South Bedfordshire Friends of the Earth, Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland

Keep the Buzz in Leighton Buzzard with bee-friendly habitats throughout the town

Victoria Harvey has campaigned with South Bedfordshire Friends of the Earth for 10 years. In 2004, Victoria’s colleague Ken Barry led a campaign to stop a local wood being destroyed. This led the group to focus on reversing the loss of nature from the town and people’s lives.

Saddened at how hard it was becoming to find native wildflowers and wildlife in both urban areas and the English countryside, Victoria’s group worked with the town council to transform heavily-mown green spaces into better urban habitats for bees and other wildlife. Bees and other pollinating insects are losing their food sources, with the UK having lost 98% of its wildflower meadows since the 1930s.

As a child, Victoria’s mother picked wild cowslips to make cowslip wine. Today, it is rare to see these plants in towns like Leighton Buzzard and their surrounding countryside. Intensive modern farming and an emphasis on tidy parks and spaces in towns means that children rarely see wildflowers, bees and butterflies.

Working with Leighton Linslade Town Council, residents, local businesses, schools and her group Victoria has created 15 large bee-friendly habitats across the town – from a community orchard and a community permaculture garden within a local war memorial, to large hedgerows supporting native species and wildflower meadows in the town’s parks, play areas and road verges.

Victoria’s vision is for the town council and local community to increasingly take ownership of their biodiversity and for Leighton Buzzard to be full of natural habitats, community vegetable gardens and so many wildflowers that children will be able to pick them on their way home from school.

The restoration of the river banks in the town centre will be extended to form a natural link between the town and surrounding countryside. The town will be a reservoir of bees and pollinators for the surrounding farmland and a practical model of how to make significant gains for nature in urban areas using biodiversity to connect town and country.

“Keats and Shakespeare described an English countryside filled with wild flowers, rich colours and sweet scents. But my generation has made the English countryside a dead wasteland. This amazing free gift of beauty that nature has given us cannot live on only in the pages of old books, like a dream. I refuse. Beauty must be restored to our everyday lives and children must be able to pick wildflowers again.”VICTORIA HARVEY

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