Planting for the Future

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CrossCountry Trains supported the planting of 5 hectares of wildflowers in the UK across 2022-2023

CrossCountry Trains is part of an imaginative and beautiful solution to the problem of the loss of flowers and pollinators in the UK. Not only are wildflowers attractive and beneficial to our well-being, but for the thousands of pollinating insects, wildflowers are critical.

Since 1940 we’ve lost ninety seven percent of our flower rich meadows and hundreds of our pollinator species are in decline. In areas, our local wildlife finds itself in isolated oases, walled in by agricultural land, urban landscapes, roads, and gardens.

Our solution is to restore B-Lines – a network of insect pathways along which we are restoring and creating wildflower rich habitat. These insect super highways created in partnership with GreenTheUK and Buglife will extend across the whole of the UK, allowing wildlife to move freely through our countryside and towns. Thanks to CrossCountry Trains, we have created a network of flower-rich pathways benefitting pollinators, other wildlife and people.


Site 1: Wildflower Restoration in Newport (1.86 hectares)

Wildflower habitat creation, scrub clearance and litter removal on the Road to Nowhere/Road to Nature in Newport, involving local volunteers and support groups to transform the site into a haven for nature.

The Road to Nature site is owned by Newport City Council. It is situated in east Newport, north of the Gwent Levels Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and south of the A48. The site was originally developed as a highway to link a proposed factory on adjacent Welsh Government land to the east.

However, the development was never completed, and the road became defunct, becoming known locally as “the road to nowhere”. Over the years the site has been used for illegal fly tipping, as an unofficial dirt bike track, and considered an eyesore and hazard to residents.

The site comprised of several habitats including semi-improved grassland, wet woodland, broadleaved woodland, scrub, and marsh and pond habitat, although all were in decline or in poor condition due to management neglect and pollution.

In 2021, after many years of work, the local community group, The Friends of the Road to Nature, Welsh Government, Natural Resources Wales, and other organisations cleared the site of rubbish. In 2022-23 Buglife began the NPP. The project helped run community events in the area, including art events, mindfulness walks, and importantly, Bioblitz and recording days. This helped to record the area’s natural heritage and help inform the best interventions for biodiversity on site. Several areas were highlighted as being suitable for habitat improvements and several species of conservation concern were recorded, including Shrill Carder Bee (Bombus sylvarum, see Figure 1) (which is listed under Schedule 7 of the Environment (Wales) Act as a Species of Principal Importance), Six-belted Clearwing Moth (Bembecia ichneumoniformis), Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) and Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera).

Interventions to benefit pollinators such as Shrill Carder Bee were undertaken, including native wildflower plug planting in areas that had declined and suffered scrub encroachment. Access for the local community was improved and areas of grassland in poor condition had a new management regime established, in partnership with Gwent Green Grid and Newport City Council.

Wildflower Restoration Site 2 in Hertfordshire (3.14 hectares)

CrossCountry Trains supported wildflower planting at a historic National Trust site, Croft Castle, in Hertfordshire which hosts over 100,000 visitors each year and covers 1,500 acres of protected parkland.

In October 2023, a team of Cross Country employees got hands-on with wildflower planting at Croft Castle to kick-start the transformation of this site. The team planted plug plants and seeds to enhance the species-rich grassland at Croft Castle by introducing a massive amount of pollinator-friendly wildflowers. The wildflowers included Tufted Vetch (Vicia cracca), Ox-eye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare), Black Knapweed (Centaurea nigra), Cowslip (Primula veris), Meadow Vetchling (Lathyrus pratensis) and more.

Plug planting is a great way to add extra species to a site and give them a better chance of establishing. It is often used to supplement seed scattering with additional plug plants to either add certain species that may not have been included in the seed mixes or bolster the site with specific species suited to the habitat. Plug plants often have a higher survival rate and prove more effective in the long run when trying to make sure certain species are present on a given site. They act similarly to planting potted plants in a garden or window box, providing an instant source of habitat, shelter, and food (when in flower) for local pollinating insects and other invertebrates. They also are a rewarding exercise so where the impact is immediately visable on site.

This initial planting has helped provide pollinating invertebrates with a source of pollen and nectar while the grassland is establishing in its first year. The planting was part of the 'Get the Marches Buzzing!' local B-Lines project.

Wildflowers & Grasses Planted


Cowslip: Primula Veris

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Cowslip: Primula Veris

You can recognise the cowslip by its clusters of drooping bell-shaped yellow flowers which make a cheery addition to meadows and woodlands. Cowslips are very strongly associated with springtime and Easter, thriving on chalky soils where they flower between April and May. They were traditionally picked to make May Day garlands and wedding decorations.

Bird’s-foot Trefoil

Bird’s-foot Trefoil: Lotus Corniculatus

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Bird’s-foot Trefoil: Lotus Corniculatus

Bird’s-foot trefoil is already a pretty great name, but this plant has many other exciting aliases, including “hen and chickens” and “eggs and bacon”. These colourful names refer to the plant’s red and yellow flowers. Its seed pods are reminiscent of a bird’s claws.

UN's Sustainable Development Goals

As a GreenTheUK partner, you support projects that are in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

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Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

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Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss.

Over time, this meadow should be home to a rich variety of wildlife which could include…


Buff-tailed bumblebee: Bombus terrestris

Buff-tailed bumblebee

These are the giants of the bumblebee world, and the whole species is named after the buff colour of their queen’s tail. They can be found in the UK’s lowlands, nesting underground in very large groups. These insects are very fond of nectar, and if they can’t easily reach it with their tongues, they will bite a hole in the flower to suck it out.

Common Carder Bee: Bombus Pascuorum

Common Carder Bee

This relatively small ginger-coloured bumblebee is widespread throughout the UK, in habitats including farms, woods and gardens. Carder bees have very long tongues and feed on heather, clover and lavender. They often nest in old mouse runs and disused birds’ nests.

Red-tailed Bumblebee: Bombus Lapidarius

Red-tailed Bumblebee

This is an abundant species of bumblebee that is found all over the UK. This social bee nests in disused burrows, under stones or at the base of old dry stone walls. Both males and females have the eponymous red tails as well as velvety black bodies and transparent wings.

Honeybee and solitary bees

Honeybee: Apis Mellifera


Honeybees have six legs, four wings and five eyes. They use the Sun, and possibly the Earth’s magnetic fields, to navigate, and they can fly at speeds of up to 20mph when in search of food. At the height of summer there are around 40,000 honeybees in each hive, and that number drops to around 5,000 in the winter.

Solitary Bee: Osmia Rufa

Solitary Bee

Also known as the red mason bee, this insect can be found in cities, towns and villages across Britain and Europe. Females make their homes and lay their eggs in wall cavities, under roof tiles and even inside keyholes, lining their nests with mud. These bees are excellent pollinators, particularly of apple trees.

Tawny Mining Bee: Andrena Fulva

Tawny Mining Bee

These furry, ginger bees are commonly found in parks and gardens across southern Britain during April and May. They feed from a wide variety of plants including dandelions, buttercups, willows and fruit trees. Tawny mining bees often make their nests in lawns and flowerbeds or in orchards where they can be close to apple, pear and cherry blossom for example.

A Leaf-cutter Bee: Megachile Centuncularis

A Leaf-cutter Bee

As the name suggests, if you spot semi-circular holes in leaves, it’s a sign that this bee has been at work in your garden. The insect then carries the little pieces of leaf back to its nest, gluing them together with saliva to build cells for their larvae. You can spot this bee from April to August when it flies around feeding on pollen and nectar.

Hoverflies and other flies

Marmalade Hoverfly: Episyrphus Balteatus

Marmalade Hoverfly

The marmalade hoverfly is so-called because it is orange with black stripes that are thin or “thick cut” just like the popular preserve! It is Britain’s most common hoverfly and can be seen in parks, gardens, hedgerows and woods. They are present all year round, but numbers are often much higher in the summer when marmalade hoverflies migrate to the UK from abroad.

Drone Fly: Eristalis Tenax

Drone Fly

This insect’s patchy brown and orange body makes it look a lot like the male honeybee, which is a very effective way to keep it safe from predators. Drone flies also copy honeybee flight patterns as they move around in search of nectar. Their larvae, nicknamed “rat-tailed maggots”, feed on rotting organic material in stagnant water.

Pellucid Hoverfly: Volucella Pellucens

Pellucid Hoverfly

This large black fly has a white stripe on its body and black spots on its transparent wings. It can be found throughout most of Britain and Ireland, and is often seen feasting on bramble flowers in hedgerows or on the edge of woodland. The larvae develop in wasp nests where they feed on detritus wasp grubs.

Large Narcissus Fly: Merodon Equestris

Large Narcissus Fly

This medium-sized hoverfly looks very much like a bumblebee, which provides great protection against predators. This insect loves warm, sunny spots full of flowers, like gardens in the summer. Females lay their eggs on the leaves of bulbous plants such as bluebells and daffodils, and the larvae then burrow into the bulbs, feeding on them and causing some damage.


Soldier Beetle: Cantharis Rustica

Soldier Beetle

The soldier beetle makes its home in open woodland or anywhere where there is tall grass. These carnivorous predators are common throughout England and Wales, where they can be seen from May to July. The adults prefer to hunt for food on flowers, while their larvae live on the ground, feeding on a range of other creatures.

7-spot Ladybird: Coccinella Septempunctata

7-spot Ladybird

These ladybirds are easy to identify because, just as you might expect, they have a pattern of seven black spots on their red wing cases. They are our most common ladybirds, found in parks and gardens throughout the UK. Ladybirds use their bright colours to warn predators that they won’t taste good, but it doesn’t always work!

Rose Chafer: Cetonia Aurata

Rose Chafer

These beetles have distinctive green and purple-bronze iridescent bodies, making them easy to identify. They love crawling on flowers on sunny days, when they shimmer in the light and look even more striking. Their favourite source of food, as the name indicates, is the rose, and the dog rose in particular.

Flower Beetle: Oedeomera Nobilis

Flower Beetle

This beetle is so-called because the male of the species has large green bulges on its hind thighs, whereas the female does not. It used to be quite rare, but is now a very abundant species throughout the UK. You should be able to spot the adults without too much difficulty, as they like to feed on open flowers like daisies

Butterflies and Moths

Peacock Butterfly: Inachis Io

Peacock Butterfly

This common British butterfly gets its name from the large spots on its wings, which are reminiscent of peacock feathers. These markings help to scare off predators in the woods, gardens and parks where they live. They hibernate in winter, folding up their wings to show the dull undersides so that they can blend in with their surroundings while they sleep.

6-spot Burnet: Zygaena Filipendulae

6-spot Burnet

You are most likely to spot this medium-sized moth flying around in the daytime between June and August. It has six red spots on each of its glossy black forewings. If attacked, the burnet moth will release cyanide, so the spots serve as a warning to predators that this species is poisonous.

Red Admiral: Vanessa Atalanta

Red Admiral

These large red, white and black butterflies have very powerful wings. Most of the magnificent red admirals that we see in the UK start off in North Africa and migrate north, arriving here from late March onwards and staying until autumn. Male red admirals court their females for several hours before they begin mating.

Holly Blue: Celastrina Argiolus

Holly Blue

This stunning, vibrant, blue butterfly can be seen across most of the UK, but is most common in England and Wales. Caterpillars feed on holly and ivy buds, digging into them and eating what is inside. Holly blues are very popular in Finland, where they have been elevated to the status of national butterfly!

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly: Aglais Urticae

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly

The small tortoiseshell is one of the UK’s most common and beloved butterfly species. Females lay their eggs on stinging nettles, before caterpillars hatch around ten days later. When courting, the males beat their antennae on the females’ hindwings.


Common Wasp: Vespula Vulgaris

Common Wasp

Anyone who has ever tried to have a summer picnic will be familiar with this yellow and black striped insect which can be found all over the UK. Queens first come out of hibernation at the very start of spring and start to look for suitable nesting sites in a range of habitats. Wasps will try to eat anything sweet, and although we might think of them as pests, they are useful pollinators.

Ruby-tailed Wasp: Chrysis Ignita

Ruby-tailed Wasp

Ruby-tailed wasps are often called “cuckoo wasps” because they lay their eggs in other insects’ nests. Shiny and turquoise with a rich red abdomen, they are strikingly beautiful in appearance. Ruby-tailed wasps have a sting, but don’t tend to use it.

Mason Wasp: Ancistrocerus Parietum

Mason Wasp

This wasp is native to Europe and North America and gets its name because it likes to build its nests in walls. Mason wasps have black bodies with yellow stripes and narrow waists. Female mason wasps are slightly larger than males, and can control the gender of their offspring.

Red Wasp: Vespula Rufa

Red Wasp

This wasp is so-called because it has reddish-brown markings on its body. Red wasps make their nests in tree stumps, using leaf litter and soil. Badgers often destroy the nests, eating them along with the wasps, as their thick hair and skin protects them from being stung.

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