New wildflower haven is created to help pollinators

Red-tailed bumblebee on kidney vetch
Red-tailed bumblebee on kidney vetch

A sea of wildflowers and other pollinator-friendly plants are coming into full bloom after people rallied round to create more space for nature at a cemetery.

Scores of wildflowers and hedging trees, along with over 500 plug plants, have been planted at Lewes Cemetery to help pollinators such as bees and butterflies thrive.

The inspiring initiative is a collaboration between the South Downs National Park Authority and Lewes District Council. It comes after Chris Bibb, who works at Lewes District Council as a consultant on green projects, successfully bid for funding from the National Park’s Beelines fund to create a new wildlife hedge and wildflower patch.

The fund is looking to create a network of wildflower corridors across the South Downs – essentially a “road system” for bees – that will help pollinator populations move through the landscape. Bees have been in steep decline across the UK for several decades due to habitat loss and are now under threat from climate change.

Jan Knowlson, a Ranger for the Eastern Downs, explained: “It’s these kind of small-scale grassroots projects that make a real difference towards nature recovery, forming part of a bigger network to help bees and other insects thrive.

“We’ve planted a mix of trees that will provide a long season to benefit pollinators with species such as Maple, Guelder Rose, Spindle and Dog Rose.

“We’re now at the start of summer and it’s a blanket of glorious colours. It’s already busy with bees! The joy of seeing a project literally blossom is immeasurable. 

“This area will now be a fantastic source of food for a large part of the year, helping our pollinators thrive.”

Councillor Matthew Bird, Cabinet member for Sustainability at Lewes District Council, said:  “I am delighted we have secured this funding. It is imperative that we do everything we can to support our local nature. Projects such as these will help to support the nature recovery corridors and networks we need to address the ecological emergency.” 

Councillor Julie Carr, Cabinet member for Recycling, Waste and Open Spaces at Lewes District Council, said:  “This wonderful haven created in the heart of Lewes complements our changes to mowing regimes across the district that allows wildflowers to grow in green spaces, attracting more insects and providing them with the habitat they need to thrive.” 

The project builds on the success of a previous nature recovery project at Lewes Cemetery Local Wildlife Site to alter grass cutting management and plant an area of chalk grassland plants.

The team would like to thank the following local organisations that helped with the supply and delivery of the plants: Wildflower Lewes, Lewes Urban Arboretum, Wildflower Conservation Society – Brighton and Beyond and Special Branch tree nursery.

Bee Lines launched in 2019 as a fundraising campaign by the South Downs National Park Trust, the official independent charity of the National Park. A staggering £75,000 has been raised through donations and grants are now being given to applicants, including landowners, farmers and community organisations, to plant new rows of wildflowers.

Photo credit: Red-tailed bumblebee on kidney vetch by Tim Squire, South Downs National Park ranger