Work is set to start on the North West’s first urban bee and butterfly sanctuary in Carlisle.
The Swifts golf course and driving range in the city centre, which includes grassland, woodland and riverbanks, will be transformed into an urban nature reserve thanks to £80,000 funding from Cumbria Waste Management Environment Trust and £8,000 from the Environment Agency.
The funding will breathe new life into the 17 hectare site, transforming once manicured greens and fairways into wildflower meadows, species-rich wetland and native woodland, helping to boost populations of bees and butterflies.
The site is owned by Carlisle City Council, which will work with Cumbria Wildlife Trust to ensure the successful delivery of the project.
The funding has been secured by Cumbria Wildlife Trust, and working in partnership with Carlisle City Council, the restoration work will fall under the Get Cumbria Buzzing Project.
This project, supported by the National Heritage Lottery Fund, aims to create and link pollinator habitat across north west Cumbria.
Councillor Nigel Christian, portfolio holder for environment and transport, said: “Pollinating insects are a critical component of a healthy ecosystem, however more than half of UK bee, butterfly and moth species have declined in the past 50 years and 30 species of bee face extinction.
“Over the last 75 years 97 per cent of flower rich meadows have been lost, while 60 per cent of flowering plants are in decline.”
The Swifts project aims to restore and create three different types of habitat in the centre of Carlisle: wildflower hay meadows; diverse woodland containing native flowering tree and shrub species; and wet grassland featuring seasonal scrapes – shallow pools of water.
Mr Christian added: “This combination will not only provide essential habitat for pollinating insects but will also offer feeding and nesting opportunities for a wide range of bird and mammal species.
“As part of the project we will be retaining and enhancing the existing network of informal public footpaths across the site.”
The first stage of work at the Swifts is to carry out thinning the existing stands of trees, removing around 65 across the site.
The trees are mostly non-native, quick growing, species planted in lines when the site was in use as a golf course, but they are of very limited value to pollinators and also cause dense shading, preventing the growth of native woodland floor plant species.
The city council will follow this work up with a planting scheme for around 1,200 native flowering tree species and 300 native flowering shrubs in the autumn.
These will be planted in and around the existing wooded areas to improve diversity and increase their overall area.