Community joy as Westerfield station volunteer group wins national award

Published on: Tuesday, 8 August 2023
Last updated: Tuesday, 8 August 2023

Left to right, Laura Hadgraft, Sandy Burn and Yvonne Maynard, Westerfield station adopters

Efforts to support bees and other pollinators at Westerfield rail station, Suffolk, have been recognised with a national award.

Local ‘station adopter’ volunteers, who have developed a large wildlife-friendly garden at the station, have been named ‘Bees’ Needs Champions’ by the government’s Department for Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

The awards recognise organisations and groups that help protect pollinators in green spaces.

Over the last few years, the four volunteers at Westerfield station – Sandy Burn, Yvonne Maynard, Laura Hadgraft and Mary Pluquet, have been working to help the environment and bring benefits to the local community through gardening and conservation projects at the rail station.

They have cleared and planted a large area of land alongside the platforms in three stages, all with the aim of supporting wildlife, and created a stunning garden in the process, for the community and rail passengers to enjoy.

The first area to be planted contains a diverse variety of pollinating plants, with flowers blooming in succession to provide a reliable food source for bees and other insects.

The second garden area has a small wildflower area with a mix of perennial and annual seeds. Flowers come and go in succession and offer another reliable food source and the addition of a mini pond, donated by a local resident, has been used by tadpoles, dragon flies and birds.

The third area of the garden has the theme of ‘reuse, recycle, recover and reduce waste’. It contains a large bug habitat with a living sedum roof, dead hedges, log pyramids and organ pipe logs for stag beetles. Areas of bare ground and dead wood provide nesting sites for solitary bees and the volunteers have built early bumblebee nests inspired by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

Reclaimed and recycled materials such as old trunks, branches and twigs have been used to make raised beds and a bug habitat sits on a Gambian basket filled with the rubble cleared from the area.

The volunteers garden sustainably, avoiding pesticides, composting green waste and growing annuals from seed. They use peat free compost and source water from a water butt connected to the roof of the passenger shelter.

Station Adopter, Sandy Burn said, “We are absolutely thrilled to be recognised as Bees Needs Champions. We are passionate about conservation and education, so to transform this public area and involve the community is very rewarding. It means that we can provide a visual and memorable experience to people and at the same time, communicate the need for sustainable gardening practices.

“We are often rewarded with wonderful sights such as bees making their nests, ladybirds hibernating amongst the dead flower heads and many visiting birds and butterflies, and we hope that people find it an interesting and attractive place to visit.”

Alan Neville, Greater Anglia’s Customer and Community Engagement Manager, said, “We are very grateful to the station adopters at Westerfield for the incredible transformation they have carried out, creating a really magical place for rail passengers and wildlife alike and helping the station to become an active contributor to biodiversity locally.”

Rail stations in East Anglia are increasingly becoming havens for local wildlife thanks to the efforts of over 300 volunteers as part of Greater Anglia’s station adoption scheme, who last year transformed over 7,400 square metres of land into thriving wildlife gardens.

In a recent survey, Greater Anglia station adopters reported a wide range of creatures visiting their stations including many different types of butterflies as well as bees, slow worms, bats, foxes, toads, lizards, deer and many varieties of birds, recording more than 200 different species.

Greater Anglia has partnered with the region’s Wildlife Trusts to formally recognise the achievements of its team of volunteer ‘station adopters’ to create wildlife havens at stations across its network through the new ‘Greater Anglia Wildlife Friendly Stations Accreditation Scheme.’

Westerfield was accredited under the programme in June 2023.

Adopter, Sandy Burn, watering the green roof on the station's insect hotel.

Solitary bees nesting at Westerfield

Informational lectern at Westerfield station

Westerfield Station