On a cool July morning, the rain is threatening the skies in true Irish summer fashion.

But in the Richmond Barracks Garden, nobody seems to mind. There’s a group of intrepid biodiversity and bee enthusiasts (aged 9 to 12)  who are busily engaged in their outdoor work. All week, they’ve been participating in a Children’s Biodiversity Summer Workshop with Polly Rowley-Sams, where they’ve been exploring nature, wildlife and biodiversity in the garden.

They’re setting about planting seeds when we meet them.

The Lord Mayor meets the bees
Fionn, Erin, and Tara hard at work.  Photo by Mark Stedman.

Planting seeds well requires soft soil I’m told, so first you have to dig some weeds. The trick to this is pulling up the ones you don’t like (this requires muscles) and leaving the ones you like the look of –  like dandelions, which Cillian (10) tells me are good because bees like them.

The young naturalists point out a bay tree, debate about what one type of flower might be, and even find some fennel while they were getting ready to plant their seeds. (It seems they’ve learned a lot this week.)

So when the Lord Mayor Hazel Chu arrives and asks about their work, the children are excited to share some of their newly found knowledge about the natural world, and how they’ve been gathering information for a fact sheet about biodiversity and bees for visitors at Richmond Barracks. 

The Lord Mayor meets the bees
Kaja telling the Lord Mayor about the work the group did in the garden. Photo by Mark Stedman.

An inquisitive bunch, the children also had lots of pressing questions for the Lord Mayor, including whether she wears her chain with her pyjamas, or whether she gets to wear it at the weekends. One member of the group, Sadie (10), even managed to bag herself an autograph from the newly appointed Lord Mayor.

The Lord Mayor meets the bees
Erin showing the Lord Mayor some of the group’s artwork. Photo by Mark Stedman.

After thoughtfully checking to make sure that she wasn’t allergic to bees, the children led the Lord Mayor to see the newly installed bee hives at the other end of the garden.

The young biologists spotted an ailing bee on the path, and only after photographer Mark rescued it was it time for some photos with the Lord Mayor and the wonderful drawings the group had created during the week.

Kaja (9) told me about the maps of the garden that they drew, Charley Rose (9) shared her top bee fact (that we need bees for food) and Erin (10) added that bumble bees don’t really sleep.

The Lord Mayor meets the bees
Charlie introducing the Lord Mayor to our newest residents, the bees! Photo by Mark Stedman.

Other highlights from the week from everyone included doing the drawings for the fact sheets, blindfolded garden walk, making new friends, having cake for Tara’s birthday (Happy Birthday Tara!), and generally learning about the bees.

As the Lord Mayor continued to enjoy an amble in the garden, and the children made sure they had their seedling trays to take home with them, they wondered if people would find their fact sheets useful, if their seeds would grow into plants, and Sadie even contemplated whether or not she might be able to make a profit if she were to sell her autograph.

The work the group and Polly carried out this week will contribute to the  All-Ireland Pollinator Plan, and we’re looking forward to sharing the newly created fact sheets with visitors to Richmond Barracks soon.

The Lord Mayor meets the bees
The bio-diversity fact sheet.

Huge thanks to Polly-Rowley Sams for running such a fruitful workshop for the week, to all the children for their curiosity and hard work, and to the Lord Mayor Hazel Chu and her husband Patrick Costello TD for coming to visit us.