Cumbria Crack

Virgin Trains creates a buzz at Penrith station with new bee garden

[A] new garden at Penrith station, Cumbria has been created to welcome an entirely different type of local commuter, thanks to the work of Virgin Trains and 25 local gardeners. The garden, located at Platform 2 in Penrith train station, is thought to be the first bee-friendly garden on the West Coast Main Line and is designed to provide the insects with the habitat they need and show how important they are in the production of food.

What began as a small idea from Liam Edmondson and John Kelly (Virgin Trains Customer Service Assistants at Penrith) to create a space for customers to relax before catching a train has flourished into a bee garden thanks to the hard work of the Penrith Community Gardeners.

Liam and John initially set out to provide customers with a space they could sit and relax away from the hustle and bustle of the station, in support of Virgin Trains’ partnership with national charity Rethink Mental Illness. However, it soon became apparent that the garden could also provide the tranquil habitat needed by a different type of local sightseer.

Keen to highlight the declining habitats available to bees and inspire people to encourage bees in their own gardens, the Penrith Community Gardeners brought together gardeners, volunteers, clients from Eden Mencap and schoolchildren from North Lakes School to create a bee haven.

The garden features bee-friendly plants including nasturtiums, wildflowers and rosemary, a grassed area with picnic benches and a Bee Hotel. To encourage bees across the station, suitcases transformed into planters have been placed on different platforms. Visitors can learn more about bees through a colony of decorative yellow bees on display that feature facts about buzzy insects.

Michael Byrne, Virgin Trains Station Manager at Penrith, said: “At Virgin Trains, our stations are gateways to the local communities we serve. Here in Penrith our bee-friendly garden offers a warm welcome to people and bees alike, and we can reassure our customers that in true Cumbrian spirit, the local bees are a very friendly, laid-back bunch.

“We’re proud to support what matters to the local community and create a place where people can take time out of their day to relax. We’ve had great fun working with everyone involved – not only have we helped to attract more bees but we’ve brightened up the station, brought a smile to those travelling to, from or through Penrith station, and created a real buzz within the community.”

Joan Robinson, from Penrith Community Gardeners, said: “We love to work with the Virgin Trains team at Penrith – they’re so enthusiastic. With half a million people using Penrith station each year we wanted to make the introduction to our town as friendly as possible. The station is an ideal location to encourage everyone to ‘bee’ friendly as well!”

Darryl Cox, Science & Policy Officer at Bumblebee Conservation Trust, said: “It’s fantastic to see the local community and the Penrith station team come together to make a space for bees and other pollinators. Our wildflower habitats have undergone a serious decline over the last eighty years and this is a shining example of how we can provide food for pollinators in our communities. It would be great to see other stations follow their lead. Perhaps there could even be a competition for the most bee-friendly railway station.”

The Penrith Bee Garden has been nominated for the Cumbria in Bloom Awards and features as part of the town’s entry in Britain in Bloom, where it has reached the final.

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