Award-winning Pollinator Patch scheme: How communities cared for their own Torbay green spaces

Pollinator Patch in bloom

Pollinator Patch in bloom - Credit: Groundwork South 

It all started, as such things do, with a spark, a simple thought weaving in and out of a conversation full of ideas and questions about wanting to brighten up a neighbourhood, helping nature, bringing a community together, and taking action to address aspects of the climate emergency on a local scale.  

And so, the Pollinator Patch Scheme for Torbay was born – an award-winning scheme run by SWISCo and Groundwork South on behalf of Torbay Council, that has supported schools, groups and communities wanting to care for a corner of their local green spaces and provide nectar-rich flowers for pollinating insects. 

Pollinator Patches were created across Torbay

Pollinator Patches were created across Torbay - Credit: SWISCo

Twenty sites across Torbay were sown with a pollinator friendly annual flower mix.

The three largest areas were prepared, sown, and cared for by the Green Spaces team from SWISCo. 

Just as last year, the Italian Gardens at Torre, on Torquay seafront were transformed into a beautiful floral oasis, but for 2021 SWISCo added St Mary’s Park in Brixham and Torbay Park in Paignton to the public parks and gardens that they helped bloom with colour. 

Kings Gardens on Torquay seafront

Kings Gardens on Torquay seafront - Credit: Groundwork South

Other patches were created in public green spaces by existing groups that help care for these places. 

In St Marychurch, the Friends of Tessier Gardens managed to sow just over 130 square metres with around half-a-kilo of seed, thanks to a little extra help from the SWISCo gardeners. 

Tessier Gardens

Tessier Gardens - Credit: Groundwork South

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Several green spaces were put forward by residents to take part in the scheme, with individuals and groups from communities coming together to prepare the ground and sow the seeds between April and June this year. 

In Higher Chelston, the Community Action Team planned their community seed sowing event to coincide with Keep Britain Tidy’s Big Spring Clean campaign, with the children who had helped with the litter pick getting the patch growing by spreading the flower seeds.  

The plot even made news on the local Facebook group because a member of the community thought it might be a grave!

However, there was no mistaking it for anything other than a Pollinator Patch once the seedlings started popping their heads above ground, and there were plenty of positive comments from the community who thought it was a good focal point that helped bring neighbours closer. 

Markham Plantation’s patch

Markham Plantation’s patch - Credit: S. Sadri

Further round the Bay, in the Hookhills area of Paignton, something was indeed buried in the ground, but it thankfully turned out to be a rather lovely surprise. 

While removing turf from their patch, one of the group came across a rather muddy teddy bear lying about a foot below the surface! 

Poor teddy was retrieved, and after a soak in the sink and three cycles in the washing machine, he came up looking almost good as new. 

The group would like to reassure whoever lost Teddy - probably about 37 years ago - that he now has a loving foster home and is very happy.

In fact, he has been named ‘Peter from the Pollinator Patch’ and has become a bit of a mascot.

Ted at Hookhills Triangle

Ted at Hookhills Triangle - Credit: L. Chase

A washed and refreshed Ted at Hookhills Triangle

A washed and refreshed Ted at Hookhills Triangle - Credit: L. Chase

The children of Peekaboo Childcare thoroughly enjoyed creating and caring for their Pollinator Patch just outside Teaspoons Café.

They helped to plant the seeds, learning how to sprinkle it carefully, and they loved the task of watering, helping carry water to the patch in every tub, bucket and watering can that the nursery had! 

The children and staff especially enjoyed the conversations had with passers-by from the Shiphay community about the patch and how beautiful the flowers were.    

Peekaboo’s Patch

Peekaboo’s Patch - Credit: Peekaboo Childcare

Two schools also got involved in creating Pollinator Patches through The Green Influencers Scheme, a pioneering project run by national educational charity The Ernest Cook Trust and delivered in Torbay by Groundwork South, enabling young people to lead the way on social action projects in their communities. 

Year Six pupils from Shiphay Academy and Oldway School visited each week over the spring term, helping bring patches at Oldway Gardens and Shiphay Park into flower, as well as identifying issues that they would like to help change or improve around the two sites. 

Oldway school students

Oldway school students - Credit: Groundwork South

Bringing young and old together, over at Lupton House the Orchard Forest School created patches by partnering their Early Years group with their over-50s volunteers, and it turned out to be the perfect match! 

The inter-generational team got stuck in, working together to give their patches the best start and make sure they bloomed in the walled orchard’s surroundings.

While the group hoped that the three patches of nectar-rich flowers would encourage more bees into the orchard, they hadn’t anticipated that a few weeks after sowing a swarm of honeybees would gather above one of the plots! 

A bee swarm on an apple tree at Lupton House

A bee swarm on an apple tree at Orchard Forest School - Credit: Orchard Forest School

Intergenerational team preparing the patch

Inter-generational team preparing the patch - Credit: Orchard Forest School

After having enjoyed all the beautiful blooms that the Pollinator Patches have provided, the scheme has also included two seed-collecting events at Shiphay Park and Oldway Gardens this October, so that everyone could come and gather seeds to help create their very own mini Pollinator Patches next spring. 

Collecting seeds in recycled newspaper envelopes, Shiphay Park

Collecting seeds in recycled newspaper envelopes at Shiphay Park - Credit: Groundwork South

Excitingly, the scheme has recently been awarded the London & Manchester Trophy through this year’s South West in Bloom, in recognition of ‘outstanding contribution to an environmental initiative’.  

Alongside Davina Luther to collect the award on behalf of Groundwork South and SWISCo was Siôn, one of the students from Oldway School who had helped with Oldway Pollinator Patch.

Both cup and certificate were presented by Tim Eley, co-ordinator for Torbay's entries in the regional competition that makes up part of Britain in Bloom, a nationwide community gardening campaign that aims to help people improve their local environment.

Tim Eley presents the award to Davina Luther and Olway School pupil Siôn

Tim Eley, co-ordinator for Torbay's South West in Bloom entries, presents the award in recognition of ‘outstanding contribution to an environmental initiative’ to Davina Luther, on behalf of Groundwork South and SWISCo, with Siôn, one of the students from Oldway School who had helped with Oldway Pollinator Patch - Credit: Groundwork South

On behalf of SWISCo, Torbay Council and Groundwork South, we’d like to say a huge thank you to all the individuals, groups and communities that helped create these amazing patches.

They have not only brought colour to the Bay but have helped remind people of how important our green spaces are for helping pollinators and addressing biodiversity loss and climate change, even in a small way. 

To find out about helping care for Torbay’s Green Spaces and for information on the Pollinator Patch scheme, please contact Hannah Worthington on 07940510616 or email hannah.worthington@groundwork.org.uk

Flowers at Shiphay

Flowers at Shiphay - Credit: Groundwork South

Flowers at Markham Plantation Pollinator Patch

Flowers at Markham Plantation Pollinator Patch - Credit: Groundwork South

Cricketfield Pollinator Patch

Cricketfield Pollinator Patch - Credit: Groundwork South

SWISCo logo

SWISCo - Credit: Submitted

Groundwork South

Groundwork South - Credit: Groundwork South

Torbay Council logo

Pollinator Patch is run by SWISCo and Groundwork South on behalf of Torbay Council - Credit: Submitted