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Norwich farmer's special mix is the bees knees

PUBLISHED: 15:00 20 October 2011

Chris Skinner shows walkers at his farm the abundance of bumble bees in one small patch of phacelia.

Chris Skinner shows walkers at his farm the abundance of bumble bees in one small patch of phacelia.

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A farmer with a passion for nature and the environment is the bees knees when it comes to conservation.

Chris Skinner of High Ash Farm, found on Caistor Lane, Caistor St Edmunds, has now seen the numbers of endangered bumble bees on his farm not only return to a healthy number but soar way beyond thanks to his specially engineered pollen and nectar mixes.

As previously reported the farm, which has just been voted as the second most popular attraction in Norfolk, has wild flower fields ideal for the species, with a mix including yarrow, black medic, ox eye daisy and phacelia.

“There’s millions of them,” said Mr Skinner. “They need help to thrive as insecticides and chemicals from aeroplanes hugely affect them. I’ve created an ideal habitat for them, in summer the flowers were so dazzling you could barely see.

“Don’t just think of bees and think of honey, rape, apples and plums are all nectar pollinated, they are so much more important. If we lose them we will become the losers.”

During the August bank holiday weekend 2,000 people visited the farm, to take to the paths of the bee walks and spot rare birds, which benefit from special seed mixes on the fields, in the observation hides.

Mr Skinner said: “To start with I was concerned about having people on my farm, but I’ve always lived by the Norfolk motto, ‘do different’ and it’s been an absolute delight.

“The other well known motto is ‘get off my land!’, but I choose to ‘do different’.”

The farm also has an Anglo Saxon cemetery on its grounds.

“It’s not just wildlife,” said Mr Skinner, “it’s natural history. The real heritage is that which passes on without common ownership.”

With his work Mr Skinner hopes to provide an example of profiting from the environment without harming it.

“We don’t rule nature, it rules us, as a species. I’ve been fortunate to have the chance to do well without using harmful methods. To go forward when you are ignorant is to go backwards, we (High Ash Farm) are ahead of the game because we’re behind the game.”

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