The Chigwell Meadow
The Grange Farm meadow is a 21-acre parkland with hard paths providing a circular route around the tree and flower-lined walkways, accessible for all. Among others, Poplar, Oak, Walnut and Willow trees provide shade while a plethora of indigenous wildflowers such as bluebells, creeping cinquefoil, red and white clover, cow vetch and yarrow provide color and texture to the landscape. If you tread carefully among the log piles you may witness the beetles, woodlice and other insects that help to balance the meadows delicate ecosystem. At night the site comes alive with owls, bats, and other nocturnal animals.
The swale that runs through the center of the meadow is a man-made feature and is part of a sustainable urban drainage system connected to the tranquil pond. It is of special scientific interest as its ecological development can be studied from construction through to maturity. The reeds within the Swale help to filter the water and they also create valuable habitat for wildlife.
Bird watchers, dog walkers, picnic-ers and strollers exist side by side in this tranquil and relaxing environment.
Grange Farm Wildlife: Bees in The Chigwell Meadow 🐝 🐝 🐝 🌸
Chigwell Meadow is a rich haven in a fragile world where bees have an important role to play in the pollination of plants and trees. Bees attract other species enriching this special place even more. There have been honeybees at Chigwell Meadow as part of the Beekeeping Pollination Project & Education Initiative ever since it was constructed.
Bees are indicators of how the stewardship of the land has been carried out. We can measure this from how the honey tastes and looks as it is made up of what grows in the meadows. The bees are active day and night throughout the year from when the rain or snow is with us in the short days to the heat of summer where the sun is up for over 16 hours each colony maintains their nest at a constant temperature of 34.5C in the months when the queen is laying brood.
In the winter period they can drop the temperature to 18C using muscles to generate heat. Honeybees make enough honey and store pollen which they preserve to do this for feeding their colonies during the winter months, unlike Bumblebee mated queens who hibernate alone.
Our honeybees are out at first light when the air temperature is only 8C working all day gathering pollen, nectar, water and tree resin until it’s either too cold to fly or falling dark. In the spring their nest size increases rapidly preparing to make more of themselves by swarming. This natural activity allows a new queen to carry the colony DNA on to the next generation. The old queen will lay Drones, (male bees) few will mate in special areas where only the strongest wins a virgin Queen, her workers will also have DNA from past generations through the Queen-line. During the summer worker bees will only live for a short time 5 weeks to serve the colony. Then in the autumn Winter bees will live for over 6 months ready to start the process in spring again.
We carried out a scientific pollen analysis and we found 53 species of flowering plants in the honey sample. To name a few of interest which includes a plethora of trees and hedging species such as willow, hawthorn, blackthorn, oak and apple, as well as wildflowers on site like snowdrops, dandelion, dog rose, white clover, loosestrife, meadowsweet, Michaelmas daisy and blackberry. Watching bees at work is a joy to behold, stimulating a curiosity about nature in young and old alike.
The dramatic loss of habitats and farming methods have seen a worrying trend in our ecology. Amphibians, birds and insects are powerful indicators of our environment and the rapid drop in recent population numbers is numbing. The honeybee and other pollinators are responsible for over 70% of the food we eat. The Pollinator Project at Chigwell Meadow hopefully will help to show the connection from the soil to the table, with the seasonal shift in the biodiverse forage landscape which in turn creates noticeably different flavours in the honey. We are what we eat. Let’s eat the seasons with the bees.