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A picture paints a thousand words

Take a look at the scene below.  Note the horizontal direction of the grass stems.  We are at Dungeness, on a typical windy day!  As you drive around the area you might wonder why Romney Marsh was so good for bumblebees, as all you often see from the road is acres and acres of arable field or close-grazed sheep pasture.  It was not always so, as this picture reveals, for tucked under the grass stems you can see the abundant yellow blooms of meadow vetchling Lathyrus pratensis, together with smaller amounts of tufted vetch Vicia cracca (purple) and red clover Trifolium pratense.

This amounted to a massive supply of pollen and nectar, hence the bees.  In recent decades much of this got converted to arable, suffered high sheep-grazing pressure, or management was abandoned, or the fields were dug up in the names of gravel extraction or bird conservation, hence the bees vanished, until recently.

Targeted conservation management is restoring patches of flowers, with considerable success.  These fields, on Lydd Ranges, are in the danger zone and cannot be farmed.  The fields were cut once a year to control ragwort, with the vegetation left on the ground, smothering the wild flowers and producing boring grassland swards with starving insects!  In the past 10 years this has changed and the cut vegetation has been removed, restoring some very flowery meadows with plants coming back from the seed-bank.  As we stood at the entrance to this area you could hear the bees flying over our heads to stock up with pollen. A nice bit of military conservation management.

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