Islandmagee garden wins national prize

Cherry Townsend's garden in Islandmagee. INLT 40-600-CON

Cherry Townsend's garden in Islandmagee. INLT 40-600-CON

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There’s a real buzz in Islandmagee after a local garden picked up a special award.

The Bee Kind prize was awarded to Cherry Townsend for her beautiful garden, which was selected as the best group garden from over 5,000 entrants.

This is the first time that prizes have been awarded to Bee Kind gardens and is the culmination of a six-month campaign which has been backed by TV’s Kate Humble. The campaign is funded through a £340,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and run by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BBCT).

Bumblebee numbers have declined steeply because agricultural changes have destroyed their natural habitats. With the public’s help, the Bee kind campaign has been helping to reverse these declines by turning gardens into bumblebee oases.

The garden scored highly for bee-friendliness on account of the flowers which had been planted, which included Echinacea, Wallflowers and Verbena.

Photos of the winning gardens will be featured in a special 2013 calendar, on sale from the BBCT website in the run up to Christmas.

The competition will run again in 2013, and now is a great time to start planning a bee-friendly garden. Humble is urging the public to get involved:

“The Bee kind website tool is brilliant – it makes it really easy for people to find out how good their garden is for bees and suggests simple and affordable changes to cater for the bees’ needs. Anyone can become involved and it doesn’t matter where they live. We can all do our bit just by planting a few colourful flowers, and the Bee kind tool will show you how.”

Carole Souter, chief executive of HLF, said: “Bumblebees are a crucial part of the UK’s ecosystem and our natural heritage so it’s alarming to see how numbers have been declining in recent years. The innovative ‘Bee kind’ tool and competition helps to protect our bumblebees, encouraging people across the country to learn more about these fascinating insects and how to make gardens and window boxes bee-friendly habitats.”

By working with both the public and large-scale landowners, BBCT’s CEO Dr. Ben Darvill hopes to begin a reversal in the recent fortunes of these important insects:

“In the last 70 years two bumblebee species have become extinct and many more have declined rapidly,” Ben said, “It’s easy to take them for granted, but without their work as pollinators our crops would be less productive and our wildflowers would produce fewer seeds. Important five-a-day fruit and vegetables could become more expensive and our countryside would lose its colour.”