WE ARE living in a wonderful web of life where everything is kept in balance by nature’s positive and negative feedback systems.

It is the ecosystem and it works by itself.

Green plants maintain the ecosystem by producing oxygen and mopping up carbon dioxide, thus regulating the composition of the air to within limits that humans can survive in.

Our modern way of living though, has upset the balance in many ways. Instead of using organic fertilizers which are broken down slowly in the soil, inorganic fertilizers are used for food crops and are washed from the soil by rain into local water courses.

Levels of nitrates and phosphates in the streams running through Bicester have reached very high levels. These are measured annually by volunteers during the Waterblitz weekend. Such high levels are not good for the health of aquatic animals.

Our desire for novel plants and products imported from abroad has meant that diseases of our wonderful native trees have been imported with them. Dutch elm disease, ash die-back, sudden oak death are just a few diseases which have upset the communities of our native trees and tragically, these will eventually disappear from our countryside.

On the hopeful side, 2019 is the ‘Year of the Pollinator’ which celebrates of all the insects, bees, moths and butterflies that we depend on for fertilising fruit and vegetable blossom.

In Langford Orchard we are encouraging our pollinators by growing plants that are rich in nectar. The early flowering ‘pussy willow’ tree has beautiful nectar rich flowers which feed those bees that are about in the early months of the year.

We leave some ‘weeds’ like nettles and blackthorn as food for the caterpillars of tortoiseshell and hairstreak butterflies.

Colonies of bees that make honey are nurtured by beekeepers in protected hives but our wild native British bees are solitary and make nests in the ground. Honey bees compete with the wild bee for food so wild bees need to be looked after as well.

They need plenty of flowers to feed on, so there is enough food to go round and all the crops get pollinated.

As the countryside gets built over, the gardens in our towns become more important for feeding wildlife so please leave a corner to grow wild and encourage a variety of flowering plants all year round to keep it friendly for pollinators.

Resist using insecticides and weedkillers as these chemicals can kill friendly pollinators as well as those troublesome pests.