The banks of Clipstone Brook at the bottom of Parsons Close originally consisted of a monoculture of nettles and Himalayan balsam. The Himalayan balsam was brought under control by South Beds Friends of the Earth and the Greensand Trust between 2010 and 2012, but this left a monoculture of nettles with no flowers. In April 2012, Leighton-Linslade In Bloom was launched in Parsons Close, and at this event South Beds Friends of the Earth, Councillor Brandon, and other volunteers dug up an area of nettles next to the main path and planted some wildflower plants from the Community Treat Trust [link?]. The area looked bare throughout the year and we had to keep digging up nettles throughout the summer as they kept coming back.
In 2013, wildflowers started to establish in the main area by the interpretation board, and we started to see some colourful flowers instead of just green. In July 2013 . The area was nominated for an Anglia In Bloom biodiversity award.
We opened up the area between the skate park and the brook by mowing the path and allowing the existing comfrey and black whorehound to flower; we also planted flowers on the steep bank beside the skate park.
The main area by the interpretation board is gradually becoming more established, despite flooding in winter and drying out in summer. We have planted wild angelica and loosestrife, which are doing well, and comfrey does well close to the brook as it survives flooding. We stop it from spreading by digging up some of the plants every year and using them in some of our other bee-friendly areas. Other plants that have done very well in this difficult situation are red campion, stitchwort, wild geranium and musk mallow. However, many wildflowers are over by about July and the challenge is to increase the number of plants that flower later in the summer.
In the area between the skate park and the brook we have managed to establish primroses, knapweed, marjoram, burdock and teasel, which provide nectar and pollen for bees at various times in the year.
In 2013-2014 we started to transform the new area by the footbridge on the far bank, which is a shady area under trees which was a monoculture of tall nettles. At the launch of Leighton-Linslade In Bloom 2013 we dug out the nettle roots and planted comfrey, campion and foxgloves.
Between 2012 and 2017 we worked on the very steep bank at the far side of the brook, which gets a lot of sun. Originally it was covered in nettles, and then with thick grass, which is challenging, but the area has huge potential. We planted oxeye daisies in 2012 but we had not dug out enough nettle roots so the nettles came back and slugs ate many of the remaining wildflowers. In 2013 we dug out more nettles and planted more wildflowers. We have been steadily working on getting knapweed, red campion, hedge woundwort, teasel and snowdrops established to provide nectar and pollen for bees at different times of the year. Gradually the grass is being kept under control and the wildflowers are establishing.
In 2016-2017 we extended the area of the bank and planted many more primroses. We also dug out three large areas at the top, which we have planted up.
We have visited the nearby Pulford Lower School a number of times to give talks on bees and carry out various activities, and our local MP Andrew Selous attended an assembly there on bees and judged a competition on wildlife-friendly gardens. In May 2015 the children carried out a survey of bees and plants. We plan to carry out more surveys so that we can get an accurate idea of which plants establish well and which don’t, as well as finding out what bees, butterflies and other insects there are in the area.
Overall, the whole area along the brook has changed from a monoculture of nettles to a very biodiverse ecosystem, following the National Pollinated Strategy to create both food and shelter for pollinators. Removing nettles and changing the ecosystem is a very slow job. The breakthrough was having the confidence to remove the willow herb which had been the only late summer flowering plant in the main area, but was smothering the other plants. Foxgloves have not succeeded, but comfrey, stitch worked, red campion, black whorehound, marjoram, wild geranium, primroses, knapweed, musk mallow, St John’s wort, teasel and burdock have been very successful. To garden plants, nepeta (catmint) and hollyhocks, have also done well. We helped with the Green Flag application in May 2015 and with Leighton-Linslade In Bloom 2012-2015 and in 2017.
We have only had two incidences of vandalism, and we have had many appreciative comments from people who use the area regularly.
[page on Phil Irving’s survey?]