Christopher Palmer Associates were appointed by MEPC Hillington Park Landholdings in Spring 2009 to prepare proposals and let contracts to apply some of the biodiversity enhancement recommendations of an environmental report by MacKenzie Bradshaw Enivronmental Consulting and to follow this through with monitoring exercises over 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.
The work concentrated on the following key objectives over ten sites, selected across the MEPC landholding where development was unlikely in the short term:
- Small areas of habitat creation.
- Planting of native shrub & tree species within landscaping proposals.
- Coppicing and thinning of dense mixed and single species plantings.
- Changed management of amenity grassland to be managed as species-rich grassland.
- Monitoring of birds, butterflies and moths.
In 2010, MEPC embarked on a Biodiversity Benchmark Audit promoted by The Wildlife Trusts and was successful in gaining a Biodiversity Benchmark Award in May 2011. This is a first for an industrial estate anywhere in the UK. A further successful audit was carried out in 2012. Confirming the award in 2011, Peter Dorans, Corporate Relations Manager for the Wildlife Trusts stated “Only a handful of organisations have achieved the standard of site management which meets the requirements of Biodiversity Benchmark. To be the first to achieve it in a sector where there may be more limited opportunities for biodiversity enhancement on such sites further enhances your success”.
In 2010, 2011 and 2012 moth counts have been carried out by under the supervision of of Dr Paul Tatner, the County Moth Recorder using light traps at two sites on the west side of the MEPC landholding. In 2012 over 100 species of moths were recorded.
Visually the grass areas are now more interesting with subtle changes in appearance as the seasons progress as different flower and grass species come and go. Mown walks through longer grass areas containing wild flowers are attractive to butterflies and provide an enriched experience to site users over the close mown amenity grassland.
Reducing the extent of regularly cut amenity grass and allowing large areas to grow on have enabled native flowering plants and grasses already present in the sward to flower, providing more foraging for pollinating insects and other invertebrates and in turn more foraging for both insect and seed eating birds. Of note have been the appearance of Northern Marsh Orchids, Spring flowering Cuckoo Flower, Cardamine pratensis on a number of the sites, attracting & providing a food source for Orange Tip butterfly. In 2012 Common Twayblade, Neottia ovata was recorded for the first time.
In addition to changes in grassland management, selective coppicing to dense areas of mixed woody plants has allowed more light to get down to the understorey, giving the herb layer more opportunity to develop. In the first season after coppicing shrubbery, Broad Leaved or Common Helleborine Epipactis helleborine made an appearance and has been recorded each year since. It is anticipated that the understorey will develop in further years as the mulched material breaks down and is already giving rise to autumn displays of a range of fungi.
The project also undertook refurbishment of selected areas of amenity planting which lacked visual and wildlife interest. Tired block planting single species amenity shrubs were either removed or coppiced back and new mixed plantings of shrub and herbaceous planting introduced.
A programme of ‘lunchtime learning bites’ talks was introduced by MEPC Biodiversity Project officer Alison Clark iin 2010 and continued through to Spring 2012 where employers and employees of companies on the estate were invited to a series of talks on biodiversity.
School Tree Planting Day
In Spring 2011 a group of special needs schoolchildren carried out an afternoon of native tree planting on one of the sites.
Wild Flower Seed Trial
In Spring 2011 seeding of annual, biennial and perennial wildflower species was carried out in the outline of a butterfly on the M8 development site frontage to Mossland Drive. In the first season predominantly the annual species made a showing. In 2012 more of the perennial species became evident, particularly Kidney Vetch and Vipers Bugloss. The Kidney Vetch was a major attractor of bumblebees.
All seed was from Scottish provenance, collected from Fife, Angus, Berwickshire and Inverness-shire and supplied by Scotia Seeds.
Allotment Garden and Honey Bee Project
In recognition of the increased interest and demand for people to grow their own food and as an extension to the Biodiversity Project, MEPC have created an area of allotment plots on a former tennis court behind the bowling club at Arrol Road.
In addition, three beehives were introduced onto the overgrown tennis court to the south of the new allotments on Arrol Street. The project is being co-ordinated by Warren Bader of Plan Bee Ltd, a company of urban farmers who champion biodiversity through partnership with business & local communities. There has been renewed interest in beekeeping in recent years following the awareness that honey bees are in trouble with numbers declining world wide through disease and other environmental factors. Bees and other pollinating insects are vital for the successful pollination of many of our food crops and it is hoped that the installation of the hives next to the allotments will have beneficial effects for crop production.
The area was a derelict tennis courts site on the estate, which was a magnet for illegal dumping.
Monitoring has included plant species counts using 1m x 1m grassland quadrats, breeding bird surveys, butterfly and moth counts. Over 40 species of bird and 100 species of moths have been recorded at Hillington Park since the project began.