Former farmland that has been transformed into a mosaic of habitats has been awarded “champion status” for a rare bee which has set up home there.
The shrill carder bee, named after its high-pitched buzz, is one of the UK’s rarest bumblebees with just five populations remaining across England and Wales.
The charity has planted trees to mark the 200th anniversary of Britain’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar, and transformed the 140-hectare (350 acres) site from mostly arable land into a mixture of woodland, scrub and grassland.
Four years ago – much to the surprise of conservationists – the shrill carder bee was discovered there, so the Woodland Trust teamed up with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and recruited volunteers to help boost the species.
They have provided forage and nesting sites for the bee, which needs plentiful flower-rich mosaics of habitat for food, nests and hibernation.
Training was given to volunteers and local residents to identify and survey for the bees, and surveying shows the population has risen significantly, with as many as 121 individuals recorded on one day.
The Bumblebee Conservation Trust has now announced that Victory Wood is a “champion site” for the shrill carder bee, celebrating the “exemplary work” it is doing for the rare bumblebee.
The shrill carder bee, like many bees, has seen major declines in populations in recent decades, with the loss of habitat such as species-rich meadows a key threat to the insect, and it is a priority species in England and Wales.
The Bumblebee Conservation Trust leads on a number of projects to create flower-rich habitat for the bee, including red bartsia, one of its favourite plants.
Victory Wood is on the edge of the Wilder Blean stretch of ancient wooded landscapes, one of the largest of its kind in south east England and an important habitat for local wildlife.
Elsewhere in Wilder Blean, bison have been introduced to manage the landscape for wildlife.
Dr Hazel Jackson from the Woodland Trust said: “We are so pleased and excited that Victory Wood has been recognised as a champion site for the Shrill carder bee – it’s a real conservation success story and a great example of nature recovery.
“It really does show how restoring nature to a site can boost biodiversity and aid our fight against climate change.”
Daisy Headley, from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, said: “We started designating champion sites to celebrate the exemplary work that sites are doing for our rare and scare bumblebees.
“Victory Wood, since its discovery, have gone above and beyond, not only managing the site sympathetically to provide forage and nesting habitat for this bumblebee, they have also aided in the monitoring of the population and promoting its story to those visiting the site.
“Hard work like this deserves to be recognised and we hope that other sites can look to Victory Wood for inspiration.”