to develop a “farm” on land near Morriston Hospital.

 The health board has agreed to turn over an area of land to a not-for-profit venture to grow a range of crops – with the wider community and potentially hospital patients helping to run it.

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Although independently run, the project is being supported by Swansea Bay as part of its wider commitment to a more sustainable future.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) initiatives are partnerships between farmers and consumers in which the responsibilities, risks and rewards of farming are shared.

They are run by one or more principal growers supported by volunteers who are able to learn new skills and enjoy the therapeutic benefits associated with gardening activities.

Funding comes from a variety of sources, including grants and the sale of weekly organic veg boxes to local subscribers.

CSAs originated in Japan and North America and are now established across Europe and the UK – including two in Gower.

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Swansea Bay UHB became involved after discovering that Swansea’s Food Poverty Network was looking for opportunities to establish further CSAs across a wider area of the city.

Health board Service Improvement Manger, Amanda Davies, said Swansea Bay residents were living longer than ever before.

“Like many other parts of Wales, we face increasing challenges about how to keep our population healthy,” she said.

“We also continue to have health inequalities across different parts of the area.

“We know that people living in Swansea East have a life expectancy of 12 years less than those who live in the west of Swansea.

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“We need to think differently about how we address these challenges if we are to have a sustainable health and care service in the future.”

Some time ago, the health board bought land near Morriston Hospital for potential future development. However, the topography of one part of this land makes it unsuitable to be built on.

But, as it turns out, the soil is ideal for growing crops.

Swansea Bay linked up with Cae Tan, a successful CSA based in Parkmill, Gower, and with National Resources Wales to explore the possibility of developing this 7.6-acre site, which comes complete with its own stream.

The health board has now committed to leasing the site, for a peppercorn rent, to a new CSA for 10 years, starting in mid-March.

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It will be managed by principal grower Rob Hernando who has been involved in community projects in the Swansea area since 2014.

In 2017 he began studying for a Masters in sustainability and adaption with the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth, which fostered an interest in food supply networks and alternative agriculture.

Rob began volunteering at Cae Tan, and became passionate about creating access to similar projects in the east of the city, which eventually led to him working with the health board to develop the Morriston CSA.

“We will spend the first year developing the site. This involves various tasks like improving the access, hardstanding for parking and improving the fertility of the ground,” said Rob, who himself lives in Swansea east.

“The plan is to plant green manure crops over the field to build fertility for the first growing season, then doing all the other work like fencing, hedging, planting trees and improving biodiversity.

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“The production of food will start around March 2023 and we hope to be able to provide regular food boxes from June that year.”

Details of how people can volunteer, and subscribe to veg boxes, will be announced later. And while Swansea Bay will not be directly involved in the CSA, some partnership plans are already being discussed.

Amanda said: “One of the proposals is for the CSA to provide us with a supply of vegetables on a regular basis.

“I spoke to our catering department and they said that was something they could look into.

“There’s an opportunity that our patients could have fresh organic soup, on a regular basis, improving their health and also reducing our carbon footprint. The food will come from across the road.

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“There could also be an opportunity to use the hospital’s food waste for compost. There are DEFRA guidelines to follow, so we are having discussions about how we can do that.”

 There will also be opportunities for patients to become involved, along with volunteers from across the wider community.

Amanda added: “Other health boards in Wales have done gardening projects but the Morriston CSA is the first on this scale.

“The Well-being of Future Generations Act has been the lever to encourage us to think differently about how we use our estate.

“By saying land is not just for building on, we can support people in our community by increasing access to healthy, affordable food. 

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“The CSA will help connect our community, improve skills, reduce loneliness and isolation, and improve people’s health and well-being. And at no cost to the health board.”

Rob said that, when he first started thinking about his own CSA, he had no idea he would end up working with the health board.

“It feels like quite a unique relationship but also one that makes logical sense,” he added.

 “We are trying to provide healthy locally-sourced food, not only to help the environment but to help our people.

“If we can provide opportunities for people to improve their health and well-being through their daily actions and therefore reduce pressure on the health service it seems logical, and that is what’s really exciting for me.

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“If it is successful, and I fully expect it to be successful, it’s something that can potentially be replicated elsewhere.”

Swansea Bay UHB’s Chair, Emma Woollett, said: “I’m delighted we have been able to support such a worthwhile initiative.

“The board takes their responsibilities under the Well-being of Future Generations Act very seriously.

“This is a perfect opportunity to support our communities, increase well-being and encourage greater access to affordable, healthy food.”

Lead image: Amanda Davies and Rob Hernando in the field near Morriston Hospital that will be used to grow crops (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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Environment

The Welsh National Survey for Otters shows partial decline of otter populations in Wales

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Natural Resources Wales, Cardiff University and a host of volunteers have repeated the Welsh National Survey for Otters for the first time since 2010.

Using the same methods as previous surveys to ensure results were comparable, a total of 1073 sites were visited, with signs of otters found at 756 sites, showing a substantive decline in their populations for the first time since the 1970s, from around 90% occupancy in 2010 to 70% in 2015 to 2018.

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Reasons for the decline are unclear and further work is planned by NRW and CU to investigate likely reasons for this.

Dr Eleanor Kean, who led the research for the Cardiff University Otter Project, said: “Cardiff University Otter Project (CUOP) surveyed national survey sites across six river catchments and noted a decline in otter signs. Natural Resources Wales collaborated with us to organise surveys of the remaining sites across Wales to complete a sixth Otter Survey of Wales, with the help of volunteer surveyors.

“Declines were not universal, with the worst affected regions being the Conwy, Loughor, and Teifi catchments. Smaller declines were evident on most other catchments, while only a few, such as the Severn, seemed to have stable populations”.

Liz Halliwell, Team Leader for Terrestrial Ecosystems and Species at NRW said: “Monitoring otter population status is important with respect to conservation of this much-loved mammal. As well as this, as top predator of our freshwaters, the otter can be an important biological indicator of the health of our rivers and wetlands.

“In Wales as in much of the UK, the otter is a largely nocturnal animal and is rarely observed in the wild, but it is possible to detect its presence by searching for its distinctive droppings – spraints- and footprints.

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“Otter populations across Britain have been gradually recovering from significant declines in the 1970s. The clear message from this report is that we cannot be complacent about the ongoing recovery of the otter in the UK. To understand the reasons for the decline, we are working with otter and freshwater habitat experts to review the situation.  We also have an extensive River Restoration Programme in development which will bring benefits to many riparian species including otters.”

The Mammal Society, Environment Agency and Natural England, with support from a number of water companies, will be initiating the sixth national otter survey of England in 2022. 

(Lead image: Natural Resources Wales)

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