West Country Buzz (WCB) is a Bumblebee conservation Trust project focusing on the rare and scarce bumblebees of North Devon. The primary target species are the nationally declining Section 41 Priority species: the Brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis), Moss carder bee (Bombus muscorum) and, with its rediscovery in the area thanks to the project, the Large Garden bumblebee (Bombus ruderatus).
The WCB team started working with Jez and Tammy (Longlands’ owners) back in 2020. We managed to squeeze in meetings between lockdowns and worked together to devise a plan for the site, looking at areas that could provide forage for pollinators with particular reference to later flowering for our rarer bumbles. Tammy and Jez mentioned that they would like to create an orchard and had identified the old raised beds as a suitable place. An orchard whilst being a traditional feature of farms in the area would also provide a great first source of pollen and nectar for pollinators.
WCB applied to the Sustainable Development Fund from the AONB, which provides small grants for local projects that contribute to the AONB including contributing (positively) to its environment. We were delighted to receive the news that our application was successful and so to order the trees! This proved a little trickier than first anticipated with many stockists having sold out (plus a little mix up with the varieties) but finally all the trees and associated items were delivered ready for planting.
On the 15th March Cathy Horsley, Senior Project officer and Jamie Buxton-Gould, Project officer along with volunteers Aggi and Paul brought their digging skills to Longland’s and planted nine fruit trees: 4 apple, 2 pear, 2 plum and a cherry. To ensure lots of pollination and therefore fruit, we chose varieties that were either in the same or neighbouring flowering groups and of course had to be suited to the conditions at Longlands such as Court of wick or Exeter cross (both apple tree varieties). It was a successful day and even Tess the dog wanted to get involved!
To further enhance the newly planted orchard, our funding from the AONB also allowed us to purchase some wildflower seed that was scattered on the bare soil around the trees. The seeds will begin to germinate this year and once established, in a few years’ time, provide a later food source throughout summer for pollinators once the blossom has finished. Species included Common knapweed, Birds-foot trefoil, Betony and Tufted vetch – all bumblebee favourites!
A big thank you to the AONB for generously supplying the funding to allow this project to happen, the volunteers for their time and commitment (we couldn’t do it without you!) and of course to Jez and Tammy for being such wonderful hosts and custodians of Longlands, its flora and fauna.