Monday 30 May 2016

Creating a Buzz in Shaftesbury

Pollinator Parade
We have just held our very first and highly enjoyable 'Bee & Butterfly Bonanza' in the hill-top town of Shaftesbury in North Dorset!

Our aim was to celebrate the wonderful and extraordinarily beautiful diversity of the UK's pollinators: bumblebees; solitary bees; honeybees; butterflies; moths; beetles; hoverflies etc; as well as the equally beautiful and diverse plants these insects rely upon for their survival. We wanted to use the day to provide information and inspiration to everyone who attended the event by offering a range of talks, walks and activities to help raise awareness of the enormous importance of pollinators and plants. We decided to try and make this information as colourful, interesting and accessible as possible and to pitch the event so it would appeal to all age groups and levels of interest.

One of the other things we want to achieve over a period of time, is to map all the Bee Friendly gardens and Open Spaces in the town. Local resident Bernard Ede has kindly created a landscape map for this purpose, which we started to fill in on the day and hope to add to now on an ongoing basis.

We're fortunate in Shaftesbury to have an area just off the high street that can be used for community events; although I don't think many people realise it is available to be used in this way.  Park Walk has hard standing for stalls as well as a lovely garden, much used by locals and tourists alike, with views overlooking the Blackmore Vale. The whole space is backed by the ancient walls Shaftesbury Abbey, whose beautiful gardens amidst the Abbey's ruins are full of herbs and other bee friendly plants. We couldn't have asked for a more perfect place to put on our event.

Our Bee & Butterly Bonanza was the result of a collaboration between Dorset Wildlife Trust , members of Shaftesbury Tree Group, and local residents. We worked together, collaborating and communicating in much the same way as honeybees do (minus the waggle dance!) to try and create something for the greater good of the whole. It was an absolute joy to organise this day, as at no time during the months we've been working together did any one individual stand out more than another....nor did any one individual or organisation seek to take control of, or credit for, the day. I thought it important to mention this because this is not always the way that such events come together. Maybe the chilled out organisation had something to do with the fact that we held most of our meetings in Turnbulls Deli where they serve very delicious coffee, herbal teas and cakes.....

Anyway, whatever the reason for it being a joy to work with each other on this project, the other thing that helped was the decision we made, from the very beginning, that although we would do everything we possibly could to make the event a success, none of us would lose sleep about the outcome. Of course we hoped the sun would shine and that lots of people would come and support us, but attaching so much importance to the outcome that you don't enjoy the journey and/or allow yourself to be open to last minute changes in plans is a sure recipe for sleepless nights!

We had absolutely no budget to work with, so relied completely on volunteers and donated/borrowed tables, chairs, marquees etc.... together with stall holders who supported the event for the sake of being involved rather than to make big profits.

A lovely local couple, Nick and Philippa Forrest, lent us their marquee... and members of the Tree Group kindly put it up and took it down; Dorset Wildlife Trust brought chairs for people to sit on during the talks; The Friends Meeting House lent us a few tables; Shaftesbury Country Market came along with butterfly cakes and lots of bee friendly plants for sale and my lovely friend Anne came down from Herefordshire with an amazing selection of wild plants and barely broke even because she gave so many away.

Dorset Wildlife Trust

We had cider and mead from Tim at Marshwood Cider  and Fairtrade tea and coffee from Paul McDougall's 'The Italian Connection';  Local Wildlife artist and author Sara Westaway designed some beautiful colouring in sheets for children to take away and Elizabeth Ingam and Natasha Boyle, friends of friends who I have never met before, answered my last minute call on facebook for face painters.

The very lovely Sally Rainbowchild from The Space lead a 'Bee & Butterfly Yoga' session and local Neal's Yard consultant Janet Pegrum came along with their gorgeous 'Bee Lovely' range of lotions and potions. My wonderful partner Rob brought som top bar and warre bee hives and talked to people about Natural well as helping with lots of collecting, lifting and carrying; Gillingham Brownies came along dressed as bees and other pollinators to take part in our Pollinator Parade (which was led by Dorset Wildlife Trust's giant butterfly); Shaftesbury Abbey opened it's gardens on a donation only basis; Hunny-bears brought their honey...... and the universe, despite what the BBC weather forecast told me on its website, pitched in with loads of sunshine and absolutely no rain or thunderstorms!

Best of all was the fact that lots of lovely interested people came to support the event..... to buy plants, do yoga, eat cake, drink cider, tea & coffee, ask questions, attend talks and walks and generally celebrate all that we owe to our amazing and diverse pollinators.

So a HUGE thank you to all the above!!! But special thanks to Angela, Sue, Rob and Briony x

Although the focus of this event was very much on celebrating the wonderful diversity of pollinators and plants, we hope it will mark the beginning of a series of ongoing wildlife events in and around the town of one of the aims of the day was to gather names and contact details of people who might be interested in coming to talks, workshops, walks etc.... or becoming involved in local wildlife groups and projects. This we achieved and it was hugely encouraging to meet so many like minded people who, we hope, will get involved with (or attend) future events and projects.

Shaftesbury is one of a growing number of towns and villages in the UK who's residents and council are working together to make their open spaces and gardens more bee/pollinator friendly. Wouldn't it be amazing if every village, town and city did the same....?

 Bee Walk in the Abbey Gardens
Sara Westaway's colouring in sheets
Rob Howard, Beekeeper
Marshwood Cider & Mead
Pollinator Parade
Elizabeth Ingham Face Painter
Paul McDougall 'The Italian Connection'
Natasha Boyle Face Painter