Join us at 3.20pm on 5 July for an informal mini Bioblitz of the Wildflower Bank, Ring Fort Rd, CB4 2GR. The event will run for two hours and you’re welcome to join us for as little or long as you like. All equipment will be provided. Children 16 and under must be accompanied by a responsible adult.
Sadly, many people don’t realise what a precious resource the Wildflower Bank is – the UK has lost 97% of its wildflower meadows since WWII and that’s having a negative impact on the insects that rely on it, and in turn the birds and bats that feed on them.
It’s an opportunity to get involved in Citizen Science (see video below), learn about the importance of our local plants and invertebrates, and support Plantlife’s Road Verge Campaign. It’ll be an accessible, free, fun, informative, and family friendly activity – easy to join as you collect children from school.
The Wildflower Bank will be brimming with plants and buzzing with insects in July, and this Citizen Science event is being run as (an informal) bioblitz – where experts and members of the public will try to identify as many of these species as we can in this particular area and in the set time. Members of the public are encouraged to come along to learn, and Cambridge based naturalists are very welcome and encouraged to come along and share their expertise. All plant and invertebrate records from the bioblitz will be provided to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Environmental Records Centre.
We will also show people how to use the simple key to identify flowers on the sign we had installed at the Wildflower Bank. It shows pictures and flowering times for the different types of flowers found there, some of the insects, and depictions of wildlife drawn by the school children.
We’re working with Orchard Park Community Council to have our roadside verges managed for wildlife as per Plantlife’s Road Verge Campaign and as per our Habitats Management Plan written for us by the Wildlife Trust BCN. It’s important to monitor the diversity of the flowers. If the diversity is down a lot from last year, we will undertake any necessary remedial measures as a community event.
Thanks so very much to Tim and Carol Inskipp of OPWP for their expertise with identifying all creatures great and small, Lush for the Charity Pot Party last year to fundraise for equipment for these activities, Education Services 2010 for their funding of the sign and tools, Orchard Park Community Council for managing the mowing schedule for wildlife benefit and collaboration with the sign, and last but not least Orchard Park Community Primary School for joining OPWP’s activities.
Thank you so much to Eden Project Communities walkers and the support team for coming to visit Orchard Park last week. We enjoyed showing you our wildlife habitats and what we do, and chatting with you and folks from our local community whilst tucking into tasty tea and cake. Cambridge put on great weather for you 🙂
We hope you enjoyed the whole walk and each had a well earned great day at your respective local #TheBigLunch 🙂
A great big thank you too to: Orchard Park Community Council for hosting the event, and to OPCC Chair, Andrew Chan, for providing the lovely cakes and accompanying the walkers through Cambridge and onto Empty Common Community Garden (near Cambridge University Botanic Gardens) and Margaret Wright Community Orchard (off Newmarket Road near Coldhams Common) for a tea party potlock, to the residents of Marmalade Lane who showed us real community spirit, and to Andy Pugh for helping with everything from start to finish.
The following information has been adapted from the Eden Project Communities Network website and the Eden Project Communities Blog.
Join The Big Lunch Community Walk 2019 in Cambridge! #TheBigLunch
The Big Lunch community walk is just around the corner and the Eden Project Communities folks can’t wait to announce their amazing walkers this year.
From 17 May, four teams (one from each nation) will step out on four routes to shine a light on people who bring their communities closer together. They’re walking up an appetite for The Big Lunch and inviting everyone to join in on the Big Lunch during the first weekend in June.
Orchard Park Wildlife Project was very lucky to be able to go to an Eden Project Communities Camp a couple of years ago. We joined the folks from the 2017 Great Big Walk at the end of their day at in the south of Cambridge at Nightingale Gardens, and since then we’ve enjoyed and learned at a workshop at Birmingham Botanic Gardens, and during online workshops. Thank you so much Eden Project Communities for your support 😀🙏
Join in the Walk at Orchard Park
When: Thursday 30 May at 11.00am
Where: Multi Use Room at the Sports Ground on Ring Fort Road
The walkers will be reaching Cambridge on Thursday 30 May, and they’re going to visit Orchard Park at 11.00!Do join us. Orchard Park Wildlife Project and Orchard Park Community Council will welcome them at the Multi Use Room at the Sports Ground on Ring Fort Road and show them some of our wildlife habitats, and activities we’re doing to help make Orchard Park better for people and wildlife. We’ll provide drinks and Andrew Chan, Chair of Orchard Park Community Council will be making some of his delicious cakes.
They’re moving onto Empty Commons Community Garden (near Cambridge University Botanic Gardens) to be there for around 1pm and then walking from there to the Margaret Wright Community Orchard (off Newmarket Road near Coldhams Common) for a tea party potlock between 4-6pm. The idea is to connect our green projects and our communities, and people are welcomed and encouraged to join in on the walk through Cambridge. You can join us just at Orchard Park, walk throughout the day, or for a little of the day. It’s up to you how long you stay, but we hope you will join us.
Jo Brand, presiding over the opening ceremony for the walk last year, said “Last year there were so many negative things going on in the world, it was nice for three weeks to be able to shine a light on the incredibly determined walkers and the diverse communities all over the UK coming together to welcome them passing through. I urge anyone to consider stepping up for the challenge this year…if nothing else it’s the perfect excuse to eat cake all day as you potter along!”.
Over two weeks, the walkers will journey across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales and will walk home just in time to bring out the chairs and hang the bunting for their own Big Lunch – that’s what they call dedication!
Every day on their travels, the walkers will be connecting people and communities across the UK and finding out how they are preparing for our biggest weekend of the year. Their teams will be reaching out to people along the way, spreading the word about The Big Lunch and encouraging everyone to join in, share food and have fun where they live.
All photos credit: R. Bridges, Orchard Park Community Primary School
We had a great session with the Butterflies class on 29th March. We began the session in the classroom exploring the different habitats around OP, and looking at our local wildlife that lives in them. This was followed by a game based on musical chairs to explain how habitat loss and fragmentation can affect bats, then ideas on how to help our local wildlife – easy steps everyone can take, but that make a positive difference.
One thing we can all do is to make sure we don’t leave litter lying around – it causes both immediate and long term dangers to our wildlife and the environment, so we were very pleased the children of the Butterflies class were able to do a litter pick along the Wildflower Bank, and land surrounding the Wildlife Area.
THANK YOU BUTTERFLIES 🦋 we enjoyed the session and hope you did too 😀
We’d love to hear from you if you’ve done anything to help our local wildlife since the session 😀 You can Tweet us @opwildlife
Come and say hello to Orchard Park Wildlife Project – we’ll be in Lush on Saturday 23rd March. They’re very kindly holding a Charity Pot fundraising Party 😀 OPWP are very grateful for their support.
We’ll have some organic lavender seeds for you to plant in biodegradable pots to take away to grow which you can plant out in your garden, your window box, or hanging basket in summer….
Many people don’t realise that the majority of commercially grown plants sold at garden centres and supermarkets, including those marketed especially for pollinators, are affected by neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics) (The Bee Cause and Dave Goulson 2017).
“They attack the brain of the insect, causing paralysis and death, and at lower doses interfere with navigation, disease resistance and learning. Just four-billionths of a gram is a lethal dose to a honey bee, meaning one teaspoon of neonics is enough to give a lethal dose to one and a quarter billion bees….Neonics work systemically in plants and can be sprayed onto leaves, watered into the soil, or used as a seed coating.”
Dave Goulson, Professor of Biology at Sussex University
Some neonics have been banned by the EU but they can still be used on ornamental plants grown by commercial growers. Research by the University of Sussex on a range of “pollinator friendly” plants from garden centres and supermarkets shows that there’s “cocktail of pesticides, usually a mixture of fungicides and insecticides” present, 70% contained neonics that are particularly bad for bees (Goulson 2019).
Growing plants from seed, especially organic seed, is considered safer for insects and for wildlife friendly gardens in general, so we’re encouraging people to do just that.
The first global scientific review of the status of the world’s insects has shown they are heading towards extinction, with “dramatic rates of decline that may lead to the extinction of 40% of the world’s insect species over the next few decades” (Sánchez-Bayo and Wyckhuys 2019).
“Bees are just one of many pollinators, that is really important to emphasize, but they are the most important because of the way that they pollinate. They specifically go out to collect pollen to provide for their young. Without them I feel entire ecosystems would collapse; without pollinators but especially without bees.”
Amongst other main drivers of this global decline in insect populations are: habitat destruction, climate change, and biological factors – however pollution mainly that by synthetic pesticides and fertilisers – is considered to be the second most significant negative factor causing these declines. Insect decline will in turn lead to increased losses of birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish that eat insects…..(Sánchez-Bayo and Wyckhuys 2019)…. which will add to even more extinction further up the food chain.
Although commercial pesticide use needs to be curbed to make a large scale difference, we can all do our bit – think globally and act locally.
The sign for the Wildflower Bank was installed this morning at 11.00. We’re delighted with how it looks. We hope children and guardians will enjoy it as they come and go from school, and Orchard Park Wildlife Project (OPWP) will use it for interactive sessions with the school and public sessions.
The NFC tag is now working so that you can go straight to our website showing comprehensive information on all of the plants and animals that live on the Wildflower Bank – some phones will just read the tag if you hold your phone directly over the tag, other phones require an app to read it. Alternatively there’s a QR code to scan with your camera/app, or you can type in the web address on the sign.
The sign shows the importance of the habitat and wildlife that lives there. We hope the bank will be managed optimally by OPCC – cutting at appropriate times and clearing cuttings to prevent nutrient build up – to ensure its diversity is maintained, or even increased in future years…..
Education Services 2010 for their generous funding of the sign, and Footprint Signs for bringing it in to our budget. The children of Orchard Park Community Primary School provided the drawings forming the border and the winning drawings from our summer competition are featured in the centre, the staff facilitated the drawing competition. Lush funded the pottles, pooters and other ecology equipment for the community bioblitz. Carol and Tim Inskipp of OPWP, and Louise Bacon of Cambridge and Peterborough Environmental Records Centre identified the wildlife, Carol Inskipp took invertebrate photos, and Holly Freeman of OPWP and her sister Sophie Freeman drew the flowers for the Identification Chart. Andrew Chan (OPCC), Samantha Fox and Lewis Man did the design and layout.
As shown by this great aerial photo, we have green space around and within OP and you’ll be surprised to see what lives here – if you take a moment to look. This blog page explores some motivations for conserving our urban biodiversity and is based on scientific research. Perhaps you’ll see something that encourages you to take positive action if you haven’t been stirred to do so yet.
But what prevents you from taking positive action for our wildlife?
Is there something missing here that would motivate you to get involved? If so, please do get in touch and tell us, we’re open to new ideas and suggestions: firstname.lastname@example.org
The diagram above, and selected motivations for conserving urban biodiversity explored briefly below are taken from Dearborn & Kark (2010).
As surprising as it may seem to some, OP offers an important setting for conservation biology, as do most urban areas, though “people’s attitudes towards nature might influence whether they connect with it” (Dickinson & Hobbs 2017).
A lot needs to come together to be successful in conserving biodiversity in our Urban Green Space:
“…diverse stakeholders – including ecologists, managers, developers, students, and citizens – should be encouraged to join in collaborative networks to share data, engage in interdisciplinary research, and discuss urban biodiversity management, design, and planning.”
OPWP engages with these diverse stakeholders and to a greater or lesser extent in most activities mentioned in this quote. We welcome anyone with knowledge or skills to share and help, or anyone that would like to learn.
To preserve our local biodiversity
“Between 1970 and 2013, 56% of UK species declined. Of the nearly 8,000 species assessed using modern criteria, 15% are threatened with extinction. This suggests that we are among the most nature-depleted countries in the world.
Of the 218 countries assessed for ‘biodiversity intactness’, the UK is ranked 189, a consequence of centuries of industrialisation, urbanisation and overexploitation of our natural resources.”
Given the depressing figures above, surely we should all do what we can to help? OP sits on a former green site and most wildlife habitat was destroyed for the development.
To create stepping stones to nonurban habitat
“Increasing the area of habitat patches and creating a network of corridors is the most important strategy to maintain high levels of urban biodiversity”
Ensuring OP’s habitats such as the Wildlife Area, Orchard, Wildflower Bank, and Living Roof on the Community Centre are properly managed is important, and we welcome volunteers to help with that. A few years ago we raised funds to have a Habitats Management Plan written for us by the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and Northamptonshire, and this plan guides our practical habitat management activities. We also encourage the Community Council to adopt its recommendations.Orchard Park Management Plan
As well as the habitats mentioned above that have been created with wildlife in mind, the total area of all of our small gardens added together – if each is made a bit more wildlife friendly – could play a role in increasing OP’s wildlife habitat, and in creating these stepping stones to our neighbouring green areas. As Aronson et al. (2017) note most people are unaware of how their decisions of what they do with their gardens affect biodiversity in their own and their neighbours’ gardens. OPWP works to improve this understanding and promote how suitably managed gardens can support wildlife, with the aim of enhancing biodiversity across OP.
To connect people to nature and conduct environmental education
“Studies support the idea that the experience of biodiversity, actual childhood interaction with variation and diversity with living and nonliving items from nature allows children important learning opportunities, inclusive of biodiversity understanding. The results support practical implications for sensory rich environmental education and underscores the practical importance of childhood access to nature”.
OPWP runs a range of free wildlife themed activities through the year that aim to be fun and informative for adults and children.
To provide ecosystem services
“Because ecosystem services are, by definition, for humans, it makes sense to ensure they are provided in areas where human population density is high. In an urban context, even small green spaces can provide high-impact ecosystem services, if they are well planned.”
Such ecosystem services include:
pollinating (Mendes et al. 2008)
improving some aspects of air quality in urban areas (Dearborn & Kark 2010)
sequestering substantial amounts of carbon through increased urban vegetation (Pickett et al. 2008)
To fulfill ethical responsibilities
“In many philosophical, religious, and secular traditions, there is a responsibility to be good stewards of the planet.”
“Biodiversity conservation in urban areas could facilitate the fulfillment of these moral obligations because opportunities for conservation are located in or near residential neighborhoods. This geographic proximity allows people to more easily experience the reinforcement of having lived by their ethical or religious mandates. For individuals without an existing sense of environmental responsibility, exposure to urban biodiversity (particularly via educational programs) may help instill a conservation ethic.”
By showing people that are not aware of what lives here that we’ve got hundreds of species on our doorstep, OPWP tries to instill a conservation ethic. People can’t care and take action for things they know little or nothing about.
Research has shown through our being in greener spaces and interacting with our urban nature that:
our mental health benefits (Clark et al. 2014)
we gain improved regulation of our immune systems by contact with microbiota (Rook 2013)
we have a space for contemplation and relaxation (Niemelä 1999)
stress and pain are reduced (Hansmann et al. 2007)
active habitat management can be effective for depression (Townsend 2006)
we report higher measures of subjective well-being (Carrus et al. 2015)
we gain a sense of discovery, and social connection (Dickinson & Hobbs 2017)
These are just a few of the documented benefits, there are a plethora of studies proving that helping to give nature a home can benefit you too.
Aronson, M.F. et al., 2017. Biodiversity in the city: key challenges for urban green space management. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 15(4), pp.189–196.
Beery, T. & Jørgensen, K.A., 2016. Children in nature: sensory engagement and the experience of biodiversity. Environmental Education Research, 24(1), pp.13–25.
Beninde, J., Veith, M. & Hochkirch, A., 2015. Biodiversity in cities needs space: a meta-analysis of factors determining intra-urban biodiversity variation N. Haddad, ed. Ecology Letters, 18(6), pp.581–592.
Berry, T., 2006. Evening thoughts: reflections on the Earth as a spiritual community. In San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, pp. 1–10.
Carrus, G. et al., 2015. Go greener, feel better? The positive effects of biodiversity on the well-being of individuals visiting urban and peri-urban green areas. Landscape and Urban Planning, 134, pp.221–228.
Clark, N.E. et al., 2014. Biodiversity, cultural pathways, and human health: a framework. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 29(4), pp.198–204.
Dickinson, D.C. & Hobbs, R.J., 2017. Cultural ecosystem services: Characteristics, challenges and lessons for urban green space research. Ecosystem Services, 25, pp.1–247. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2017.04.014.
Hansmann, R., Hug, S.-M. & Seeland, K., 2007. Restoration and stress relief through physical activities in forests and parks. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 6(4), pp.213–225.
Mendes, W. et al., 2008. Using Land Inventories to Plan for Urban Agriculture: Experiences From Portland and Vancouver. Journal of the American Planning Association, 74(4), pp.435–449.
Niemelä, J., 1999. Ecology and urban planning. Biodiversity and Conservation, 8, pp.119–131.
Pickett, S.T.A. et al., 2008. Beyond Urban Legends: An Emerging Framework of Urban Ecology, as Illustrated by the Baltimore Ecosystem Study. BioScience, 58(2), pp.139–150.
Rook, G.A., 2013. Regulation of the immune system by biodiversity from the natural environment: An ecosystem service essential to health. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(46), pp.18360–18367.
The Wildflower Bank outside the school is well due for a full cut according to our Orchard Park Habitats Management Plan written for us by the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, Orchard Park Wildlife Project is working with Orchard Park Community Council to try to ensure cutting times are optimal for maintaining maximum plant diversity, which of course improves invertebrate diversity, and then in turn in this location in Orchard Park mammal and bird diversity. This is a very valuable habitat with 97% of the UK’s ancient flower meadows having been destroyed since the 1930s.
Prior to cutting, I wanted to grab a few photos of a few flowers and seed heads. If you take a moment to look, they’re beautiful, colourful, intricate, and fascinating structures. In a very small patch there’s a lot of diversity to be seen over there. Go and have a look 🙂
‘Between 1970 and 2013, 56% of UK species declined. Of the nearly 8,000 species assessed using modern criteria, 15% are threatened with extinction. This suggests that we are among the most nature-depleted countries in the world.
Of the 218 countries assessed for ‘biodiversity intactness’, the UK is ranked 189, a consequence of centuries of industrialisation, urbanisation and overexploitation of our natural resources.’
– State of Nature Report, 2016
Our wildlife needs us – and it needs you more than ever.
It’s easy to imagine that ‘they’ will fix the environment. But ‘they’ won’t, whoever ‘they’ are. We need to do it – me and you. Together we are stronger. Together we can make a difference.
Today, Chris Packham launched The People’s Manifesto for Wildlife. This blog post is sourced entirely from the manifesto which makes a series of recommendations to the fields of Education; Wildlife and Animal Welfare; Wildlife Crime, Law, and Protection; Farming; UK Statutory Conservation Agencies; and Rewildling. It also makes recommendations, on amongst many other things: trees, hedgerows and verges, and urban spaces.
Urban space for wildlife is the domain of Orchard Park Wildlife Project. And urban spaces CAN be some of the most biologically diverse habitats in the country.
Access to nature is a human need – central to the quality of our most fundamental physiological requirements (water, air, food), as well as our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
The manifesto states that:
“Urban areas can be some of the most biologically diverse habitats in the country. Gardens and parks – comprising lawn, shrubs and flowering plants – provide food and shelter for a huge array of wildlife. And yet these spaces are disappearing from our towns and cities.
In a report published in 2016, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) said the percentage of front gardens lost to paving, concrete or gravel had risen to 24%, from just 8% in 20051 . The results, based on a poll of 1,492 people, suggested that more than 4.5 million of Great Britain’s front gardens were entirely paved, while 7.2 million were mostly paved. Another report, published by London Wildlife Trust in 2011, compared aerial surveys of London taken in 1998 and 2006. It found that domestic gardens (both front and back) made up nearly 24 per cent of the London’s total area, but that in those eight years nearly two thirds of its front gardens had been covered with hard surfaces, while the amount of green space in back gardens had shrunk, largely due to the popularity of garden offices2 . “An area of vegetated garden equivalent to 21 times the size of Hyde park was lost between 1998 and 2006,” said the author of the report, Chloë Smith. That’s an average of two Hyde Parks per year (and a further 14 Hyde Parks since 2011).”
It goes on to say “We need legislation to re-wild our urban spaces.”
We are lucky in Orchard Park that many of the recommendations in the manifesto are already realised:
many of our fences are hedgehog friendly, we have bird nesting boxes on some of our homes, municipal planting includes many native species, and we have open green spaces.
However, there are recommendations that show there is much more we can do:
We can ensure that no more than 10% of our gardens are turned over to paving, decking and fake-turfing
We can make gardens more hedgehog friendly
We can add more nest boxes in addition to those already built into our homes – if you live in a house or flat, install swift or bat boxes by the eaves.
Where space permits, plant a small tree or shrub in your garden
Do home composting
We need to ensure our small pockets of green for the community are maintained in as a wildlife friendly a way as possible, and look after our trees
If we can find a suitable location, create a communal wildlife pond
Create ‘pop up habitats’ in the few as yet undeveloped plots – sprinkle pesticide free wildflower seeds
Keep cats in at night – this can reduce overall predation by up to 50%, and fit them will a collar and bell – this can also reduce bird predation by 50%
If you have a garden, stop using pesticides – weedkillers, ant sprays, slug pellets.
Liberate your lawn, let some grass grow long, leave piles of sticks in corners for invertebrates, sow native wild flowers for pollinators, feed garden birds, erect bee and bird boxes
Dig a pond – even a washing-up bowl-sized pond will boost biodiversity
Connect with nature through what you eat. Grow some food – rocket and tomatoes in window boxes; cucumbers, runner beans, raspberries, blackberries. Home-grown tastes amazing
Volunteer with OPWP to look after and enhance what we have, lets make Orchard Park better for people and wildlife
Join OPWP on it’s surveys, and safaris, you’ll be surprised to see what lives here if you look
OPWP is currently working with OPCC to finalise the sign which will show the Wildflower Bank and its wildlife. The sign was funded very generously by Education Services 2010. We hope it will be installed quite close to the school entrance so that during school pick up and drop offs, pupils, parents, and guardians will be able to discover more about the flowers and wildlife that they support. All of the drawings submitted during last term’s competition will feature on the sign. We’re designing a chart showing flower colour, flowering period, and flower shapes to help you do some of your own identifications.
I had a wander over to the end of the Wildflower Bank close to the Premier Inn yesterday to see what I could ID, and found there were lots of Small White butterflies (Pieris rapae) around. They’re out again in large numbers today, as their populations peak in late August and early September. Unlike the Large White, this one doesn’t cause such a problem for folks growing brassicas. The Small White is very widespread in the UK, reaching as far north as Scotland including the Orkney and Shetland Islands. They can even migrate here from continental Europe. It’s possible that some individuals can fly up to 100 miles in their lifetime, absolutely amazing considering their 38 – 57mm wingspan, however most will not exceed just a few miles of travel. If you see them flying around, you can tell which are females as they have two spots on their wings, whereas the males have just one. Their UK population is fairly stable, and they are not of conservation concern (source: adapted from UK Butterflies click link for more details).
The hairy ginger bumblebee in the other photograph is the Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum). This species is one of the earliest bumblebees to emerge in spring, and one of the latest fliers, so it’s one you’re likely to see if you venture over to the Wildflower Bank for a little survey of your own. Although this species is occurring less frequently, its range is expanding northwards, and like the Small White butterfly, it too can be found in the Orkneys. Carder Bees gather moss and dry grass to cover their nests, which are above ground in grasses, under hedges and similar, with each nest accommodating just 60-150 workers, quite small as nests go (source: adapted from Bumblebee Conservation Trust and Bees, Wasps, and Ants Recording Society click links for more details).