On Making Space for Nature in Sustainable Bungay

This post was first published on 24th September 2014 under the title Mark Watson on Making Space for Flowers as part of the “Making Space for Nature” theme on the Transition Network website. It appears here unabridged.

IMG_1158“Did you grow all those yourself?”, a young woman asked me last week at Transition Town Tooting’s 7th Foodival.
She was pointing to a wicker basket filled with the aromatic lemon balm, rosemary, anise hyssop, marjoram and a dozen or so more herbs and flowers I was preparing tea from at the event:
“A lot of them I grew at home in Suffolk, some are wild plants and others are from gardens here in Tooting, including the Community Garden up the road.”
She looked suprised, almost shocked. “My only reference for that kind of thing are the supermarket shelves,” she said.

In that moment I realised many things all at once: that events like the Foodival show how we can come together and regain autonomy over what we eat (and drink); that you never know who will walk in the door and get switched on by something they’ve never considered before; that making space for nature goes beyond the world of nature reserves, wildlife documentaries or even pilgrimages into the wilderness. I also realised that an intrinsic engagement with the living world is what I’ve been showing and teaching in the last six years since I became part of the Transition movement; and that Transition has offered me a role where I can use my knowledge and skills to bring plants and people together in a dynamic and inspiring way.

Bungay is a small rural market town of 5000 people on the river Waveney in north-east Suffolk, surrounded by conventionally farmed agricultural land. The common idea that people in rural areas are automatically more connected with nature can be misleading. Wherever we live now much of the time is spent in artificial spaces: in front of computers, television screens, in our minds and indoors.

When I consider Sustainable Bungay, the Transition group where I’ve been most active since 2008, I see that (re)connection with living systems and considering the planet is implicit in everything we do, from the permaculture inspired Library Community garden, to the Give and Grow plant swap days to a cycle ride down to the pub by the locks of the Waveney at Autumn equinox. The very first Transition event I led was a Spring Tonic Walk introducing people from Bungay and Transition Norwich to dandelions, cleavers and nettles, the medicine plants growing in the neighbourhood.

Voilet-adorned prunes detailOur monthly community kitchen, Happy Mondays is now in its fourth year. A meal for 50 people, most of it locally sourced, is prepared from scratch in under three hours and features everything from nettle pesto and bittercress salad to puddings with foraged sweet violets or blackberries from the common.

Bungay Community Bees was formed in 2009 in response to the global pollinator crisis. There are now more than a dozen beehives in orchards and gardens in and around the town. The group has also created a purpose-built apiary (an observation shed with a hand-crafted glass hive) in association with Anglia Regional Co-operative Society and Featherdown Farms. In the summer schoolchildren from the region come to visit the bees and go on nature walks where they learn about flowers and pollinators.

College farm apiary

Even behind the Give and Take days with their ethos of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refashion, Re-just-about-everything, there is the sense that the planet needs a major break from all the stuff the industrial system keeps pumping out. Nature needs a breathing space!

Soil moving banner

A natural breathing space is among the many things that Bungay Community Library Garden offers. In 2009 a subgroup from Sustainable Bungay teamed up with the town library, organised an Introduction to Permaculture course with Graham Burnett and worked with local builders, gardeners, tree surgeons and group members to transform the unused brick courtyard with one jasmine and a honeysuckle into a flourishing community garden with raised beds, fruit trees, flowers and herbs.

BCLG 13.7.2014

Each year since its opening in 2010, the garden’s central bed showcases a different theme: plants for bees in 2011, plants as medicine in 2012, an edible bed in 2013 and this year dyes and textiles. This way people can get a feel for just how multi-faceted plants are and just how interwoven they are in our human lives. In many cases the categories change but the plants stay the same. The calendula you made a tea from in 2012, you tossed into a salad in 2013 and dyed a scarf with the following year!

The person curating the garden each year organises events around the theme. In the Plants for Life series I ran in 2012 focusing on health and wellbeing, there were monthly talks, walks and workshops with guest speakers, on everything from biodynamic growing to walking with weeds to the medicinal properties of homemade wine! I also ran ‘plant surgeries’ during the summer where people could come and ask questions about the project and the plants and exchange their knowledge too.

IMG_8305 low res

The garden has become a focal point for many of Sustainable Bungay’s activities from steering group meetings in the summer to seed and produce swaps, Abundance exchanges of foraged fruit, and apple pressings. It is also the starting point for the wellbeing walks begun by the Arts, Culture and Wellbeing group last year.

The idea behind the walks was to explore local places together to encourage wellbeing and a sense of belonging. How that might increase personal, and particularly community, resilience, help combat the desire to be somewhere else and so encourage lower use of fossil fuels. Many people reported that simply by taking part in the collective walks brought an experience of wellbeing in itself.


There is more. Recently a group called NR35 (‘Natural Resources’ 35) based on the local postcode, began to explore “how to use our skills, knowledge and labour to generate an income by sustainably managing/harvesting the resources which are wildly abundant around our rural market town.” The results include the harvesting of fruit and vegetable gluts, some of which are supplied to local restaurants and grocers and a communal firewood store. Last spring a small group of us learned how to make a dead hedge with local tree surgeon Paul Jackson. It took just a morning but I remember practically everything Paul taught us.

So what I’m saying here is that making space for nature can start right outside our doors, and in the places we find ourselves. That it’s not always the big exotic landscapes abroad where Nature is to be encountered. We need to discover the natural world where we are and engage with it, because it’s the natural world that makes sense of everything in the end.

P4050041 tempcopy

In 2015 it will be my turn again to curate the theme at Bungay Community Library garden, and the focus will be on ‘Helpful Herbs’ of all kinds. Lavender and rosemary are settling into bed, with thyme, St. Johns Wort, sweet cicely and others already there. And I’m working with a team on some exciting events. I’m also planning to map the project as part of a group helping to shape a new Transition Diploma, a collaboration between Gaia University and the Transition Network. Oh, and to make it into a Transition livelihood!

Meanwhile here is a picture from a plant walk around Bury St Edmunds I led in June this year with Sustainable Bury. The caption would probably go something like this:

“You can’t go anywhere nowadays without people sitting on walls looking at Hoary Willowherb!”


Mark Watson is co-chair of Sustainable Bungay, a Transition Initiative in Suffolk, UK. Mark teaches groups and individuals to reconnect with nature through plants in the places they live. Details about his talks, walks and workshops can be found on Mark in Flowers.

Images: Talking plants and teas at Tooting Foodival, September 2014 by Chris from NappyValleyNet; Wild sweet violets adorn Happy Monday pudding by Josiah Meldrum; School visit to Bungay Community Bees’ observation hive by Elinor McDowell; Preparing the beds, 2010, Bungay Community Library garden (MW); the garden flourishes, summer 2014; Walking with Weeds, Plants for Life, 2012 (MW); 1st Wellbeing walk by the Waveney, 2013 by Charlotte Du Cann; Throwing our arms up under the cherry trees, April 2014 (CDC); Of walls and hoary willowherb in Bury St Edmunds, 2014 by Karen Cannard

Wildflowers at Bungay Castle

BCB’s Gemma Parker has worked with Jasmine Lingwood’s family to create a wildflower area at Bungay Castle. The following is an update from Gemma:

When Jasmine died in 2012 she was kind enough to ask for funeral donations to go to the Bungay Community Bee Group. As Jasmine was a member of Suffolk Wildlife Trust and keen to see wildlife thriving in the area we wanted to use the money in a way that very much reflected the work she did during her lifetime. In the summer of 2013 a group of like minded people along with Jasmine’s family got together at Bungay Castle to see about creating a wild flower area for bees & pollinating insects. With the permission of the Castle Trust we decided that a pilot area should be planted to test whether our idea would work successfully. Using Rose Titchner’s expertise along with experience of sowing a wild flower meadow in Flixton we proceeded in the Autumn to lift the existing turf & sow two wild flower mixes (details of the exact flowers can be found below) ready for flowering the following Spring.
In April 2014 a plaque was erected in memory of Jasmine & the work the bee group has done and the pilot space has developed into a beautiful flowery area. This is a great motivator to extend the area & create a bee border along the castle.

Wildflowers at Bungay Castle

Meadow Mix for Sandy Soils: Yarrow, Common Knapweed, Wild Carrot, Viper’s Bugloss, Lady’s Bedstraw, Oxeye Daisy, Common Toadflax, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Musk Mallow, Ribwort Plantain, Hoary Plantain, Cowslip, Selfheal, Meadow Buttercup, Bulbous Buttercup, Sorrel, Bladder Campion – plus Meadow Grasses (to prevent bareness in winter): Common Bent, Sweet Vernal Grass, Crested Dogstail, Fine-leaved Sheep’s Fescue, Sheep’s Fescue, Slender Creeping Red Fescue, Smaller Cat’s-Tail.
Cornfield Mix: Corn Cockle, Corn Chamomile, Cornflower, Corn Marigold, Common Poppy

Sticky Thoughts

I love honey, not everybody does I know, but for me, the darker the better. And heather honey. Oh yum.

But I eat less honey now than I ever did before I became interested in bees. Initially beekeeping appealed to me as a form of ‘re-skilling’, learning how to become a little more self-sustainable and grounding myself in the processes involved with meeting our everyday needs. I learnt beekeeping alongside bread making, knitting, vegetable growing and basic sewing. Needless to say some of these ventures have been more successful than others. But I digress.


It is a miraculous substance, formed from nectar collected by honeybees and transformed into a stickiness that can be stored for a very long time and is not only delicious but can be good for us as well. But, what it’s really, really good for is honey bees. And therein lies my problem. I don’t wish to take what the bees need. However, many colonies make an excess of honey and I’m happy to take that. The difficulty lies in judging the amounts. But time and experience will eventually tell.

There is also something great about buying honey from someone who’s life will be turned around by it. Bees for Development is a fabulous organisation teaching sustainable beekeeping techniques, appropriate for the local environment, while supporting those with no previous income to generate one.

My most recent jar of honey isn’t local (‘our’ bees are fairly newly established and haven’t made enough to take any for the last couple of years, although this year is looking more hopeful). My current jar of honey was bought and started a year ago and comes out when a treat is needed or a throat needs soothing. It comes direct from the beekeepers in the mountains of Corfu and I walked among the abundance of pesticide free wildflowers the nectar came from. I will never have a jar of honey like this again.

Corfu honey





Mountains Corfu


But then, each jar is pretty special. Here are some amazing Honey facts:

  • Cave paintings in Spain depict the gathering of honey, 15,000 years ago.
  • Honey is a hebrew word meaning enchant
  • Honey is an excellent preservative and was used in embalming
  • Edible honey was found in an Egyptian tomb
  • Romans paid their taxes in honey
  • Honey is anti-bacterial, hydroscopic (water absorbing) and recuperative in terms of energy
  • It’s  a great source of energy, brilliant on ulcers and skin lesions and as an immune system boost
  • Sugar isn’t as sweet as honey
  • Nectar is mostly water, honey has less than 19% water. This occurs by a repeated process of honey consumption and regurgitation which allows water to evaporate
  • It would take 1,100 bees to make 1kg of honey and they would have to visit 4 million flowers
  • One bee will only make 1/12 of a teaspoon on honey in its entire life. So it’s precious stuff! Scrape that plate clean 🙂


Spanish cave painting (copy)

 Woman gathering honey, watercolor copy by F. Benitez Mellado of aMesolithic (c. 10,000/8000–c. 3000 bce) painting in the Cueva de la Arana, near Bicorp, Spain; in the Museum of Prehistory, Valencia, Spain.

Most of our Bungay Community Bees honey is crushed and strained, as is much of it from small-scale honey producers. This allows the inclusion of local pollen – amongst other bits and pieces. Pollen is high in vitamin C and if local enough can assist with acclimating the body for those with hayfever. In contrast, major brand honey is often superheated and ultra-filtered, which removes those benefits.


Bungay Community Bees honey 2011 (and yes, it was delicious)

So, my personal stance is to consume moderate amounts of honey, from as sustainable a source as possible. If I buy honey I would rather buy from a local beekeeper or a source with humanitarian benefit, not a multi-national brand name.

Meanwhile I shall keep my fingers crossed for the bees in our hives to make loads more honey than they need, while continuing to plant my garden with lovely nectar rich flowers and letting the clover rampage for a bit.

There are various sources of information for the above, but I have directly used Bees4Kids.org.uk and ‘Honey: natures golden healer’ by Gloria Havenhand. There are lots of therapeutic uses in her book – and she only uses surplus honey 🙂

by Elinor McDowall (member of Bungay Community Bees) 




Calling All Bungay Community Bee members for 2014!

Bungay Community Bees is 5 years old!


With the advent of Spring we are getting ready for the beekeeping year ahead. Now is the perfect time to join, for this year in celebration of our fifth anniversary there is no membership fee. But we are still looking for members to join our BCB community.

We have had some changes to our ‘core’ group recently which means we are looking for people to take on some of the more active roles. There are several ways in which BCB can take the project strands (Plants for Bees, Education and Outreach, Beekeeping, Hive Building) forwards, it just needs a little enthusiasm and time from the community. So please don’t be shy!

The group has changed somewhat over the years. From the Community Supported Agriculture model we began with we have developed a more educational bent. This has occurred partly in response to our own growing awareness of the wider issues impacting upon bee survival and partly due to forging links with others and the opportunities that have since arisen.

We do have several colonies of bees this spring as they all survived the winter, and hope to collect some honey in a couple of months.

Our major project of 2013 was the educational school visits in association with Anglia Regional Co-operative Society and Featherdown Farms. These visits will begin again in a few weeks. There is a blog on the SB website outlining what we did along with some pictures and a number to contact for bookings, including for this year.

The other major project we would like to run this year is Bungay Beehive Day. After an initial brainstorming session we have come up with some great ideas, but need some bodies to take on some of the organising. We can make it as comprehensive as volunteers allow.

So, if you would like to get involved in any of the following ways please get in touch:

* Become a member for the year (no fee this year!), the membership form is on the BCB page of the website. Please email bees@sustainablebungay.com with any queries or contact me on 07791 495 012

* Get involved with Bungay Beehive Day 2014 (5th anniversary!), i.e. helping with stalls, speakers, plants, publicity

*Assisting with school visits at College Farm (Thursday mornings beginning late May, expenses paid)

* Workshops with schools, possibly to create some large artworks to display at Beehive Day

* Become secretary for BCB, arranging meetings and co-ordinating the group socially

* Train to become a BCB beekeeper, either with Waveney Valley Beekeepers (conventional hives, lots of bee experience and support; mostly evenings) or with the Natural Beekeeping Trust (top bar hives with minimal intervention; 2 days Sussex). This will be funded by BCB on the understanding you subsequently keep bees for the group. First come, first booked basis.

* Take any of the project strands forwards

* Share your fabulous ideas!


Finally, we now have a facebook page, search for bungaycommunitybees and ‘like’ us to see photo’s and get notifications of blog posts and events.

I also have a personal twitter account @ElinorBees, which is bee oriented, as is Mike Southerns @JoinerBee, he is one of our beekeepers and our hive designer.

All the best

Elinor McDowall

Edible Plants Bee Tea

It’s a grey day today, a good day for looking back to a warmer one in the summer when Bungay Community Bees joined with Lesley and the Libray Community Garden to host a Bee Tea. Each year the Library Garden central bed has a different theme and this year it is edible plants. In hindsight it may seem perfectly obvious, but many plants good for us to eat are also great for bees. However, this was as much about ‘border’ plants and herbs as it was about crop producing plants.

Bee Tea: chatting about plants

After a brief introduction to some of the issues involved with bee decline; largely habitat loss, insecticide use (in particular neonicotinoids) and intensive beekeeping methods, we enjoyed discussing gardening techniques and other ways in which bees/pollinators can be supported. A common theme brought up at several of our gatherings has been the use of public spaces such as playground/park margins and verges, it shouldn’t be so difficult to plant these areas and allow them to flourish before cutting them back. And sometimes it’s as much about leaving plants in place to flower, as it is about planting new ones.

Bee Tea: the central bed

Mark Watson created one of his rather special herbal tea blends made from bee-friendly plants and was kind enough to enlighten us about what he put in. Unfortunately we can’t remember the complete list, but anise hyssop, lemonbalm and spearmint were certainly involved. Mark’s teas and jellies are always delicious, but this was his best yet – but of course!  Bees are involved with pollination of many fruits and other yummy staples such as chocolate so it wasn’t hard to come up with biscuits and cake to accompany the tea, but my favourite was Lavender Shortbread made by Gemma (of Humble Cake). Which I’m happy to see is still on sale in the Three Willows and Earsham Street cafe’s (so go and grab some if you’re in Bungay…. Quickly).

Bee Tea: Mark introducing his bee friendly herbal blend



Bee Tea: tea and lavender shortbread, yum :)

While we mingled and chatted about various bee and plant related topics, including the benefits of top bar hives in ‘bee-centred’ beekeeping, we made bee and bug hotels which should now be gracing various garden corners around Bungay. Such a good way to use up old bottles, cardboard and canes. Don’t forget that a pile of old stalks and leaves can be invaluable to insects so tuck some away in a secluded corner or under the hedge… It was a lovely afternoon, one of those that affirms our purpose as a community group. So thank you all!

Bee Tea: Insect houses, great recycling!

Bee Tea: making hanging and ground insect houses

Bee Tea: making hanging insect houses


Bungay Community Bees: Wildflower Meadow Update

As some will remember, we had the exciting opportunity in Sept 2011, to help sow a native wildflower meadow seed mix on one acre of Keith Parker’s land in Flixton at one of our Bungay Community Bees apiary sites.


In some ways the site was challenging because it was a sloping site over which had been spread a large amount of clay subsoil that had been dug out of the very large wildlife pond that Keith had created next to the meadow site. It is generally recommended that wildflower seed mixes be sown into poor soil – and many people actually scrape the topsoil off a site to leave a poor substrateas wildflowers flourish best in nutrient deprived soils. We hoped that in some ways the clay subsoil would mimic this method, being a lot more nutrient deprived than the fertile clay soil that was there..


However, after drilling and then hand broadcasting a broad mix of native wildflower seed and non invasive native grasses over the whole site in September 2011, we had a very surprising and very long drought here in East Anglia, which lasted right through the winter and the following spring and early summer – as a result the clay subsoil stayed pretty much as rock hard solid lumps (not ideal germinating medium!) – until the desperately needed rains finally arrived in summer 2012, along with some warmth.


creeping thistle

Creeping Thistle

As a result, we saw almost no growth at all on the meadow site until late summer – the only thing that seemed to grow were the creeping thistles, which had already been present over a large part of the meadow. Keith kept the thistles down with repeated mowings – especially in July (“Cut a thistle in July and it will surely die!” – old Suffolk saying). We felt somewhat down after our initial excitement about al the wildflowers we had hoped to see emerge in 2012.


Wildflower seeds are notorious for being sometimes very slow to germinate. Some seeds can lie dormant for many years until the right conditions spur them into growth. So it was with some relief,  when Keith and I walked the meadow carefully one windy afternoon in September 2012, that we began to realise that much more variety of plants had begun to germinate and grow over the summer months, than we had dared hope after all the disastrous weather conditions. Not all of these wildflowers came from the seeds we sowed – some must have already been in the soil’s existing seed bank or were blown in or brought by birds, but it gave us renewed hope for the potential ongoing development of this meadow.


So this is what we saw:


A lot of Birds Foot Trefoil – in great carpets – this was in our seed mix!

carpet of birdsfoot trefoil

Carpet of Birds Foot Trefoil

yarrow, clover and oxeye daisy leaves

Birds Foot Trefoil and Clover leaves


In some places the trefoil intermingled with other plants such as white lover and wild carrot…


birdsfoot trefoil and wild carrot

Birds Foot Trefoil and Wild Carrot

 white clover

White Clover

White Clover and Red Clover could be found all over the site…


red clover

Red Clover

What was very heartening and surprising was that there were also great swathes of Yellow Rattle across one side of the site. Yellow Rattle is included in most native wildflower seed mixes because it is parasitic on grasses, weakening them and thereby creating more opportunity for wildflowers to flourish. But it does not always do well on heavier soils… so I was very pleased to find how happy it seemed to be on this clayey site…


yellow rattle

Yellow Rattle

There were quite a lot of plants emerging, where we could see the basal rosettes of leaves – a promise of flowers to come in 2013 – Common Knapweed and Oxeye Daisy basal rosettes could be seen all over the field…


common knapweed basal leaves

Common Knapweed basal leaf rosette

oxeye daisy basal leaves

Oxeye Daisy basal leaf rosette

Across the whole site too were creeping patches of Black Medick, one of our native, nitrogen fixing plants (like Birds Foot Trefoil, Vetches and Clovers)… We had sowed quite a lot of Black Medick, so it was very satisfying to see it taking a hold…


black medick flowers

Black Medick Flowers

black medick seeds

Black Medick Seeds

Also across the whole site, we found a common plant for clay meadow soils at this time of year – the little yellow Autumn Hawkbit – which looks like a dainty little long-stalked hawkweed or Dandelion…



Autumn Hawkbit

Another plant that was happily colonising the whole site was Self Heal – (one of my all time favourite wildflowers!)…



Self Heal

Other plants sporadically dotted over the whole meadow were: Yarrow, Corn Mint, Scarlet Pimpernel, Speedwell, Spear Thistle, Broad Leaved Willowherb and what looked like Cut-leaved Cranesbill…..


corn mint

Corn Mint

scarlet pimpernel

Scarlet Pimpernel



spear thistle leaves

Spear Thistle

rosebay willowherb seed pods

Broad Leaved Willowherb seed pods


Cranesbill (Cut leaved?)

It will be interesting to see what comes up in the meadow this year, whether there will be other wildflower seeds that we have sown that haven’t germinated yet – and how diverse a sward develops.


We also planted up the wildlife pond in late summer with native aquatic and marginal plants, with Elinor being the most daring with her brave, slippery mud wading plantings! It was hard to judge where to plant the marginal plants such as the burr rushes, Purple Loosestrife, Marsh Marigolds, Yellow Flag, Water Forget me Nots etc… the water level in the pond was still rising, so we tried to make an educated guess…. It now looks like we were way out in our calculations because the pond water level has risen four feet over the winter – so most of our marginal plants look like they have drowned! It remains to be seen this spring, what has survived.

Some pond planting pics…

pond planting begins...


Keith and Lesley planting margins


Lesley throwing in a water lily!


Planting into the water; waterlogged wellies


It takes a lot of patience, trial and error and persistence over time when working with nature and habitats – every year is a slow learning process. Somehow I have come to really like this slow organic process of learning and development – and the unexpected surprises and rewards when one sees a gradual increasing diversity and web of wildlife develop in a habitat.


Keith Parker told me that 3 years ago the Suffolk Wildlife Trust put up a barn owl box in the trees beside the meadow. In the two years it was nested in by stock doves – and then last year a pair of barn owls moved in and reared their young who seemed to then move to a neighbouring farm once they had left the nest. In the mean time, Keith had another barn owl nest box put up in a mature hedgerow tree on the other side of the meadow – and the adults from the first box moved to this new box after rearing their young. It remains to be seen whether the original and now empty barn owl box will attract a new pair of barn owls in 2013. It’s all very exciting!

by Rose Titchiner; Bungay Community Bees

Bungay Beehive Day 2012: Snapshots

We had a great time at this years Bungay Beehive Day (even with some last minute tent hitches), many thanks to all those that participated. I have put together a few photo’s to give a flavour of what went on…

 Heidi Herrmann from the Natural Beekeeping Trust discussed why swarming is not only a natural but a necessary part of having healthy honeybees for the future:

Heidi demonstrated the Sun Hive. She has several at home and there are some in use at Tablehurst Farm (more about this in the up-coming post about the Natural Beekeeping Conference):

Bob and Sally Spruce from the Waveney Beekeepers Association were kind enough to bring an observation hive and all their enthusiasm and knowledge about bees to inspire others…

Listening with a stethoscope…

Neals Yard showcased their products, chatted about bees and even gave a demonstration making lipsalve with beeswax:

Our Bungay Community Bees plant stall – all bee-friendly plants!

Gathering for one Mark Watson’s ever popular Bee and Flower walks, this time exploring central Bungay:

Charlotte Du Cann reading from her recently published book ’52 flowers that shook my world: a radical return to earth’. Bringing together bees, landscape and our environment from a personal perspective.

Making bee and bug houses:


Enjoying tea and cake courtesy of Bungay Community Kitchen:

Once again the Iceni Microscopy Group brought some interesting samples for people to have a go at seeing under the microscope:

Orchard End Organic Herbs brought some of the plants most favoured by bees:

Dressing up (and smelling my gloves which are covered in propolis – yum)

Making mobiles, finger puppets and masks:


Discussing the newest version of our  horizontal Top Bar Hives with their designer and creator Mike Southern:

Our very own Plants For Bees information wall:



Friends of the Earth have recently launched the Bee Cause (it’s great, look it up if you aren’t already familiar with it…) and came along to share information. I bought one of their lovely posters:

Watching ‘The Queen of the Sun: what are the bees telling us?’. A great film, we shall be holding a dedicated film night in April for another opportunity to see it.


An overview of bees, reasons for their decline and who’s doing what to combat it by Bungay Community Bees (Elinor)

Playing Bees…

Lesley and Charlotte from Bungay Community Bees

A happy gardener, ready to make her own patch even more bee-friendly!

Bungay Bee Hive Day: 15th July

Bungay Bee Hive Day is a celebration of the honeybee and other pollinating insects along with the plants they love. Unique in the region and in its second year the event is organised by Bungay Community Bees as part of the Bungay Festival and aims to promote awareness and enjoyment of the essential relationship between people, plants and bees.

After the success of last year’s event which attracted around 1000 people, Bungay Community Bees have invited Heidi Hermann, Founder Trustee of the Natural Beekeeping Trust, to talk about swarming – perhaps the most exhilarating event of a honeybee colony’s annual lifecycle. The Natural Beekeeping Trust was formed in response to the critical situation of the honeybee which has led many beekeepers to question approaches to beekeeping that rely on chemical inputs and to seek to improve the wider landscape in which bees live.

Co-Founder of Bungay Community Bees Elinor McDowall said: ‘We’re very lucky to have Heidi Hermann joining us on the 15th. It’s the first time she’s spoken in East Anglia and this is a great opportunity for local beekeepers and those interested in bees to come and hear about this growing new holistic take on bee husbandry’.

Building on the theme of this year’s Bee Hive Day, Rose Titchiner of Bungay Community Bees will explain how we can provide year-round plants and habitats for bees, pollinators and wildlife . She’ll introduce Bungay Community Bees’ Get your Garden Buzzing project – a bee-friendly plant labelling scheme that can be used by any garden centre. Meanwhile there will be a Bee and Flower Walk around Bungay’s diverse green spaces, local author Charlotte Du Cann reading from her latest book 52 Flowers That Shook My World, a screening of the highly acclaimed film Queen of the Sun and a panel discussion. Waveney Beekeeping Group and Bungay Community Bees will display hives, equipment and information to show how honeybees work and how they can be supported by beekeepers.

Information stalls and displays covering all aspects of beekeeping and pollinators will be complemented by those selling bee-friendly plants, seeds, bee-related crafts and of course honey! There will be an activities area where children and adults can make their own bug hotels, beeswax lip balm or get their faces painted and a quiet reading corner stocked with bee books and magazines. Bungay Community Kitchen will provide refreshments.

You can download a .pdf of our press release here
You’ll find a .pdf of our programme and details of all our speakers here

In the Marquee


10:30: Welcome to Bee Hive Day

10:45: Elinor McDowall of Bungay Community Bees will talk about the challenges facing bees and pollinators of all kinds and the work of Bungay Community Bees

11:30: Heidi Hermann, Founder Trustee of the Natural Beekeeping Trust will give an inspirational talk about swarming, highlighting aspects and dispelling myths about this most exhilarating event of a honeybee colony’s annual lifecycle

12:15: Join the Neal’s Yard remedies team, who will  be demonstrating how to make an organic bees wax lip balm – join them and take some lip balm home with you

1:20: Rose Titchiner talks about how we can provide year-round Plants and Habitats for Bees, Pollinators and Wildlife and Bungay Community Bees’ Get Your Garden Buzzing project

2:00: Author Charlotte Du Cann talks about wild flowers and their relationship with bees, with excerpts from her new book 52 Flowers That Shook My World – A Radical Return to Earth

Around the Town


12:15: Starting at the marquee, join Mark Watson on a Bee & Flower Walk around Bungay’s diverse green spaces as Plants for Life meets Bungay Community Bees

In the Cinema tent


2:40: Film Screening: Queen of the Sun What Are the Bees Telling Us? A profound, alternative look at the global bee crisis. Taking a journey through the catastrophic disappearance of bees and the mysterious world of the beehive, the film weaves an unusual and dramatic story of the heartfelt struggles of beekeepers, scientists and philosophers from around the world including Michael Pollan, Gunther Hauk and Vandana Shiva. Together they reveal both the problems and the solutions in renewing a culture in balance with nature. Followed by a panel discussion with Bungay Community Bees, Heidi Hermann of the Natural Beekeeping Trust

Throughout the day


Adults and children will be able to take part in bee crafts including candle making and building bug hotels. Our Reading Corner will be a quiet space full of bee books and magazines. There will be stalls selling plants for pollinator gardens and bee related art, the Waveney Beekeepers Group will bring information, honey and an observation hive whilst the Iceni Microscopy Group will be looking at bees in detail. Bungay Community Bees will bring displays of hives and beekeeping equipment, images and information about the beekeeping year. Refreshments will be provided by Bungay Community Kitchen

10th June: Join us on a visit to High Ash Farm WITH Chris Skinner!

Chris has kindly offered to speak to us on 10th June, 2.30 pm at his fabulous farm at Caistor St Edmund. High Ash Farm has been managed with biodiversity in mind for many years.

The visit:
Chris will show us the various wildlife habitats and high pollen and nectar plantings he has created on the farm, as well as discussing the Natural England/Defra Higher Level Stewardship Scheme and how this has benefited the whole farm and greatly increased his profits. He is keen to show other farmers how creating large scale wildlife habitats can greatly increase a farm’s profitability – so anyone who has farmer friends who might be interested, encourage them to come!

We will park and gather in the car park of the Roman Town car park at Caistor St Edmund at 2.30pm. The walk will take approx 2 hours.

The Roman Town historic site car park is on the left-hand side of the road heading north from Stoke Holy Cross. Here is the webpage for the Roman/Iceni site including a map:

A little about High Ash Farm:
High Ash Farm has over 100 acres sown to both annual and perennial pollen and nectar mixes, in addition to many acres sown to overwintering bird mixes, miles of rides sown to specialist grasshopper mixes, woodland sown to special woodland wildflower mixes and many wildlife ponds. There are also many acres of arable crops such as barley. All arable fields have conservation field margins sown to annual and perennial wildflower mixes. Most of the farm is managed under the Natural England Higher Level Stewardship Scheme.

Chris has had many wildlife surveys done, one of which showed there to be between 50-60 million bumblebees on the farm!! Another recent survey last autumn showed several rare wasps are to be found – all are on the BAP (Biodiversity Action Plan) list of rare and endangered species. Rose has seen loads of mason bees nesting in holes made in the walls of the farm buildings.

In addition to huge amounts of butterflies and other pollinators there are many birds including skylarks, linnets, barn owls, turtle doves and 10 pairs of nesting little owls. There are also many mammals including roe deer and badgers. The farm has two heritage sites – the Roman/Iceni town of Venta Icenorum and a Saxon site.

Every Monday at 18:00 you can listen to Chris Skinner on Radio Norfolk.  The show has been very successful and has won a Sony Radio Academy Award and even featured on Radio 4’s Pick of the Week and Pick of the Year.

If you are interested in joining us on this visit  please meet us at the farm just before 2.30 on the 10th June. If you are able to share transport that would be great, please co-ordinate yourselves via the Sustainable Bungay Google Group.

See you there!

Bungay Garden Centre goes Bee-Friendly!

This week, Bungay Community Bees (BCB) launched their “Get Your Garden Buzzing” garden centre project, at Bungay’s own Three Willows Garden Centre.

It has taken a couple of years from my comment “how do we help people know which plants are bee friendly?” for this project to become reality. It could not have happened without the knowledge and effort of Rose (BCB) and Gaz (Three Willows Garden Centre) in particular. So, thanks guys!

By looking for yellow bee-friendly plant labels, customers can now easily find a wide range of bee-friendly plants to grow in their gardens to provide year-round nectar and pollen for our endangered bees and other pollinating insects. The garden centre also has a year-round ‘bee-friendly’ plant display, incorporating a “Get Your Garden Buzzing” wall panel, with top tips on Creating a Bee Friendly Garden. Leaflets with the same information will shortly be available at the checkout and we are currently working on transferring it to the website as well.

As Rose said: “Over 2/3rds of our bees and pollinating insects are in decline. In an arable area like this, there’s no longer wildflower or habitat diversity on most of our farms – and so declining populations of honeybees, native bees and pollinating insects are turning to our gardens in order to find the year-round food, water and habitats necessary for nesting and hibernating.

We can help them at this time by planting drifts of pollen and nectar-rich plants in sunny places in our gardens, allowing a few wildflowers to grow in sunny corners, mowing our lawns less often to allow lawn-weeds to flower, putting up bug hotels, making habitat piles from logs, twigs and leaves and avoiding use of neonicotinoid pesticides.”

Liz Watts from Three Willows Garden Centre commented on how happy they are to be the first garden centre to join the “Get Your Garden Buzzing” project. As she said, it’s important to encourage people to grow bee-friendly plants throughout the year. To their pleasure the garden centre has already received praise and appreciation for their ‘bee-friendly’ display and comprehensive bee-friendly labeling system.

The “Get Your Garden Buzzing” project, offers garden centres ‘bee-friendly’ plant stickers, posters, leaflets, laminated lists of all bee-friendly garden plants and an all-weather, large “Create a Bee-Friendly Garden” exterior wall display panel. BCB hopes to encourage garden centres, plant nurseries and gardeners throughout East Anglia to get on board with this project, to help prevent the decline of our native bees and pollinating insects.

In 2009 Bungay Community Bees formed in response to the worldwide decline of honey bees and other pollinating insects. Our aims are to work together to increase the number of honey bees locally, to support bees in our environment and to share our enthusiasm for and knowledge about bees and pollinators.

For further information on the “Get Your Garden Buzzing” project contact Gemma Parker 0754 0724395; for information on Bungay Community Bees contact Elinor McDowall 01986 948154, 07791 495012, bees@sustainablebungay.com, or visit our webpages: http://www.sustainablebungay.com/bungay-community-bees-2/

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