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Bees, bugs and butterflies on the Martin Down farmer cluster

My name is Jessica Brooks and I’m a
Farmland Biodiversity Advisor for the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, and I work
with the Martin Down farmer supercluster, which is 43 farms on Cranborne Chase, to
coordinate conservation activities for the farmers, provide advice and organise
events. We held a farm insect walk co-hosted with Buglife in aid of the
national campaign Bees’ Needs Week, with some funding from Natural England’s
Landscapes for Wild Pollinators initiative. Every year we run a number of
events to educate our farmers, local villagers, cluster volunteers, along
with partnership staff in the nature reserve, AONB and Natural England about
different wildlife, soil and water subjects. For me it was rewarding to see
it dawn on people how much life is out there and how reliant it is on our
management. I was asked lots of really interesting
questions, which to me said that people really thinking about it and that there’s a real
appetite to help our wild pollinators, which is fantastic. We saw butterflies, moths
beetles, flies and bees, and so although it’s Bees’ Needs Week I would say
it’s a really good opportunity to open people’s eyes to the wider pollinator
community, so it’s been a really good day. I’ve really enjoyed it. We particularly work with
farmers and so being able to show farmers all the different types of
pollinators that there are in the margins is absolutely invaluable. It was
also really good to see so many little microhabitats around so that
we could see where all sorts of different things could potentially be
because nothing wants exactly the same. I came here to learn as much as I
could but I certainly learned how much insect life there is in diverse strips
around the woodlands and the grass fields and the arable fields. You know, to
see the amount of butterflies that we saw, which you always take for granted.
To see the smaller flies and the bees that we saw was incredible. I think
we need to be more in touch with what actually is out there on those margins
and around the edges of the fields where mainly the birds would nest and they
would feed, and to actually see where all this chick life is,
just to actually see what plants are growing and what it likes and what you
need to provide for these these chicks. It was nice to see even something I would
think of as a weed like a creeping thistle is actually quite a valuable habitat, which is
just spin for next time my grassland management is criticised! But
actually everything has a place. Ivy that weed we all love to
hate actually has, we found out today has a good place in providing
habitat and good food out of season. There is a lot more depth to it. Small,
buzzy things that I would ignore or worry if they’re going to eat my crops in the
past, now actually have a place and have a role and I’m part
of a bigger chain. You know, there’s so much out there that’s tiny and
inconspicuous that you just never even think about while you’re walking by, and
actually every tiny little thing in the countryside plays an integral part in
the whole system, so I think people have gone away today with a real appreciation
of all the small things.

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