Festival of Food at Stubbylee Community Greenhouses

Tomorrow – saturday 1st september, there is a festival of food at Stubbylee Community Greenhouses, sorry about the short notice!   I can’t make it as I am starting a course in bee keeping at offshoots but I will try to get some info about the days activities to follow. At the festival there will be:

  • Food Stalls
  • Birds of Prey
  • Children’s games
  • Live Music
  • Stone and wood carving
  • Arts and craft stalls

map for stubbylee gardens

Also please check out the new   stubylee community greenhouses website !

Free Beekeeping course at offshoots

Please join us at offshoots for this beekeeping course!

beekeeping course@ offshoots
free beekeeping course at offshoots

Swarming Bees

A few months ago on one of the few sunny days we have had this year, the bees at offshoots took there opportunity to swarm – all at once!  There were three swarms within several hours!  I think of a bee swarm as being like a revolution.  A swarm occurs when the queen leaves the colony with about 60% of the worker bees.  A swarm can contain thousands to tens of thousands of bees.

I took some pictures of Phil and Lisa – the offshoots staff – taking care of the bees and recapturing them to put in a new hive.

bee swarm @ offshoots
the swarming bees

The swarm forms in a cluster around the queen on a branch close to the original hive. If left like this, scout bees will soon go looking for a new site to host the new hive.  The scouts find the best locations and return performing a dance to communicate the location and distance of the potential site.  Once other scouts have checked and agreed on a viable location, the swarm will then move.  Once this happens the hive is lost.

For the beekeeper, bees swarming can be bad because it weakens the hive significantly.  Up to 60% of the bees can be lost due to swarming.  It is therefore considered good practice to minimise  bee swarms.  However retrieving a swarm gives the beekeeper a new hive, so this at least is a consolation and may sometimes be done intentionally, although care must be taken not to weaken the hive to much.

phill with bee swarm @ offshoots
Phill carefully cutting down the branch

It was important for Phill and Lisa to act quickly to retrieve the bees before they found a new location. Retrieving the hive is a delicate process and involves cutting the branches around the swarm before cutting off the clustered branch.

recapturing the bee swarm@offshoots
the swarm being knocked into the hive

The cluster is then knocked of into a new hive box containing some honey to coerce the bees into there new home.  Once the queen is inside the new hive, the other bees will follow.

new bee hive@offshoots
the bee cluster settling into there new home

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Filming for the National Lottery Awards and The Upland Moorland Restoration project.

Wednesday 15th August

On the 15th there was a film crew at the offshoot site, filming for the national lottery awards to be shown in November!

national lottery awards
filming for the national lottery awards at offshoots

The offshoots team were demonstrating there role in the Upland Moorland Restoration project, commissioned by united utilities.

planting cotton grass
planting cotton grass

Offshoots are growing 70,000 plugs of cotton grass as part of the watershead landscape project. The project involves schools and volunteers propagating cotton grass plugs, to be planted upon Worsthorne Moor.

cotton grass seeds
cotton grass seeds

Planting cotton grass helps to reduce patches of eroded and bare peat, which has many benefits. Peat retains carbon and reduces soil erosion. Reducing soil erosion reduces the amount of soil that gets washed into reservoirs thus improving water quality.

cotton grass plugs
cotton grass plugs

Reducing eroded peat also improves the habitat for internationally rare ground nesting birds.  Charlotte Weightman RSPB officer, was at Offshoots with some wonderful carvings to show how the watershead landscape project is helping the Twite.


a booklet about the twite
a booklet about the twite

” The twite (Carduelis flavirostris). or Pennine finch’ as it is known locally, is a small brown bird that has bred in the uplands of Britain for at least eight thousand years.

In the nineteenth century, it used to live and breed in 12 English counties, now it is found in just four, and in the last 14 years numbers have nose dived by over 90%, They usually nest in small colonies, but now there are only about 100 breeding pairs, living in about 20 colonies in England – mainly in the South Pennines. Most seed-eating songbirds feed their chicks on insects, but twite are unusual in feeding almost entirely on seed, even their chicks. “

The plight of the twite

” The twite is like no other bird on earth. It has two completely different populations — one in Northern Europe and a well-separated population in the Himalayas. Even in Europe, it only breeds mainly in Norway and Britain, which is highly restrictive. Twite from Norway have never been proven to fly to Britain, so if we lost our British twite, the chances of re-colonisation are very small indeed. This makes the population very precious, so a reduction in breeding numbers anywhere in Britain is a very serious matter. The twite has undergone a steeper decline than any other moorland bird species in England. In recognition of this, nationally the twite is a red-listed bird of conservation concern and a UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP priority species.

Traditional farming methods will help both stabilise and hopefully increase the twite numbers— and also have a beneficial effect on other birds, plants and insects. The two most important elements are late-cut hay meadows and lightly-grazed pasture. “

Priority Action

  • ” Provide seed-rich feeding areas, such as late-cut hay meadows, within 2.5km of the moorland nesting areas
  • Maintain patches of bracken on steeper slopes to provide nesting habitat and ensure these are not burned
  • Manage moorland to ensure that there are areas of tall heather or bilberry close to the enclosed in-bye, Preferably on gulley sides
  • Retain weedy areas along field edges, dung heaps, roadside verges or rough patches.
  • twite will appreciate feeding from annual weeds in root crops or cereals and their stubbles on upland farms “
the twite
carving of the twite

You can read more about how the watershead project is helping the Twite at the watershead project website.  Hear the twite at the RSPB  website.

The Upland Moorland Restoration programme was spearheaded by the watershead landscape project, which is managed by Pennine Prospects and delivered in partnership with united utilities, Groundwork Pennine Lancashire, Moors for the Future and Yorkshire Water amongst others.

the male twite
a carving of the male twite bird
the female twite
a carving of the female twite