Earlier last month I was approached to submit a short piece about what my ‘vision for Beeston’ might be. Beeston is my local town, and I am a member of the Beeston and District Civic Society committee for all things environment and nature. My submission is here: but I also thought I’d include it on my journal.

“The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.” 

When I think of a vision for Beeston, the picture that makes me most hopeful and happy is one which more literally reflects the inspirational attitude and bravery required to take our town’s name and really run with it. 

While I know that the name ‘Beeston’ stems not from being a ‘town of bees’ but a ‘town of grass’ – I also know that Beeston is a town of bees. We have many apiculturists (‘beekeepers’ to you and me), only one of which is made of concrete. We now, too, have a beautiful, impactful mural to illustrate our association with this industrious, busy species – a third of which are in serious decline. Owing to chronic reductions in the richness of nature; habitat loss, and the use – since 2007 – of systemic pesticides such as the neonicotinoid ‘Roundup’, current trends continuing signal that some of our British bee species would be gone forever.

Therefore, I suggest it’s about time we put our money where our mouth is and genuinely, seriously innovate to create a pride of place which, rather than as some afterthought or half-baked ploy, has at its heart the natural world we live, work and play in.

We should be investing more time, money and effort to ensure policies which promote, protect and encourage wildlife in our town environment are integral to every aspect of our decision making, development and planning. It is one thing to have a Town Plan which pays lip service to the theory of these activities – but it would be quite something else to see it; feel it, tangible in everything around us. 

Let’s have green roofs or roof gardens on all new larger developments (Beeston Cinema, I’m looking at you…). They do not add much more to a development budget, and do not require high maintenance. Anyone who says they do is having you on.

Let’s have mandatory bat bricks and swift boxes/roosts in all new house builds, and retrofit them in old homes where or near where nesting sites exist. There are many of these sites in Beeston. I know, because I live in one. Swift numbers are in steep decline – in no small part because people are fitting uPVC cladding and fascias to their homes or buy-to-lets; denying nest sites to Swifts returning from Africa to little ol’ Beeston, and not providing alternatives. I have personally noticed numbers reduced by more than half in the last few years. 

We have so much development and regeneration here at the moment, and planned in the near future – Myford’s place and the Belong village, Beeston Square and Cinema, Beeston Business park, and Barton’s… to name a few. Ample opportunities to make a real, significant difference; to go over and above regular expectations.

Let’s create and change our local public spaces and parks to also reflect the spaces they are for wildlife, too. Beeston is not just ours – animals, birds and invertebrates existed here already; they’re residents too. We need landscaping to include habitats; to be planted for pollinators and year-round interest – not just on-the-cheap, with monocultures of low-maintenance shrubs and grass. And while we’re on about grass, let’s not cut it. If we’re a ‘town of grass’, let’s make it meadow grass – full of life and colour and buzz during the hazy months of summer.

Beeston could, and should, be an innovator about this. We’ve already raised the bar on becoming Climate Neutral, by setting 2027 as our target when others are going for 2030 or even 2050 – and this is really commendable. But anyone can set a target. My 2020Vision of Beeston would involve us building on these strengths by raising the bar further; I wish we would that we grab that bar and fling it.

So, whether it is a ‘town of bees’ or a ‘town of grass’ – let’s really be a town of bees; a town of grass.

“WHAT DO WE WANT?!” “Nomenative determinism!”
“WHEN DO WE WANT IT?!” “Preferably twenty years ago, but now is fine…”


Gardening for wildlife, in Beeston

Seven years ago, this odd patch of grass next to Myford’s factory on Wilmot Lane was basically a dumping ground for litter, garden trimmings and erm… discarded golf paraphernalia. I passed it, wearily, twice daily.

Wilmot Lane: littered, sprayed and very sad indeed.

Five years ago, I got the Council to not cut it, and started establishing it as a wildflower dumping ground for litter and garden trimmings instead.

Two years ago, it was recovering from erroneous grass cuts due to the Council’s sheer circumlocution-like ineptitude. The burgeoning meadow flowers I’d planted and sown the years before were denied their fifteen minutes of fame and, despite managing to win a Level 4 award in the ‘RHS East Midlands in Bloom: It’s Your Neighbourhood’ competition, it looked pretty sorry for itself.

When Broxtowe Council went to mow a meadow.

Despite more set-backs last year, [fanfare] the grass did erupt in a SUMMER BOOM of colour. This is largely thanks to extra wildflower seed donated by a guy called Chris, who sowed it with his daughter, Holly, once the footpath reopened earlier in the year.

It’s not just about pretty flowers, though. There’s a brash heap and log pile (good for grass snakes, insects, invertebrates and small mammals), and free fruit trees and hedglings I received from The Woodland Trust. 

RHS Wisley it ain’t. But it IS a-buzz with pollinators flitting from plant to plant, taking pit stops on the #BugSquat (hotels are sooo ‘Bridgford). Here too, hedgehogs rummage around; bats and swifts (numbers of the latter were worryingly low last year – I counted only four, when we used to have double figures) hunt overhead in the the gloaming.

To some, it may look weedy (“I’d torch the lot” said one lady to me while I topped-up the bird feeders). But wild verges work hard, helping our under-appreciated Beestonians: the critters pollinating your fruit, veg, and flowers; or eating the ones eating your fruit, veg and flowers. And they need all the help they can get.

We love to see wildlife in our gardens. But if we tidy away the places it lives, feeds and breeds, or if the only ‘wild abandon’ we allow is that with which we throw down slug pellets, then it could soon disappear. Don’t get me started on slug pellets…

Although small, wilded areas like this connect one patch of habitat to another, so species who thrive or rely on linear movement, on mixing species through urban areas, or on stop-offs to larger habitats – such as Attenborough Nature Reserve – can survive.

It really is simple: less is more. Leave a piece of your garden to ‘go over’, or plant wild flowers if you prefer (native ones are best – so you know they’re adapted for our insects, not ones that don’t exist here). If you have space for a pond, this will exponentially boost the benefit – even an old washing-up bowl sunk in the ground, filled with rain water and some rocks (escape route) will soon be colonised.

If all this sounds like too much mess and effort, or you’re only up for doing one thing to help wildlife: please, please stop using slug pellets.

True to its word, an established ‘wild’ patch can get on with very little interference from us.  And, though We Dig NG9’s will never be proper idyllic ‘meadow’, of course – if it looks nice, well that’s just a bonus. 

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Together with the Beeston & District Civic Society; Greenwood – Nottinghamshire’s community forest, and Broxtowe Borough Council, We Dig NG9 have arranged to help plant over 100 trees and hedge plants in January 2020.

The Society has contributed £1000 towards ten large oak trees; to compliment over 100 smaller trees, and 120m of new hedging. The smaller trees have been funded by DEFRA through the ‘Trees for Learning’ project. The species mix will include: hawthorn, hazel, field maple, wild privet, crab apple, silver birch, bird cherry, holly, rowan, and alder buckthorn. All of which support a broad range of native insects, invertebrates and vertebrates by providing food, shelter, and breeding habitat.

There’ll be a lot to do, and the date is set for 23 January. Local council representatives and the Mayor are due to be in attendance, and not merely for the cameras – no one leaves without having picked up a spade, planted a tree and heeled it in!

Semi-mature oak trees have been plated already. the ground was too saturated in November for the saplings, however.

In a quiet location in Beeston near to allotments, paddocks and the railway line we have invited two classes from Trent Vale School and Beeston Rylands School, to come and help plant a small wood’s worth of broadleaved trees. 

The hope is also to be able to plant wildflowers and woodland plants in the near future, so as to benefit more wildlife and further add to the appeal of the area. There is water adjacent in the shape of an attenuation pond – whose water level rises and falls periodically. As Judy mentioned in her piece about the scheme last issue – Herons visit the pond, and the rushes and reeds must support a large variety of life. This could be increased further with the addition of other aquatic plant species. 

Areas like this are important to invest in, grow and protect. Providing a crucial role in Beeston’s limited wildlife corridor, these woody habitats and their species richness are reducing at an alarming rate. Taking any opportunity to create these environments can make a real difference to the thousands of creatures who inhabit them.

If you would like to get involved, there will be an opportunity to join community volunteers to plant the remaining trees and plants on a dig day the next day:
24 January, 10 am – 12 noon.
All you will need is stout footwear, and a spade if you have one. If you have any tree sapling of your own (perhaps your garden isn’t big enough after all…), please free to bring them along too.

For further details, please email, or follow We Dig NG9 on Twitter or Instagram for updates.