Buzzy day planned at Oswestry green heritage sites

Wildlife experts will be revealing the fascinating world of bees and other pollinators at a family-friendly discovery day on the Wales/Shropshire border later this month.

A Marmalade hoverfly one of the common pollinators found at Old Oswestry and the Cambrian Railway orchard. Photo: Will Hawkes
A Marmalade hoverfly one of the common pollinators found at Old Oswestry and the Cambrian Railway orchard. Photo: Will Hawkes

Aimed at people of all ages, Pollinators Day will explore the bees, wasps, butterflies and insect pollinators within the contrasting habitats of Old Oswestry hillfort and nearby Cambrian Railway orchard on the outskirts of Oswestry.

Community conservation groups, Oswestry Heritage Gateway and CROP (Cambrian Railway Orchard Project), are co-organising the free event which takes place on Friday 27 July. Funding support has come from the Three Parishes Big Local Community Chest.

Taking advantage of the beautiful setting and vibrant ecology of Oswestry’s hillfort and community orchard, the fun and informative event will appeal especially to families looking for active days out over the summer.

Participants will find out about current threats to UK pollinators and species at risk, and gain an insight into simple identification, counting and reporting to national surveys. Advice will be available on plants that encourage pollinators and what people can do at home to help revive populations for the benefit of their local ecology.

The day starts at 10am on the hillfort with a morning of bee and pollinator discovery with local wildlife experts and bee enthusiasts, Will Hawkes, Chloe Aldridge and Brian Swain.

At midday, the event moves to the orchard where CROP will be hosting lunch, serving food and refreshments at its pop-up café for a nominal charge. The more energetic can follow a 20-minute walking trail from the hillfort to the orchard via Llwyn Coppy.

The afternoon programme runs from 1pm until 3pm when the experts will talk about their particular bee specialism as they lead pollinator hunts across the orchard. CROP will also be hosting a bug science corner with engaging, educational activities for younger ones led by Sian Mumby. There will be a chance to get creative by contributing to a pollinator art project running at both sites.

Car parking for the hillfort is available at Gatacre recreation fields situated a five-minute walk from the site. At the orchard, a steward will be directing cars to limited adjacent parking being made available on the day. Lay-bys are situated at each of the sites for the use of less mobile visitors.

Kate Clarke of Oswestry Heritage Gateway said: “The programme of activities has been designed to provide lots of interest, whether people join us for the whole day or just for the morning or afternoon session.”

The Oswestry Heritage Gateway organises seminars, walks and other events to promote the understanding, enjoyment and conservation of Old Oswestry, known as the Stonehenge of the Iron Age. They have a growing team of volunteers which works with English Heritage, the hillfort’s guardian, on landscape maintenance to help safeguard its archaeology and ecology.

Also supported by volunteers, CROP has established a thriving fruit tree orchard on land between the Cambrian Railway line and Gobowen Road north of Oswestry. Home to over 200 indigenous fruit-bearing trees, it includes rare apple varieties from the Oswestry area, as well as cherry, plum and even hazelnut trees.

Both groups will be highlighting volunteering opportunities for anyone keen to help with their respective conservation efforts at these important heritage sites within the Oswestry Borderlands.

According to Buglife (the Invertebrate Conservation Trust), 8 out of 10 of Britain’s wild plants rely on insects for pollination, yet more than 250 of our insect pollinators are in danger of extinction due to a scarcity of suitable habitat. Britain has lost 97% of its flower-rich grassland since the 1940s, for example. By pollinating crops, insects help provide one in every three mouthfuls of the food we eat. As well as vegetables and fruit, such as strawberries, apples and grapes, they help provide seeds, nuts and even chocolate.