Across the rec

 Nature Notes 

 Review of 2021  


 Meadow Maintenance 

 Sweet Chestnut 




 Stag Beetles 

 Hay Meadows 

 Goat Willow 


 Winter Trees 


 Take it easy 

 Falling Leaves 

 Horse Chestnut 


 Pollinator Patch 

 Bird Song 


 Garden - May 

 Garden - Apr 

 Birch Trees 

 Rotting Wood 





 Sowing Seeds 

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The Pollinator Patch - Jul 2020


They are calling it insectageddon; the rapid and dramatic decline in insect populations throughout the world. Insects make up over half the species on earth and we are utterly dependent on them for our survival. They pollinate our crops, recycle organic materials and are the basis of the entire food chain. And yet, according to Buglife, the rate of loss is 8 times higher than that of birds and mammals. We need to act quickly to reduce our dependency on harmful chemicals and leave more areas in our landscape to go ‘au naturel’.


The gardening group at Friends of Portswood Rec (FOPR) decided we would make our own very small contribution by creating a bed for daytime pollinators such as bees and butterflies. The circular bed had previously been planted up with moths in mind (also very good pollinators), but unfortunately because of council cutbacks had become rather neglected. So in November 2018, with some help from the University gardening team, the group set out to clear the bed. We relocated a number of the surviving shrubs and declared war on the weeds, especially the brambles and thistles. And yes, both are good for pollinators but far too thuggish for a semi formal flowerbed. We eschewed the use of chemicals, which would have been completely at odds with what we were trying to achieve. And so we dug, and dug, and then dug some more! It seemed like every time we turned our backs for a short time, another bramble or thistle had popped its head above the surface!! 


But with a supreme effort on the part of the gardeners, the bed was ready for planting by spring 2019. We sourced most of the plants from Mayfield Nurseries, who kindly supplied them at cost price. The bed was designed allowing for its hot, sunny location, with plants that are mostly designated by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) as ‘Perfect for Pollinators’* and with a view to providing a long flowering season from spring through to autumn. We were pleased that many of the plants actually flowered in their first season and looked forward to even better results in 2020.


 We had just started up again in March of this year when coronavirus and the complete lockdown, stopped us in our tracks. Ever the pessimist, I feared the worst, especially given the long, dry spell when we weren’t able to do anything. I fully expected to return to find that most of what we’d planted had curled up and expired for want of water, and that the weeds had reasserted themselves.


I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, there were a few things that hadn’t survived, amongst them some that I would have least expected, such as the rosemary and one or two of the lavenders. But the Pollinator Patch, as we’ve come to know it, was comparatively weed free and in rude health.  I hope all of you’ll agree that it is looking rather splendid and is a great testament to all the volunteer gardeners who have put in so much time and effort………….and it would appear that the bees and butterflies are pretty grateful too!! 


We can all do our little bit to help the insects on our home patch, be it in a garden, planter or pot. Please see below for some tips and

*A Few thoughts about Gardening for the Planet:


1. To plant Native or Not? The jury seems to be out on this one. There’s no doubt that native insects and plants have evolved over millennia to their mutual benefit, but many insects seem to have pretty catholic tastes. The RHS have a Perfect for Pollinators designation, which includes many non native plants. 

BUT BEWARE! Dave Goulson (the bumblebee guy) got a student of his to analyse a number of plants purchased at well known chain stores and marked as being Perfect for Pollinators* They found that 76% contained at least one insecticide and 28% had two or more. It seems that there’s a heavy reliance on pesticides in nurseries where plants are raised en masse and expected to look perfect for the supermarkets and garden centres. The RHS’s response has been to change the designation to Plants for Pollinators…not quite the robust action needed I feel! 


2. Avoid all chemicals. As Joni Mitchell famously said (in the song Big Yellow Taxi),  “Give me spots on my apples, but leave me the birds and the bees’ We have to accept a bit of imperfection here and there and generally speaking nature will find a balance. Even the wee beasties loathed by gardeners such as aphids have lots of natural predators, including other insects like much loved ladybirds. Chemicals can persist and build up in the environment, passing from prey to predator, and going all the way through the food chain. Some of us remember how DDT once pushed peregrine falcons to the edge of extinction...not that you’re likely to get many of those in your garden!!


3. Leave a few wild patches if you have the space. They’ll be beneficial for insects, small mammals and birds. As a society, I think we are rather too fond of tidiness and order, in our parks, on our road verges and in our gardens. This is often to the detriment of wildlife and perhaps we’d do well to embrace the slightly scruffy now and then. As Gerald Manley Hopkins put it in his poem Inversnaid: ‘Let them be left, O let them be left….long live the weeds and the wilderness yet’. Or you might prefer Bill Oddie’s rather more prosaic “Say yes to mess!”… least a little!


4. Avoid peat based compost. The peat bogs are incredibly important ecosystems that have taken thousands of years to form and are the largest natural terrestrial carbon store. They filter and purify water, mitigate flood risk and support a precious wildlife community. In the UK and Ireland we have peatlands of international importance but many are in a badly degraded state and others (especially in Ireland) have been disappearing at an alarming rate, in large part because of demand from the horticultural sector. Most compost on sale contains between 70 and 100% peat, and much as we love our gardens they’re definitely not worth the destruction of such important and fragile ecosystems, especially as there are now alternatives.


Some organisations campaigning for insect conservation are:

Buglife, The Bumblebee Conservation Trust, The Butterfly Conservation Trust and The British Dragonfly Society.


From now until 9th August the Butterfly Conservation Trust are asking people to participate in the Big Butterfly Count. Please check out their website to find out how you can help.





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Friends of Portswood Rec, Southampton, UK





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