Winning the National Local Authority Pollinator Award in 2017 was unexpected, we have to admit, but a fantastic reward for the work we had put in over the previous number of years. Our community had put in a huge effort, but on a human level this was rewarded a thousand-fold every time one of us saw a bumblebee happily feasting on one of our flowering plants.
The next thing was though, how would we build on this success in 2018? When you feel you have done everything you possibly could have to provide habitat and food for pollinators, what do you do next? We decided that an audit of sorts was required before we could move on. We looked at all the individual actions we had taken and reviewed how successful (or not) they have been.
Our Bee and Butterfly Monitoring Scheme Records provided us with very clear evidence of our best performing perennial plants. When every time you visit a small area of Geranium Rozanne, you find it is covered with Carder Bees – you know what you need to plant more of next time. The same held true for our Bistort and Stachys beds. Even better, these can be subdivided, overwintered and replanted in spring to create new pollinator-friendly planted areas at no additional cost.
Some of our new initiatives included the first phase of a new Children’s Orchard of native Apple Trees at Geashill National School, Úllord Na n’Óg. We created a planter garden at our Bring Centre, filled with a wide range of pollinator plants, including Nasturtium, Sweet Pea and Honeysuckle. Our most ambitious project was the planting of a Pollinator and Sensory Garden in cooperation with the staff and pupils of Geashill NS.
Raising awareness, both locally and now at national level, has become just as important to us as the provision of habitat and food. We have conducted ‘Pollinator Walk and Talks’ around the village for other Tidy Towns groups and the general public; facilitated workshops for the pupils of Geashill NS and participated in filming for both RTE’s Eco Eye and for the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan team at the National Biodiversity Data Centre.
We have found social media to be an invaluable tool to allow us to connect with our local community and beyond. It has allowed us make our Geashill Village Pollinator Actions available to everyone, offering suggestions on how these can be replicated at home on a smaller scale and at minimal cost.
Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, but actions speak louder than words. An overheard conversation between two neighbours discussing their front lawns last spring went something like this “Make sure you don’t mow those dandelions for another couple of weeks or there will be nothing for the bees”
All of this community effort in 2018 has been rewarding for our bees and other pollinators but also for us, particularly when we were announced winners of the Midlands and East Regional Award at the Helix in September.
Honestly however we can hand on heart say that we are really enjoying our pollinator journey so far and the support of the National Biodiversity Data Centre’s Pollinator Plan team has been invaluable. We have learned so much from being part of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan, but most of all how much more there is for us to learn. This is just the beginning.