Friends of the Earth’s Great British Bee Count runs until June 30; we’ve picked six of the best places in Norfolk to get your count off to a buzzing start
Some of the best places for bee-spotting
1 EARLHAM CEMETERY, NORWICH
An impressive 37 different species of bee have been recorded at this tranquil spot in the city, including the orange-tailed mining bee, the wool carder bee and the patchwork leafcutter bee. Wool carder bees can often be seen on the flowers of Stachys (lamb’s ear) in June – they collect the hairs from these plants for their nests. Look for whitetailed, buff-tailed and red-tailed bumblebees in amongst the wildflowers too.
You can easily spend a relaxing hour enjoying the sights and sounds of the wildlife here. Friends of Earlham Cemetery have produced a self-guided walk for visitors which highlights what to look out for. During the summer the cemetery is open 7.30am – 8pm on weekdays, and from 8am at the weekend. Earlham Cemetery, Earlham Road, Norwich friendsofearlhamcemetery.co.uk
2 GREEN BRITAIN CENTRE, SWAFFHAM
The organic garden at the Green Britain Centre is all about encouraging pollinators – look out for common carder bees, garden bumblebees and red mason bees in the fruit and vegetable plots and in the orchard. Fifty different fruit tree varieties are grown here, many of which are distinct to Norfolk. If you’ve got questions about organic composting and growing, the gardeners are on hand to help. Try the fruit, vegetables, salad and herbs in the Café, and buy them in the shop. The centre also has a wind turbine you can climb to the top of, for panoramic views of the Norfolk landscape.
The Green Britain Centre is open Monday to Friday 9am to 4pm, 10am to 4pm on Saturdays. Windmill tours: 11am, 1pm, 3pm. Green Britain Centre, Turbine Way, Swaffham, Norfolk PE37 7HT, 01760 726100 greenbritaincentre.co.uk
3 EAST WRETHAM HEATH, THE BRECKS
A history of sheep grazing and rabbit warrening has created a distinctive landscape at Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s oldest Breckland nature reserve, just north of Thetford. On a hot summer’s day the open areas are buzzing with solitary bees. You may come across bees on plants that are found only in the Brecks, such as the low-growing, tiny pink blooms of Breckland thyme. If you visit in late June the first flowerings of purple-blue harebells should be a major attraction for species like the harebell carpenter bee. This bee is so tiny (6mm) that when the weather is bad the males curl up inside the flowers for several days at a time, to wait it out.
The heath is open every day, dawn to dusk. East Wretham Heath, three miles north-east of Thetford (use IP24 1RU) 01603 625540 norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk
4 SHERINGHAM PARK
Famous for its extensive collection of rhododendrons and azaleas, Sheringham Park’s 1,000 acres are also home to some wonderful wild places to spot bees, as well as stunning views of the Norfolk coastline. Look out for common carder bees and buff-tailed bumblebees on the white-pink flowers of thrift on the cliffs. Foxgloves in the woodland attract garden bumblebees, and the white and yellow blooms of oxeye daisies and yellow rattle in the wildflower meadow will be buzzing too.
Sheringham Park is just two miles on the train from Sheringham and makes a nice stop off on a walk along the Norfolk Coast Path. The parkland is open from dawn to dusk. Visitor centre and Courtyard Café: 10am to 5pm weekdays and Sundays, 9:30am to 6:30pm on Saturdays. Sheringham Park, Upper éSheringham, Norfolk NR26 8TL 01263 820550 nationaltrust.org.uk
5 HOLME DUNES, NORTH NORFOLK COAST
The North Norfolk coast is well-known for its spectacular birdwatching opportunities. This wild windswept landscape is not just a top spot for birds though. Where The Wash meets the North Sea, the Holme Dunes National Nature Reserve is home to wildflowers, butterflies, dragonflies and even rare natterjack toads. The dune grassland also attracts bees, including those that like to build their burrows in sandy spots.
The Norfolk coastline is a stronghold for the sea-aster mining bee – as its name suggests, it visits the flowers of sea aster, which grow on saltmarshes. This bee usually emerges later in summer, so keep your eyes peeled for other bees on the coast that should be easy to see in June, like the red-tailed bumblebee. Take in the bracing air and stunning views at the same time. The reserve, visitor centre and café are open daily, 10am to 5pm. Café closes 4:30pm. Holme Dunes, Holme next the Sea, North Norfolk PE36 6LQ, 01485 525240 norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk
6 OXBURGH HALL, NEAR SWAFFHAM
Seven miles south-west of Swaffham, this impressive 15th century moated manor house has 70 acres of gardens which are a magnet for bees. The white, purple and yellow of yarrow, clover and bird’s foot-trefoil bloom in the less formal areas - these native wildflowers are a major attraction for all sorts of bees. Lavender, sages and a whole host of other herbs and flowers in the borders of this National Trust property will be buzzing in midsummer too. Look out for common carder bees, early bumblebees and tree bumblebees busy collecting nectar and pollen. The Tree bumblebee sports a distinctive ginger, black and white coat. Oxburgh’s gardens, shop and tea room are open from 10:30am to 5pm all week; the hall from 11am to 5pm every day. N Oxburgh Hall, Oxborough, near Swaffham, Norfolk, PE33 9PS nationaltrust.org.uk
Common carder bee
OPPOSITE TOP: Buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) ABOVE: Hairy-footed flower bee