Administered by the Ayrshire Sustainability Group, the Irvine to Girvan Nectar Network is a working partnership made up of golf courses and local retail and manufacturing businesses. Other interested parties include the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, The R&A, Scottish Golf Environment Group and Sports Turf Research Institute.
The Group, which came together to share best practice ideas, implementation and policies, has now embarked on the Irvine to Girvan Nectar network conservation project. Initially, their aim was to re-introduce the small blue butterfly, which was last seen in Ayrshire in 1983 due to habitat fragmentation and loss of its primary food source, the wildflower kidney vetch.
After identifying and surveying land owned by the respective group members, it was discovered that not all of the land was suitable habitat for the small blue and kidney vetch; however the conservation project had gained such momentum that it was felt that all of the land owners should still participate in conservation enhancements, but ones best suited to their own landscape.
As of 11 June 2015, eight small blue butterflies have been recorded on the Dundonald Links.
The small blue has become the flagship species for the project, but not its entire focus as many species have been identified that would benefit from restoring corridors of wildflower habitat throughout the Ayrshire landscape. The overall aim of the project is to link-up Ayrshire’s most important local wildlife sites, often by improving the quality of degraded land, in order to help pollinating insects colonise new areas and better adapt to future change. In doing so, the Group will strive to ensure that all of their respective businesses have a positive impact in securing a rich physical environment for nature, for their staff and their families, and for local people over the long-term and, thereby, create a place where other businesses want to invest. In addition, the project will provide opportunities for all involved to learn new skills that will help them take ownership of protecting and enhancing the local environment.
Some on the ground work is already underway. Last year, Royal Troon Golf Club and Dundonald Links completed wildflower planting work. In April this year, GSK (GlaxoSmithKline) held a staff volunteer day to plant for pollinators and build insect hotels beside their Irvine factory, and Irvine UPM has plans to sow flowers on the land where their paper mill is situated.
The Sustainability Group wants expand this work, particularly within socially deprived areas in the coming years and this golf-led initiative shows what businesses can do, voluntarily, to bring real benefit to local communities.