Breathing Spaces host monthly community volunteer sessions at Dankton Barnyard, Dankton Lane in Sompting. Here they have access to a small pre-established wildflower meadow rich in Knapweed, Wild Carrot, Golden rod, Yarrow, Scabious, St John’s Wort, Teasel, Corn Marigold, Toadflax, Hedge Parsley, Hogweed, Eupatorium and many more! The flowers are left to reseed and are not cut back so they are left for the benefit of wildlife.
At Dankton Lane, Breathing Spaces have permission from the landowners Somting Estate to pick some wildflowers to add to their community supported bouquet scheme, but only a small proportion. As part of the management of the site they have been clearing invasive weeds such as brambles, thistles, nettles and hogweed, to make way for easier access and to allow reseeding with collected seed from the site. They have also improved the pond with the help of Sompting Estate and South Downs National Park Association and established a log hive for wild bees.
Visits to the barnyard are during the monthly Sunday morning volunteer sessions or by appointment only, as the gate is locked. It is also possible to view the site over the gate, which is on a footpath accessible from Herbert road Sompting or Lyons Farm, Worthing. There is no vehicle access. Please contact Breathing Spaces for more details Breathing Spaces Project
Bees, wasps and ants belong (with sawflies) to the Hymenoptera order as they are all related in some way. The earliest known individual of this huge group, a stinging wasp, appeared perhaps 190 million years ago. The first ant was a wasp that lost its wings (about 100 million years ago), and the first bee was a wasp that forgot how to hunt (about 65 million years ago), thus becoming ‘vegetarian’, which may account for why – of the three groups of insects – we might feel more favourably disposed to bees than we do to wasps or ants. Indeed, bees have become the darlings of the Hymenoptera order, their stylised faces appearing on everything from greetings cards to lapel badges. Even if we don’t understand them fully, the whole world loves the busy bees.
With such time spans, we now see species variation on a grand scale. There are at least 22,000 different species of bee worldwide. In Britain, we have over 270 different species, 25 of these being bumblebees.
Plasterer bees (Colletidae) are bees that use secretions from their mouthparts to smooth the walls of their nest cells. There may be nine different types of British Plasterer bees.
Until we find more of these Plasterer bees, Heene shelters just the one species, the Ivy Bee. This bee is the last solitary bee to emerge each year, and is Britain’s only true autumn bee. As its name suggests, it finds nearly all its pollen and nectar from Common Ivy.
Mining bees are solitary, ground-nesting bees that have been on earth for more than 30 million years. They comprise the largest British genus of bees with perhaps 67 species.
Females of the Chocolate Mining Bee nest singly, although they often share a burrow entrance with several other females, as can be seen in one of the photographs below.
The Grey-patched Mining Bee, below, derives much but not all of its food from Dandelions.
Leafcutter and Mason bees
Leafcutter and Mason bees are mostly solitary bees. Several collect plant or animal hairs to assist in nest construction, whereas other collect plant resin for this purpose. All feed on pollen and nectar, although some of these feed on pollen collected by other bees (and so are called ‘cuckoo bees’).
The Leaf-cutter Bee and the Orange-vented Mason Bee chews up the edges of leaves to make a cement with which they seal their nests. Indeed, the Oranged-vented one, below, seems to be doing just that in this photograph.
There are other families and genera of solitary bees, all with beguiling names, such as Carpenter, Yellow-faced, Shaggy, Bristle-headed, Wool carder, Resin, Nomad, Variegated cuckoo and Sweat bees. Add them all up and the species variety just in Britain is eye-popping.
Bumblebees (and the Honey Bee) are social insects, where all other bees are solitary. Bumblebees live in small colonies, often underground. Most of those seen in Spring and early Summer will be females, males appearing in late Summer.
Bees in numbers
Our meagre efforts have so far shown that we’ve seen just 5 different types of solitary bee and 6 different types of bumblebee. To these, we can add the Honey Bee, making a total of a dozen different species of bee in Heene Cemetery’s one-acre, town-centre site. These numbers – and others – show up again later.
The Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) is an abundant species, seen from early Spring until late Autumn. Most flower foragers will be the female workers. The male drones appear in the Summer, and they have fatter bodies and longer antennae. Queens, which emerge in Spring to establish colonies, never leave the hive to forage, but feed on royal jelly produced by workers. But Honey bees, whatever their abundance, remain a single species.
There are two beehives in Heene Cemetery and, according to the hives’ keeper, Stuart, “the average beehive in the height of summer has around 50,000 bees!” That’s perhaps 100,000 bees sheltered under the trees of the cemetery’s south-east corner.
On average, bees forage for over a mile from their hive. A DNA analysis of honey samples that Stuart requested in the late summer of 2021 showed traces of 16 plants/flowers known to be in the Cemetery, alongside a further 43 varieties, many of them cultivated plants from gardens in the locality. No doubt, different honey samples at different times of the year would have shown Honey bees had visited different flowers/plants.
Anecdotally, a huge proportion of the photographs taken of bees on flowers in the cemetery have been of Honey Bees, rather than of other solitary bees. Of the 270 various species of bee found in Britain, 229 (*) species have been recorded in Sussex. Yet, to date, we’ve seen 12.
What’s going on?
We have – rightly – developed the view that Honey bees and beehives are ‘a good thing’. They are pollinators, essential for the pollination of crops that provide much of the food that we eat. They help sustain our orchards and gardens. Bees provide us with honey – and the honey that comes from Heene Cemetery’s hives is indeed delicious! Everything about them seems to merit the traditional ‘darling’ label.
Yet there’s another story starting to be told, and it comes from respected institutions like the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and the Natural History Museum. This tells us of the potential unsustainability of urban beekeeping, of an insufficient nectar and pollen supply to support beehive numbers, of honeybees outcompeting wild bee populations. In the words of Kew’s Professor Phil Stevenson:
It’s said that a single beehive might need 32 acres of green space.
It is widely acknowledged that Britain’s countryside has become nature-depleted and that there is – perhaps surprisingly – greater floral biodiversity in our cities, towns and villages. Until hedgerows and verges are brought back to the varied glory of former times, the countryside remains largely the theatre for crop monocultures.
Unlike honeybees that seem able to feed on a wide range of plants, solitary, wild bees usually have preferred habitats, ones where specific pollen and nectar providers can be found. Where these locations provide a changing diet throughout the seasons, bees (more than most insects) will flourish. But this does mean that a wide range of different seasonal plant food is needed to support these wild, native bees – and Heene Cemetery should be just right for many of them.
Even on their own, the numbers in the cemetery seem somewhat skew-wiff:
270 known bee species in Britain
229 bee species have been recorded in Sussex (*)
5 solitary bee species recorded in Heene Cemetery
7 social bee species recorded in Heene Cemetery (bumblebees and the Honey bee)
2 beehives in Heene Cemetery
100,000 honeybees in Heene Cemetery at the height of summer
* Bees in Sussex
This blog post initially stated that “at least 44 bee species [can be] expected in Sussex”. It transpires that this was a substantial underestimate. Issue 192 of Wildlife, the magazine of the Sussex Wildlife Trust (Spring/Summer 2023), has an article by James Power, author of The Bees of Sussex, in which he says that “there are an impressive 229 species of bee recorded in Sussex”. Ten new species have been recorded here since 2000.
According to the author, Sussex is one of the warmest and driest counties in the country, making it ideal for bees. Its proximity to the European mainland is a further factor that aids bee species numbers.
This adds impetus to the argument that we should be seeing a broader range of solitary bees in Heene Cemetery than appears to be the case.
Books and websites
Field Guide to the Bumblebees of Great Britain and Ireland by Mike Edwards and Martin Jenner; Ocelli; revised edition, 2012.
This is a standard text on identifying bumblebees, providing photographs, maps, habitat descriptors of where each species can be found, along with a colour key that helps distinguish species based upon colour bands that one can see with the naked eye.
Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland by Steven Falk; Bloomsbury, 2016.
A comprehensive guide to the solitary bees of our islands, this is an authoritative and wonderfully-illustrated guide, packed with photographs.
The Hidden Universe Adventures in Biodiversity by Alexandre Antonelli, Director of Science, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; Witness Books, 2022.
This is a short and lucid primer on biodiversity that aims to explain a complex subject in terms that most of us can understand. This volume explains what damage habitat loss is doing and how we can all face up to it in practical, daily.
Silent Earth – Averting the Insect Apocalypse by Professor Dave Goulson; Jonathon Cape, 2021.
Professor Goulson – from our local university at Sussex in Brighton – played a huge role in establishing the link between neonicotinoids and damage to bees. In this volume, he sets out the science and moves on to explain how we can all help avert an ‘insect apocalypse’.
The Insect Crisis – The Fall of Tiny Empires that Run the World by Oliver Milman; Atlantic Books, 2022.
In this volume, Oliver Milman, journalist rather than scientist, explains why we need insects more than they need us. You will find this a motivating read.
Local residents at Ormonde Way, Shoreham have planted up 5 areas of wildflowers along the grass verge bordering Brighton Road and Ormonde Way. Now in their 2nd year, the beds are establishing well and have a good mixture of poppies, cornflowers and oxeye daisies among other wildflowers!
What initially was an attempt by local residents to discourage parking on the verges, has now flourished into a little patch of heaven for pollinators and now provides visual interest for residents.
A good time to visit is during the summer when the flowers are in full flow, accessibility is good as it is located in a residential area with paved walkways.
The community wildflower patch at West Worthing Station is a relatively new area of planting totalling around 1M2 . It has been adopted by the Friends of West Worthing Station , with support from South East Communities Rail Partnership. The friends group have recently sown a seed mixture from the Friends of The Earth, plus an assortment of cornflowers and poppies. The group are hoping for a good display of wildflowers soon and are looking forward to develop the patch in the future. The volunteer group is an approved station partner, supported by the Southeast Communities Rail Partnership. Watch this space for more updates in the future!
The community flower patch can be viewed from a public access ramp to the south east side of the main entrance.
Worthing Climate Action Network (WCAN) in collaboration with XR Worthing began a ‘Wilding Worthing’ petition to mark No Mow May in Spring last year, asking Adur & Worthing Councils and West Sussex County Council to stop mowing road verges so often and instead allow the wildflowers and grasses to grow. When the petition reached 1000 signatures last June it was presented to Worthing Council where it was accepted. Negotiations began with West Sussex Highways with the first trial Community Road Verge in Worthing being established on Goring Road.
The site is comprised of several grassy verges along Goring Road between the Goring Shops and Shaftesbury Avenue, pedestrian accessibility is good due to the adjacent pavement. No seed has been sown at this site as it is hoped that the natural seedbank present in the soil will have the chance to establish with the reduced cutting regime. Already species such as Common Mallow, Birds Foot Trefoil, Ribwort Plantain and Daisies can be seen flourishing.
There will be only one cut a year to be undertaken in September. Volunteers will take away the grass cuttings in order to help keep the ground infertile, providing the best conditions for the wildflowers to thrive. Other verges are now being planned across the area.
Lancing Railway Station on Sompting Road and South Street, is home to two areas of planting maintained by the community group Keep Lancing Lovely. Established in 2014, Keep Lancing Lovely have 100+ volunteers from the local community engaging in many different projects to improve the appearance and environment of their local areas. In 2017 they were able to plant up two areas (totalling approximately 10M2) at the north side of the station with a selection of wildflowers, herbs and green manure plants like Phacelia. This has provided both habitat and forage plants for many different species of butterflies, bees and other insects. The rather rare Long Tailed Blue butterfly has been spotted in recent years. Area One is a brick built deep bed and Area Two is a fenced in area near the level crossing at the station.
The areas are easily accessed by the public as the beds are situated on the outside boundary of the station grounds. There is a colourful display all year so there should be something to see most seasons.
Cortis Avenue Wildlife Garden (CAWG) is located on Cortis Avenue, off of Carnegie Road in Broadwater. It comprises an area approximately the size of a football pitch and is divided into a number of wildlife habitats, including a wildflower meadow (annual and perennial meadow), a herb garden, flowering hedgerows, heritage apple trees, a shady wildflower border, 2 ponds, soft fruit and edible hedgerows for birds, and a compost area. The site was adopted in 2011 for use as a wildlife garden and is currently held on license from Worthing Homes.
Prior to its transformation into a refuge for wildlife, the site was a disused playing field prone to fly tipping. Since 2011, volunteers have undertaken extensive work initially to remove 20 skips of rubbish and to plant up trees and hedgerows. In 2016 an area of rough grass was cleared to create a flower meadow, which has to be weeded annually to remove couch grass, bindweed and plantain. In 2019 a beehive was added to the site, managed by volunteers. A composting toilet was installed in 2019/20, completed just before lockdown. Additional hedgerow with butterfly food plants has also been put in recently by volunteers.
The site is locked to protect from fly-tipping and vandalism. Under normal circumstances the site is open every Wednesday morning 10am – 12.30pm. Visitors are always welcome. The garden is open for occasional visits by appointment at other times. An annual Open Day (taking place on a Saturday) is held in the summer.
Currently due to Covid restrictions the garden is not open to the public at present, and volunteers are attending within government rules to undertake limited maintenance.
The site is flat with grass paths although some paths are uneven. There are no hard surface paths beyond the entrance drive. There is disability access to a composting toilet. Visually impaired visitors would need to be accompanied. Some paths are suitable for all-terrain wheelchairs.
There is something flowering all year round. The main meadow flowers from May to October and the mix of species varies year by year as volunteers rely on a mixture of self-seeding and annual sowing to keep the meadow vibrant for wildlife.
The site is particularly rich in butterflies and cinnabar moths. Taking advantage of the rich wildlife in the garden, volunteers run supervised bug hunts and pond dipping at the Open Day. Visits by parents and children on Wednesday mornings are encouraged, especially in the holidays. The garden is often used by parents home schooling their children, and by local playgroups and childminders.
The site is dependent on water capture to keep the pond filled and to water vulnerable plants. Despite doubling water storage, for the last 3 years the garden has run out of water by July, and some of the plants and flowers suffer due to water stress.
When the garden reopens to the public, the regular volunteer session is Wednesday morning. There are currently 8 regular volunteers – who are happy to welcome one or two others. Due to the nature of the site there are a limited range of tasks to be completed each week.
Heene Cemetery is located on Manor Road, Worthing. Within the now closed cemetery (burials no longer occur there) there is an extensive wildflower meadow that is managed by the Friends of Heene Cemetery group. A team of volunteers carry out maintenance of the land by removing invasive species and replacing them with suitable native species, such as Common Bird’s-foot- trefoil, Meadow Crane’s-bill, Primrose, Wild Teasel and Yarrow. A comprehensive list, supplied by the Friends of Heene Cemetery can be found here: Heene Cemetery Flowering Plants List
Access to the site is normally restricted to the public, however voluntary work is carried out on Tuesday and Saturday afternoons between 2pm-4pm during which members of the public are allowed to enter. New volunteers are welcome to visit on these working days and learn what the group does and where help is needed. Throughout the year volunteers run 4 open days and several tours. Visits by arrangement can be organised with the Friends of Heene Cemetery.
Mats are available to place on the paths suitable for wheelchair and impaired access.
The last year has been challenging, but Friends of Heene Cemetery have managed to keep the basic maintenance of the grounds under control with dedicated volunteers attending in pairs throughout lockdown by working in isolation and adhering to social distancing rules.
Even with the restrictions that have continually been changing this year, as a team they have managed to maintain, record, research and begin many different projects:
A new website was launched in July 2020 where the group celebrated 5 years of working together with a picnic.
Green Flag Award judging by Keith Percival
Two publications in the local paper, Worthing Herald.
A visit by Kate Greening WBC Cemetery’s manager and Harriet from Caring for God’s Acre
Rescued slow worms and lizards were introduced
Survey of mosses etc by Sue Rubenstein from Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre
Survey of Fungi by Nick Aplin from Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre
Introduction to identifying headstone materials by West Sussex Geological Society
The best time to see the wildflowers is from February to October.
The St. Aubyns Garden is formed of a 30m2 wildflower verge at the corner of St. Aubyns Crescent and St. Aubyns Road, Fishersgate. It is maintained by the Eastbrook Community Gardeners, a small team of residents improving the appearance of their local spaces.
The garden was sown with wildflower seed in May 2020, however after a challenging year they plan to trial wildflower turf in Spring 2021 and hope to involve local children in maintaining and interacting with the garden when possible.
This site is easily accessible as it is in a residential area.
Breathing Spaces Community Flower Farm is located at the Maybridge Keystone Centre in Worthing. It is run by Breathing Spaces CIC, a garden therapy and design company that provides the community with the opportunity to connect with nature and explore the healing benefits of gardening and flowers. In their small urban flower farm they have made space for growing wildflowers for the benefit of people and pollinators.
Breathing Spaces have started up a dedicated patch of around 4m2 and have already established wildflowers in other growing areas around fruit trees and in long grass areas. Using donated wildflower plants and collected seed, they hope to create a vibrant wildflower habitat. The long grass is cut down at the end of the season and cleared away in the traditional hay cut method. Examples of species include Campion ‘ragged robin’, Red Valerian, Dock, Sorrel, Cowslips, Yarrow, Tansy, Knapweed, Cornflower and Wild carrot.
The site is open during Maybridge Keystone Centre opening hours, the hours can vary so it’s best to check first before visiting. It is not wheelchair accessible at present. The site is accessed by walking across part of the playing field. The best time to see the wildflowers is around Early Summer.
There are plans to expand the wildflower strip along the back of the playing field.
Work experience for students with extra support needs and young unaccompanied asylum seekers can be arranged with Breathing Spaces and volunteers are welcome on Thursdays and Fridays, though please contact for up to date details due to current Covid restrictions.