La Locherie

Going Green: Plan Bee

Doing our bit to help the planetís most important pollinator

Hives Bee Collecting Pollen Blue Tit Fledgling

In 2012, we started keeping bees in an attempt to help protect the species, which is facing huge pressure from pesticides and disease. And if we get a few pots of honey at the end of the season, then that is a bonus. We might even have a jar or two available for our gite guests.

Itís fascinating to watch the bees streaming out of their hives and returning with supplies (but see Bee Careful, below). Often you can see the sacs on their back legs brimful with pollen, sometimes white, sometimes green, yellow, orange, brown or even red, depending on which flowers they have visited.

The bees are just the latest the steps we have taken to turn La Locherie into a green haven since we found the abandoned farmstead in 1999. Nature had taken over and, while we wanted to live here too, we have tried to squeeze ourselves in without forcing out too much of the wildlife that had made La Locherie its home. Since then we have planted more than 700 trees and hedging plants, over half of those since we acquired an adjoining two hectares of meadow and marsh at the end of 2009.

Marre de CanardWe have created a marre de canard or duck pond (minus the ducks), which is significantly bigger than the small pond we created in 2008. The marre is now well established and has become a haven for frogs, toads, newts, dragonflies, damsel flies, pond skaters, water boatmen, whirligig beetles, and a host of other bugs. We have also added aquatic plants and a variety of shrubs around the safety fence which encloses it. In Spring 2011, we added a bridge and jetty out of local green oak, which has weathered in to from part of the landscape.

When we renovated La Locherie, we did have to evict the barn owls from our chimney - after they were fledged - but they have happily relocated to the barn, where they, or their descendants, nest most years. One year they even shared the barn with a pair of nesting kestrels, without any apparent disharmony. We are not sure if the owls live in the barn during the winter but there is plenty of evidence that they perch in the rafters to devour their prey during night-long hunting trips. If you are lucky you might see them at twilight, swooping out of the barn to hunt low over the fields; in summer, you may hear the owlets "hissing" in their nest as they demand food. You will also hear the twit-twoo call of tawny owls and see buzzards soaring high above and sometimes perching on fence-posts.

Other birds frequently seen include kestrels, sparrowhawks, fieldfare, woodpeckers, jays, swallows, wagtails and herons, and our bird feeding station attracts flocks of goldfinches and greenfinches, chaffinches, robins, and great and blue tits; since birds tend to nest close to where they feed, we have added more nest boxes to encourage them to breed here.

LakeAnimals that have been spotted at La Locherie include the weasel-like stone marten, one (a pair?) of which also shares the barn with the barn owls; another incongruous pairing, since martens are known for feasting on bird eggs. The "ferret" that has been spotted a couple of times crossing the courtyard in winter, once with a white-tipped tail, another time robed all in white was possibly a stone marten.

Red squirrels, hares, deer, a family of foxes and of course hundreds of rabbits have also been spotted. We have scattered wildflower seeds over various parts of the grounds, including in the two plantations that we have called The Glade and the Wild Wood. These new woodlands are planted with various combinations of ash, sweet chestnut, silver birch, oak, willow and beech and these should grow to provide habitat for birds - and insects. Watch this space for further developmentsÖ


Bee pollinatingOur water features and apiary are fenced but young children should be supervised at all times. The larger pond in particular is deep water. Honey bees tend to mind their own business and will leave you alone if you donít disturb them, so if you are allergic to bee stings, have any fear of bees or tend to flap at insects buzzing round your head, keep away from the apiary, which is some distance from the gites and they are unlikely to bother you. They are not generally as aggressive as wasps Ė for one thing, bees die if they use their stings, unlike wasps, so normally they only sacrifice themselves if they think they are being attacked - nor are they as interested in what you are eating. If you notice them at all, it should be on flowers, where they will be too busy to notice you.

If you want to observe the apiary, DO NOT ENTER the fenced area and donít stand directly in front of the hives, even outside the fence, nor in their flight path (which is not necessarily in a straight line from the hives). If they are buzzing past your head move along; if they are buzzing AROUND your head keep calm and move quietly away and they should lose interest in you as you get further away from the colony.

Owl Bar

© La Locherie 2002 - 2018
page last updated: March 08 2015