The volunteer adopter team at Westerfield station has been recognised with a national award for their efforts to support bees and other pollinators. The large wildlife-friendly garden they developed at the station has been named ‘Bees’ Needs Champions’ by the government’s Department for Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
The awards recognise organisations and groups that help protect pollinators in green spaces.
During the past few years, the four volunteers at Westerfield station – Sandy Burn, Yvonne Maynard, Laura Hadgraft and Mary Pluquet, have been working to help the environment and bring benefits to the local community through gardening and conservation projects at the rail station.
The group cleared and planted a large area of land alongside the platforms in three stages, all with the aim of supporting wildlife through the creation of a stunning garden for the community and rail passengers to enjoy.
The first area that was planted contains a wide variety of pollinating plants; flowers bloom in succession to help provide a constant source of food for bees and other insects.
The second garden area contains a small wildflower area with a mix of perennial and annual seeds. Flowers come and go in succession and offer another reliable food source. The installation of a mini pond, donated by a local resident, has been used by tadpoles, dragonflies and birds.
The third area of the garden has the theme of ‘reuse, recycle, recover and reduce waste’. It contains a large bug habitat with a living sedum roof, dead hedges, log pyramids and organ pipe logs for stag beetles. Areas of bare ground and dead wood provide nesting sites for solitary bees; the volunteers have even built early bumblebee nests inspired by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.
Reclaimed and recycled materials including old tree trunks, branches and twigs have been used to create raised beds. A bug habitat sits on a Gambian basket filled with the rubble cleared from the area.
The volunteers garden sustainably, avoiding pesticides, composting green waste and growing annuals from seed. They use also peat-free compost. Water is sourced from a water butt that collects rainfall from the roof of the passenger shelter.
Station Adopter, Sandy Burn said, “We are absolutely thrilled to be recognised as Bees Needs Champions. We are passionate about conservation and education, so to transform this public area and involve the community is very rewarding. It means that we can provide a visual and memorable experience to people and at the same time, communicate the need for sustainable gardening practices.
“We are often rewarded with wonderful sights such as bees making their nests, ladybirds hibernating amongst the dead flower heads and many visiting birds and butterflies, and we hope that people find it an interesting and attractive place to visit.”
Alan Neville, Greater Anglia’s Customer and Community Engagement Manager, said, “We are very grateful to the station adopters at Westerfield for the incredible transformation they have carried out, creating a really magical place for rail passengers and wildlife alike and helping the station to become an active contributor to biodiversity locally.”
Rail stations across East Anglia like Westerfield are increasingly becoming havens for local wildlife thanks to the efforts more than 300 volunteers as part of Greater Anglia’s station adoption scheme, who last year transformed over 7,400 square metres of land into thriving wildlife gardens.
In a recent survey, Greater Anglia station adopters reported a wide range of creatures visiting their stations including many different types of butterflies as well as bees, slow worms, bats, foxes, toads, lizards, deer and many varieties of birds, recording more than 200 different species.
Greater Anglia has partnered with the region’s Wildlife Trusts to formally recognise the achievements of its team of volunteer ‘station adopters’ to create wildlife havens at stations across its network through the new ‘Greater Anglia Wildlife Friendly Stations Accreditation Scheme.’
Westerfield was accredited under the programme in June 2023.