4 August 2015

Brighton park buzzing after netting national bee award

Conservation work to encourage wildlife in a city centre park has won national recognition with a new award.

Parks staff and volunteer gardeners at The Level in Brighton are celebrating winning a ‘Bees Needs’ award, for work to attract bees and other pollinating insects.

The Level is one of only three parks across the South East and one of 15 across England to win the award, made by the environmental group Keep Britain Tidy as part of the Green Flag Awards. The Bees Needs award for Innovation is supported by Defra and the National Pollinator Strategy.

Councillor Gill Mitchell, chair of Brighton & Hove City Council’s Environment Committee, said: “We are thrilled to receive this award for the amazing work our staff and volunteers have done to create insect havens in the heart of the city.

“A lot of care has been taken to choose and produce healthy plants without using any chemicals to create five star habitats for pollinators to live and breed.”

The accolade recognises a range of measures carried out as part of restoration of The Level, which was completed by Brighton & Hove City Council in 2013.

These include:

Choosing plants to attract insects
Creating wildflower areas to encourage wildlife
Using ornamental grasses to provide hibernation space
Using coffee grounds from The Level’s café to improve the compost, along with tea leaves  and other organic material from the park
Companion planting to deter pests and encourage insects
Recycling 95% of green waste on site, which helps to provide food and nesting opportunities for insects and birds
Not using pesticides or artificial chemicals

Members of the local community have been encouraging bees, butterflies and other insects through two volunteer gardening clubs which meet each week, run by the council’s parks staff. 

Recently a new ‘bee bed’ has been established in the north west corner of the park, as part of ongoing collaboration through the Brighton & Lewes Downs Biosphere programme to improve urban green spaces. This showcases to the public the attractive garden plants that people can grow themselves to benefit a variety of pollinators, an initiative with the University of Sussex’s Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (LASI).

Professor Francis Ratnieks, Professor of Apiculture, said: "It is great to be partnering the enthusiastic people at The Level. Over the past six years, the University has been carrying out research on the use of garden plants by bees and other insects, and this is a chance to bring the research to the public.

“We made a list of 14 "bee and butterfly friendly" garden plants that bloom in the summer and supplied these to The Level  where they can be used to help educate the public to see how easy it is to grow bee friendly plants and also to count the numbers of bees and insects.”

Students from nearby City College are also involved and have been learning about pollinators as well as taking part in bee and butterfly counts.

Paul Todd, Green Flag Award Scheme Manager, said: "Congratulations to all the staff and volunteers at Brighton’s The Level for achieving the Bees Needs Special Award for Innovation.”

Steve Peters, garden manager at The Level suggests these top five plants for bees:

Perennial wallflowers
Hardy geraniums
Thyme - a special favourite of bumble bees

Conservation work at The Level is one of many projects across the city to attract wildlife, for example wildflower planting at Preston Park and the creation of chalk ‘butterfly’ banks at East Brighton Park, Surrenden Field and Hollingbury Park.

More information about The Level: see other pages on the council website

The Brighton & Lewes Downs Biosphere Region is recognised by UNESCO as a world-class environment that is pioneering a positive future by connecting people and nature www.biospherehere.org.uk

The photo below shows a bee visiting a salvia plant at The Level