LEE Park Golf Club, finalist in this year’s Operation Pollinator Awards, is proving a sanctuary for birds, animals, insects and wildflowers despite its proximity to Liverpool.
The course covers just 90 acres within a largely urban environment, a few miles east of the city centre. Yet it has become an extremely valuable wildlife haven.
With great design and clever use of all the available space, it has fitted in a host of ecological features, alongside an award-winning 5,950-yard long course.
The work of club manager Steve Settle, head greenkeeper Jon McMullen and green staff, and the green committee led by Alan Pennington – along with the close involvement of a number of members – Steve Young wildlife photography and Bert Hodson bee house maker – supports a wide variety of habitats, from expanses of grasslands, wildflowers and water features, to pockets of mature woodland and plantations.
The ecological work can also bring benefits for turf management, said Jon. “Behind the ninth green, for example, clearing ground cover and removing self-seeded trees to open up the woodland canopy, has also improved light and air flow to the green that reduces disease risk.” It’s also allowed natural bluebells, which had laid dormant, to flower, along with newly planted wildflower areas.
The team has also focused on managing the enlarged water features around the course, two ponds that have been cleaned and opened up, and a new lake, sandstone bridge and waterfall feature – are all now breeding areas for the protected Great Crested Newt. Bumble bees and butterflies abound in the surrounding wildflower areas.
Bird and bat boxes were made in-house and sited around course, with log piles also created in out of play area to quickly and cost-effectively provide diverse wildlife habitats. A “bee hotel” – a low cost habitat for the pollinating mason bee, was made from old wooden pallets and logs by greenkeeper Ian Evans.
Fine grasses have been encouraged and actively managed in front of the tee area; bringing environmental gains and creating wildlife corridors whilst saving fuel/labour costs with reduced demand for mowing.
Steve added that the club views its award-winning environmental work as an important part of its contribution to the local community.
“Our course not only provides an attractive setting for playing golf,” he said, “but will equally support considerable ecological interest and provide valuable habitat for wildlife for years to come. Five awards in the past eight years shows our commitment to the environment.”
Operation pollinator awards judge and STRI ecology consultant, Sophie Vukelic, added: “Steve, Jon and Alan and the team at Lee Park have pioneered so many great ideas, which others can integrate into their course management. It is so important that we inspire others to play a part in conserving vitally important insects through creating the wildflower habitats promoted by operation pollinator.”