What’s with the dead bees?

Tonight I took a walk in Ditton Quarry Nature Reserve near Maidstone in Kent and came across about 30 dead bumble bees in one tiny patch of the quarry. Why?

My companionĀ saidĀ it made her anxious, “like something was wrong.”

We are all so tuned in to bee deaths nowadays and imagine it is a sign that we are screwing up the planet. We are. But a delve into the Bumblebees Conservation Trusts website suggested a more innocent explanation, an overdose of lime nectar.

Lime trees are abundant in the quarry and it is just possible that the bees went crazy with lime. It seems the bees don’t get the equation right between the energy content of lime and the amount of energy they should use in finding it. Like running from shop to shop trying to find a sugary snack which gives you energy for only a few minutes. The bees just drop from exhaustion, particularly at the end of the flowering season.

Ah, but here’s the snag. Lime trees don’t produce nectar in April, so my friend may well be right to feel anxious and something indeed may be very wrong.

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Out of my mind.

 copyright Mike Ellison


copyright Mike Ellison

Mindfullness may be coming a victim of it’s own success, like yoga and friendship bracelets and fairtrade coffee, once adopted by people who do or have or drink these things just to look cool, to be seen to be doing them, they cease to have their original meaning. So was I just falling into the same trap attending a mindfulness nature walk?

Certainly the meeting place was not conducive to looking cool, the corner of a community football field on a soggy Saturday in Ditton, Kent and the other participants were a healthy mixture of ages and nationalities although, maybe unsurprisingly, they were all women.

Vanessa, the leader was a trained psychologist and had begun running mindfulness sessions for people dealing with chronic pain.

“It doesn’t take away the pain,” she explained. “It focus’s the mind on something else.”

Her practice was based in London but she had begun offering the sessions locally because she wanted to give more people the opportunity to benefit.

Our little group moved from the playing field to Ditton Nature Reserve and stood in a circle as Vanessa chimed a bowl and dog walkers eyed us warily. The rain began, the dog walkers vanished, we stood there focussing on parts of our bodies, considering how each area felt and what it was doing. After a few seconds I stopped feeling like a weirdo and zoned in.

Vanessa encouraged us to listen to the raindrops, to each raindrop, to the space between the sound of each raindrop and suddenly, standing in the rain with a bunch of women I’d just met, wasn’t crackers but an amazing experience making you want to shout out to the bored teenagers and the fleeing dog walkers.

“Hey come over here and listen to the sound between each rain drop. It’s like, amazing.”

Luckily I restrained myself.

After a few minutes I felt on a different plane of relaxation and was sorry to hear the chime signalling that the session was over.

We took a walk around the reserve, a silent, meditation walk, stopping when we wanted to look at the colour and smell the wet earth and listen to the sounds of birds.

Having knowledge of the countryside can sometimes be a double edged sword. It is hard to switch off, to stop thinking, ‘oh, wild service tree, I wonder if that’s been planted’ or ‘solitary wasp burrows, I wonder what species.’ I eye everything with one eye on a management plan and a volunteer task, now I stopped. I looked at things in the abstract, the shape of branches, the springiness of the turf, the eye popping red of a rose hip. It was like stepping back, like seeing nature for the first time.

Suddenly I didn’t care whether mindfulness was trendy or weird or what anyone thought of me. As I stood in the rain transfixed by rosehips, I was fully appreciative and grateful for that moment. I was out of my head and that could only be a good thing.