Following the recent Government announcement, Martineau Gardens is re-opening. From mid-March, there will be a phased return of the Therapeutic Horticulture volunteers. On Monday 29 March, Martineau Gardens will re-open for public visits on Mondays – Fridays, from 10am until 4pm, (closed weekends and bank holidays, including closure on Good Friday and Easter Monday).
To plan your visit to Martineau Gardens, please read this page so you know what to expect and are prepared and please check this statement regularly for updates.
We are buoyed up by the support we have received from our Friends, Tree Dressing Donors and Charitable Trusts over this difficult period. Please consider becoming a Friend of Martineau Gardens to support the work that we do and help to keep Martineau Gardens open for free.
Contact details: Telephone: 0121 440 7430. If the office is not staffed please leave a message. You can also email us via [email protected] but please bear with us, since the response back will take longer than usual.
How do I become a Friend of Martineau Gardens – join here
“Here at Martineau Gardens, we can’t wait to welcome back school children for Educational Visits. When pupils visit, much of their day is spent outside. Children need this outdoor provision more than ever right now – to be able to observe the natural world helps to improve wellbeing and concentration and after having been restricted for so long, we’re delighted to be able to resume our outdoor learning programme.”
She added, “The topics they study are varied, but a typical visit might include exploring the different habitats at Martineau Gardens to learn about food chains, they examine parts of plants and learn about conditions plants need to grow. Or they might take part in a minibeast safari, do some pond dipping and or even go on a ‘pirate adventure’ where they learn how to use maps and compasses and make a boat. I can’t wait to get started again.”
School visits at Martineau Gardens resume from Tuesday 4 May 2021.
Though winter is a time when much wildlife is hibernating or lying low, emerging for food then darting back to the safety of their abode, on a sunny day, you might notice a honeybee foraging for food. That got us thinking, what do beekeepers do over winter? We asked our volunteer beekeeper, Sam Walker, what are the main challanges are over the winter months.
What do beekeepers do over winter?
Sam explains: “Winter is less busy time, but it’s still an important time for beekeepers. Throughout the winter months, the hives must still be monitored but less invasively and less frequently, so as not to disturb the winter cluster. I’ve been visiting the hives at Martineau Gardens regularly over winter. I’m checking that the bees’ food stores are still accessible and topping them up, if needed. Honeybees prefer the the nest at a constant temperature, they achieve this by clustering together, just like King penguins huddling to keep warm!.”
Do bee’s hibernate?
A honeybee colony will hibernate but may fly if the weather is warm enough and there is food. By contrast with bumble bees and wasps, only the queen will hibernate – the workers (female) and drones (male) die out before the winter.
Is honey being produced over winter?
A honeybee colony may contain approximately 50,000 to 60,000 bees during the summer, but far fewer are needed over winter, this maybe reduced to around 10,000 bees over winter. This is the reason why honeybees store extra food. They need the extra stores to get them through the winter, so it’s important for beekeepers to ensure they have enough food. They don’t tend to make honey over winter in the UK as there isn’t the volume of plants they need to forage from to make honey.
Do honeybees forage over winter?
During mild winters the honeybees will actually use more food stores that they would in a very cold winter. If it is a mild day during the winter honeybees may be seen flying in the apiary for toilet breaks or to forage for nectar and pollen from the few winter flowering sources of food, such as ivy, gorse, hellebores, winter honeysuckle, winter heliotrope and winter jasmine and snowdrops. This website is a great and informative source of which wildflowers to expect each month. http://www.seasonalwildflowers.com
Why have you been moving slabs around in the aviary?
So along with checking food stores it’s good idea to check that hives have not fallen over in bad weather. And that no unwanted visitors have been visiting such as mice and woodpeckers. As food becomes more scarce for these animals they look for any opportunities!
Winter is also an excellent time to do any work in the apiary as there are less bees flying! I have been making a few improvements. I have lifted the hives a little more and on to longer hive stands to give me more room to work, placing slabs on the ground below the hives to try to reduce the moisture within the hives, and save my back a little. Sometimes swarms land under the hives and this will make it a lot easier to retrieve them.
In January, when Sam was re-organising the area, she moved a slab and found a neatly gathered store of cherry stones – all nibbled with a small hole – the store cupboard of a woodmouse.
What are your plans for 2021 at Martineau Gardens?
The start of the year I’m checking and cleaning equipment, making repairs, and planning the coming beekeeping season based on records made from previous years. Making sure I have enough equipment and reading up on bees, there is an amazing amount of information. This winter I have been studying honeybee pests, diseases and poisonings, forming a zoom study group with other beekeepers from Birmingham Beekeepers Association. We have also started to look into honeybee Management and Behaviour which are all modules run by the British Beekeepers Association to improve the beekeepers skillset. I have also had a little go at making mead too! (A traditional alcoholic drink made by fermenting honey.)
The beekeeping season generally starts in April time but is temperature and frost dependent. Full inspections of the honeybee colonies will not take place until there has been no frosts and the daytime temperatures have reached 16ºc. There is a short period before the honeybees start to expand their nest in which you can prepare for the swarming season, and start to look for cues that the colony is about to swarm which is the natural way in which honeybees multiply to make new colonies.
We’ve run beekeeping classes at Martineau Gardens for a number of years, sadly we had to cancel our classes planned for 2020, due to the pandemic, but we’re looking at how we can deliver these safely this year, and will be letting people know what’s possible. An area of beekeeping that is growing in interest is ‘Natural Beekeeping’ – looking after the interests of the bee population, not just keeping bees for honey. I’m attempting to combine some of these practices into my beekeeping husbandry techniques to try to have more of a Natural Beekeeping focus.
While we’re in lockdown, we’ve been misssing Stick Man fans, who regularly come to Martineau Gardens to follow our Stick Man activity trail. Our friends over at Social Farms and Gardens thought they’d bring outdoor adventure to you at home, whilst the trails (at various locations around the country) are not available.
In celebration of World Book Day, check out their special online activity videos featuring your favourite character on their YouTube channel.
We hope to see you at Martineau Gardens soon – please keep an eye on our Covid-19 Statement here for announcements regarding re-opening in Spring 2021. We can’t wait to see you again!
And, meanwhile, watch our environmental educator, Juliette Green, making a Stick Man out of twigs and craft materials, in the woodland at Martineau Gardens, filmed on a sunny spring day in 2020:
If it feels a bit too cold to be looking for twigs for your Stick Man figure, then watch this film in which Juliette demonstrates a few indoor crafty alternatives to celebrate World Book Day 2021 (filmed in lockdown).
Now the vaccine programme is well underway, we can’t wait to welcome back our volunteers as soon as lockdown provisions allow.
Therapeutic Horticulture Set to Continue
With Covid restrictions continuing into 2021 and in anticipation of frost, rain, or freezing fog, we have been considering our options for January and beyond. Gardening together on the Therapeutic Horticulture programme is a mainstay of many volunteers’ lives, and maintaining safe space indoors is key to facilitating winter work.
A breath of fresh air and we hope an experience of calm and tranquillity. Our gardens have been well looked after over these last few months, by the Therapeutic Gardening team – there are new things to see and the gardens are flourishing. Your visit will be a little different to the times you have spent with us before, please read through the following so you are prepared.
Throughout the growing year, Martineau Gardens grows a huge variety of fruit and vegetables that are suitable for preserving. From apples, pears, rhubarb and gooseberries to figs and mulberries – the orchard, vegetable beds, glasshouses and soft fruit cages produce quite a bounty.
We are sorry to announce Martineau Gardens is temporarily closed for volunteers and public visits during the early weeks of Lockdown 3. We’ve taken the decision to pause Therapeutic Horticulture and our Martineau Mondays for a few weeks until we feel it is safe to begin again. Some staff are furloughed with a smaller crew looking after the Gardens and keeping in touch with our volunteers.
Usually, in December, we would hold our Volunteer Festive Gathering – enjoy eating homemade food together, the windows of the Pavilion steaming up as we laugh, exchange cards and generally have a jolly time.
Pictured here, one of our Friday volunteers having a very satisfying gardening moment. Pat is particularly interested in seed saving, and has the skill and patience to reap success. Back in Summer 2019, Pat brought into the Gardens a very expensive and great tasting punnet of tomatoes from which she extracted, dried and stored the seed. These were then sown, just before March lockdown in 2020. They germinated and so Pat planted them in troughs in the keder house and has tended to them ever since.
By early summer, the plants were being raised in the keder house – providing a delicious and sweet, pale orange fruit.
Pat had picked a sturdy variety – here she is in December 2020, picking the final tomatoes.