Residents of a coastal town have created “a vital green wildlife corridor” alive with bees and rare butterflies for future generations to enjoy.
Councillor Fiona Hanlon, Grange ward councillor on South Lakeland District Council (SLDC), began the wildflower meadow project from scratch five years ago at Olive Way in Grange-over-Sands.
The ownership of the pathway, which runs from the Promenade to Berners Close car park, was transferred to SLDC following the construction of new homes at Cedric Walk (named after the former Queen’s Guide to the Sands, Cedric Robinson and his late wife, Olive).
“The wildflower meadow project has been hard work but a total delight,” said Cllr Hanlon, who was elected onto SLDC in August this year. “The whole community has really got behind it, and many more from South Lakes waiting to receive their COVID jabs at the nearby doctors’ surgery were thrilled to discover it.
“I made and placed benches from planks and stumps donated by Barker’s timber merchants in amongst the wildflowers with a view of the bay and these are now used every day by locals and visitors.”
The land at Olive Way first came to Cllr Hanlon’s attention in 2016 via a resident living nearby. “Sadly it provided an untidy walk for locals and a poor first impression of Grange for visitors to the promenade,” said the district councillor, who set about tidying up the lane and replanting it with wildflowers and pollinator plants to attract bees, birds and butterflies.
“While I was completing the first sections the local community got onboard by offering donated plants and last year I received funding from Grange Town Council’s Bay Villa Trust, Grange Lions and Grange Chamber of Trade to buy additional bulbs, plants and mulch,” said Cllr Hanlon, who is grateful to all who have helped so far, including fellow SLDC Grange ward councillor Cllr Peter Endsor and the children of Grange.
“In autumn 2020 I started our new wildflower meadow, named Daisy’s Meadow after my granddaughter. I involved Grange CE School and a local early years setting, Mi-Newts, to sow the seed so that in future years the youngest in our community would think of it as theirs and would hopefully be interested in keeping it going.”
Lynn Lacey, who runs Mi-Newts Childcare in the town, said: “All the children have enjoyed the project and we have visited several times a week to watch the wildflowers grow. We have particularly enjoyed the wild variety of butterflies and insects that the flowers have attracted. We are a real team of mini eco-warriors.”
SLDC’s Climate Change Action Plan highlights the importance of local citizens feeling “a sense of ownership” and empowerment when a community’s green space is improved, so that the benefits will be realised “long into the future”.
The wildflower meadow offers a perfect example of that ambition and SLDC’s contractors Continental Landscapes have now taken over pruning, mulching and strimming duties at the meadow. They are working closely with Cllr Hanlon to ensure biodiversity at the site is protected and enhanced.
“The council have now secured the future of Olive Way as a vital green wildlife corridor,” said Cllr Hanlon. “The project has been a steep learning curve but a huge success with locals and visitors who now go out of their way to walk down the lane and sit on the benches there to enjoy the flowers and wildlife.
“We now have many different species of bee and two rare coastal butterflies among our 15 species. The Small Heath butterfly used to be widespread but now it’s on the high priority list. The Small Blue is also now a priority species for conservation efforts and the fact that I have spotted it several times here on Olive Way and reported in it in Butterfly Conservation’s annual Big Butterfly Count is very significant.”
Having planted a bluebell walk in winter 2020, Cllr Hanlon is now transforming weed-filled banking into a prairie garden using donated plants. “It will eventually be a drought-tolerant feast for pollinators and birds, merging with the grasses and wildflowers already there,” she said.
“I thought that might be my last major project but during the planting, I found a huge and very beautiful bright green frog among my plants so I’m now planning a safe wildlife pond for near the meadow and prairie garden.”
Paying tribute to Cllr Hanlon and the people of Grange, SLDC Locality Team Leader Sue Warner added: “Thank you to everyone who has helped make Olive Way look absolutely beautiful. We look forward to seeing the meadow continue to flourish for future generations.”