The children are getting their hands dirty with planting flowers, potatoes, seeds, trees, conservation and bee-keeping. Credit: Pixabay

Steve Darling: Connecting communities through growing, bees, conservation and education

Steve Darling

There’s a hive of activity happening at York Road Allotments in Paignton.

Working with community partners at grass roots level and developing collaborative projects is something our partnership administration between the Independents and Liberal Democrats is passionate about.

Through conversations with local allotment associations, we identified an appetite for a community project that would support primary school children to have access to a growing space.

As the project evolved, it’s grown into something ground breaking which now presents more opportunities for similar initiatives.

By working with York Road Allotment Association, we’ve developed a partnership with Hayes Road Primary School and Curledge Street School that embeds knowledge around growing, cooking, sustainability and the natural environment as part of the school curriculum.

Both schools have been given access to a plot with a green house and education area.

The schools are using the plot as part of lessons around science, cooking, wellbeing, and nutrition with a seed to plate ethos; teaching them about where their food comes from and encouraging them to engage with fresh healthy produce.

The children are not only learning the theory, but they are also getting their hands dirty with planting flowers, potatoes, seeds, trees, conservation and bee-keeping.

Cllr Christine Carter, Cllr Jane Barnby and myself recently visited York Road Allotment to see how the initiative was progressing since it began in September 2021.

In just a few months, the allotment has come alive with opportunities, not only for local children but for insects, birds, and mammals.

The chemical-free site is playing a huge part in ensuring the natural environment is enhanced and protected, both in and around the allotment.

Through the planting of more diverse species of trees and monitoring the levels of wildlife, there has been an increase in the number of bumble bees that visit day in and day out.

The allotment, together with Devon Wild Life Trust’s Wilder Community Project, Wild Life Rescue, Tree Scape, Devon Mammal Group and the Bat Society, has identified future aspirations to further develop the project for the local schools and the wider community.

The children that are benefitting from having access to the allotment are flourishing.

There is a keen interest from all partners to take the project to the next level and introduce bio toilets, solar electricity, a polytunnel, tools and equipment for rain water harvesting.

If more allotments and even households took a similar approach, imagine what could be achieved.

Not only are we encouraging our children to get back to nature, but we’re setting them up to be eco-ambassadors for the future.

By connecting communities though growing food, we could introduce hundreds of ‘grow a row’ for food banks.

Think how many local people could benefit from fresh, locally grown produce – that really would be a sustainable food partnership.

We know that bees, and other pollinating insects, are brilliant. They are not only super pollinators for our eco-system but I have recently learnt that bees fly at about 20 miles per hour and beat their wings 200 times per second. They have been here about 30 million years, and an average bee hive can hold around 50,000 bees.

Last week, there was a preview of Torre Abbey’s new summer exhibition ‘Brilliant Bees and Their Curious Cousins’ which my wife, the civic mayor attended along with the civic dog Pepsi.

This fascinating exhibition also features a working beehive up against one of the windows so you can get up close with these fascinating creatures.

Get ready to make a bee line to Torre Abbey, the exhibition runs until Sunday, September 4. Learn more about the ‘Brilliant Bees and Their Curious Cousins’ exhibition via www.torre-abbey.org.uk

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