Gove’s £60,000 boost for bees
Environment Secretary Michael Gove has announced a £60,000 fund for pollinators. This will be used to develop and test pollinator habitat mapping, to identify where new habitats will provide the greatest benefit for bees and other pollinators. The aim is to increase the number of pollinator-friendly landscapes and protect the health of bees, wasps, beetles, butterflies, moths, hoverflies – and crops. The value of the UK’s 1500 species of pollinators to crops is estimated to be £400-680 million per year in improved productivity.
The project will involve partnering with organisations including Buglife, The Wildlife Trusts and other bodies working on the conservation of pollinators.
Craig Macadam, conservation director at Buglife, says: “Buglife welcomes the funding promised by the Environment Secretary as a great first step towards securing the future of our precious pollinators.
“Once mapping is completed, more resources will clearly be needed to deliver the on-the-ground change that is needed. Coupled with the ban on neonicotinoids, this is real affirmative action in the battle to arrest the decline of bees and other pollinators, and preserve the buzz of life.”
In April, the government voted in favour of further restrictions on the use of three neonicotinoids due to their harmful effects on bees and other pollinators. The measures will come into force at the end of the year. The government has also committed to bringing forward the first environment bill in more than 20 years, set to be introduced in 2019.
GPs in Shetland are now able to prescribe nature to their patients, thanks to a pioneering partnership between NHS Shetland and RSPB Scotland, thought to be the first of its kind in the UK. A successful pilot last year has led to the roll-out of ‘nature prescriptions’ to all 10 GP surgeries across Shetland.
The project recognises the benefits of nature in reducing blood pressure, reducing anxiety and increasing happiness. The benefits of physical activity are well documented, reducing the risk of heart disease and strokes, diabetes, cancers, depression, anxiety and sleep problems.
RSPB Scotland has produced a leaflet and a calendar of seasonal activities, to be given to participating patients. This attempts to provide a greater variety of ways to realise the health benefits that nature can provide, regardless of a person’s health condition or confidence, or whether they are sociable or solitary, active or meditative.
Karen MacKelvie, community engagement officer for RSPB Scotland, says: “There is overwhelming evidence that nature has health benefits for body and mind. Shetland is ‘stappit foo’ of natural wonders. Whenever you open your front door, you can hear or see some kind of natural delight – be it a gull or a lapwing calling, or the roll of a heathery hill.
“However, despite many doctors using the outdoors as a resource to combat ill health, far fewer recommend the same strategy to their patients. So we saw an opportunity to design a leaflet that helps doctors describe the health benefits of nature, and provides plenty of local ideas to help doctors fire up their patients’ imaginations and get them outdoors.”
Check out the calendar at https://www.healthyshetland.com/site/assets/files/1178/730-1309-17-18_nature_prescriptions_calendar_4sep.pdf and find out more at https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/nature-prescribed-to-help-health/#K7qRUZKo3HWTOswM.99
Pumpkins win prizes
Champion pumpkin growers Ian and Stuart Paton (pictured above) have broken their own record yet again.
At this year’s big weigh-in at the Jubilee Sailing Trust Autumn Pumpkin Festival in Netley, Southampton, on October 13, they set a new UK record at 1105kg (2433lb). Their previous record of 1028.7kg (2268lb) was set last year.
The Paton twins run Pinetops Nursery in Lymington, Hampshire, which ordinarily produces pot plants – but pumpkin-growing has been their hobby since they were 11. The secret, they say, is in the seed, saved from previous record-breakers, combined with a light soil and copious amounts of water – they were giving the plant 100 gallons a day. At its peak, their pumpkin grew 27kg (60lb) in just 24 hours.
This year’s specimen is thought to be the second-largest in the world – ever. The world record, set by Belgian grower Mathias Willemijns in 2016, stands at 1190kg (2624lb) – so the Patons now have their sights set on the top prize.
Meanwhile, Matthew Oliver of RHS Hyde Hall has achieved a new UK record for the heaviest squash, at 492.5kg (1085.8lb), beating the existing 12-year-old record by 43kg (95lb).