More than 66 hectares – or 163 football pitches – of lush wildflower habitat have been created in the South Downs National Park to help bees flourish.

As the National Park marks World Bee Day (May 20), the Bee Lines initiative continues to give a helping hand to struggling pollinator populations by creating wildflower havens at farms, community fields, recreation grounds, road verges, schools, and even cemeteries and golf clubs.

The Get Blacknest Buzzing project at Blacknest Fields near Bordon is one of several East Hampshire projects to benefit, with others taking place across ten sites in the Selborne Landscape Partnership as well as at Barn Field in Selborne and Buriton Recreation Ground.

Early ecological data shows that the wildflower planting is helping bees and butterflies bounce back.

Red-tailed bumblebee on kidney vetch in the South Downs
Red-tailed bumblebee on kidney vetch in the South Downs (Tim Squire, South Downs National Park ranger)

It comes after Bee Lines launched exactly four years ago to create a new network of wildflower corridors to help support bees and other pollinators. These insects have been on a steep decline across the UK for several decades and are now under threat from climate change.

New planting effectively creates a “road system” for pollinating insects, allowing them to move through the landscape more easily. A total of 18 projects across Hampshire and Sussex have so far benefitted from a share of almost £95,000 of funding from the South Downs National Park Trust, the official independent charity for the National Park.

Nick Heasman, a countryside policy manager for the South Downs National Park, said: “It’s blooming marvellous that thanks to all the donations from the public we’ve been able to create these new havens for pollinators.

“Bees are busy ecosystem engineers and by pollinating flowers they create food for other wildlife and, of course, humans. In fact, one out of every three mouthfuls of our food depends on pollinators such as bees.

“Bee Lines is just one strand of the National Park’s ReNature campaign and it’s incredibly exciting to see nature recovery in action.”

A buff-tailed bee (Bombus terrestris)
A buff-tailed bee (Bombus terrestris) (Helen Kirkless)

Another bee-friendly habitat has been created at Dales Farm in Northchapel, West Sussex.

Farmer Sophie Green said: “Our wildflower plantings are situated in the field where our shepherds hut rentals are and we’ve had so many compliments and amazing feedback from guests about how lovely it is. 

"We actively encourage little bug hunters, which has been lovely for the children staying in the huts. We are looking forward to seeing how well everything comes back this year and have plans to establish further areas of plantings in the field this autumn.”

Anyone interested in future rounds of Bee Lines funding should contact Victoria Crespi at [email protected] to be put on the notification list.

Plant conservation charity Plantlife is supporting the project by providing landowners with advice on establishing and enhancing wildflower habitats.