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The Bee Guy It's Mother's Day soon, so let's pause and thank the original mother - this planet

Paul Handrick of The Bee Sanctuary pays tribute to his late mother and the way she inspired him to champion biodiversity.

SO IT’S COMING to that time of year again.

The Easter eggs have been in the shops for about three months so we know it’s still at least another month until that particular holiday.

The pretend green plastic shamrocks are being inflated as the smiling, waving green politicians are readying themselves for global ‘Paddy-pushing junkets’ to glamorous global locations. These annual shamrock shenanigans will no doubt spur a round of handwringing about government spending while people continue to sleep on the streets of this supposed fair green land. It’s clear, the snake-charming saints day is imminent. 

And wedged in between the alcohol fest and the chocolate fest is the day when we celebrate those who should be celebrated above and beyond saints and saviours – mothers.

Long-tailed Tit Long-tailed tit residing at The Bee Sanctuary Clare-Louise Donelan Clare-Louise Donelan

This Sunday, 19 March is Mother’s Day. It’s the day officially allocated to us to take a few hours to acknowledge the women responsible for our very existence – our mams, mums, moms, mammies, mummies, mothers, the auld one, herself – whatever we call our mothers it doesn’t matter, so long as we call them.

And we should call them and thank them, for to be a mother for a moment is to be a mother for life. They know us like no one else. They grew us and nurtured us. Protected us. Taught us. Inspired us. Stood by us. Pushed us. Put up with us. They loved us. Love us. Always. It’s not a choice. It’s what mothers do. It’s nature.

Trees Trees at The Bee Sanctuary Clare-Louise Donelan Clare-Louise Donelan

My own mother passed from cancer over a decade ago. And as she lay there in the hospital bed riddled with that awful disease and in pain on a cold January day… her main concern? I’d walked into the ward without a coat.

It’s freezing out there. Have you got a coat? Why haven’t you got a coat on? You’ll catch your death.
It was what she’d done for most of her life. Mothered. Cared. Watched over and loved. Naturally. It was her nature. To the end.

Little slice of heaven

The year before my mum left us my wife and I had accidentally stumbled across a small unoccupied farm in county Wicklow that was up for sale. This farm was unlike any other farms I’d been on before. Hidden down a pothole-ridden half-mile lane and with no road frontage the first time we walked onto it we were immediately smitten.

Whilst the fields had been set out by the owners for silage production the edges had been let go wild. Trees had been planted to provide cover for pheasant shoots.

Large ponds had been developed in a substantial wetland area to allow for fishing and duck shooting. The farm had sat on the market for some time as the wild that had been created for hunting was not of value to agricultural production.

Baby Greenfinches Baby Greenfinches at The Bee Sanctuary Clare-Louise Donelan Clare-Louise Donelan

However, what farmers saw as a liability we saw as an invaluable positive. Nature. Habitat. Beautiful in all its wild messiness.

We loved it. Wanted to protect it. Nurture it. Mother it, I suppose.

But this hadn’t been in our plans. Our sights had been set on warmer climes. Foreign adventures. Should we scrap our plans? Change tack completely? Should we take this on? Could we take this on? We talked ourselves into it. Then out of it. Into it again then out of it then back in again. This went on for over a year. We tried to shake it. To continue with our plans. But it called to us. It felt like where we should be.

About six months after my mother’s passing we decided to stick with the original plan. It looked like the kids would grow up speaking French and collecting baguettes from the local boulangerie. We set about organising the move in earnest.

Gentle nudge

Then a funny thing happened.

The farm had been on my mind. Niggling.

Sound asleep one night, a familiar voice whispers soothingly in my ear… ‘It’ll be okay’. I sat bolt upright wide awake. No one was there. My wife was asleep. Now, I’m not a guy that holds any stock by afterlives and the like but that voice had been my mother’s voice. Overtired dream or something else – I don’t know. But it was my mother’s voice.

Daisies and Dandelions Daisies and dandelions at The Bee Sanctuary Clare-Louise Donelan Clare-Louise Donelan

The following day I was drawn to visit the farm. One last look. Au revoir, and all that. With the previous night’s occurrence running through my head as I drove the 20 or so minutes on back roads, I challenged the universe.

Show me a sign. If you want me here, show me a sign.

I arrived in the empty yard. Parked. Walk down the lane by the old shed. Pheasants scurried before me. Birdsong filled the air. Bees buzzed by. Hovers hovered. Nothing unusual for this place. Familiar to me from many previous visits. Down the side of the big barley-filled field, I headed for the spot I preferred – the large pond in the wetland.

Through the dip which marks the entrance to the wetland I distractedly checked my phone for messages. Nervous ducks rising off the pond as I approached made me glance up.

And there it was – the universe’s response to my challenge. The sign I had glibly requested. Floating in pure white peacefulness across the pond was a wild swan.

My adrenaline began flowing, my hair stood on end. I sat down and watched her graceful movement for an hour or more. She was gone the next day. Along with our plans. And the farm was ours.

Swan Clare-Louise Donelan Clare-Louise Donelan

That farm is now the only native wild bee sanctuary on the planet. Since that day we have protected her. Nurtured her. Cared for her. Loved her. Mothered her. Learned from her. Listened to her.

She, and all the creatures she is home to. All the trees. All the bees. All the flowers. Why?
Because when you get to live in a place like this you realise that we all owe the lives we get to live to the mother of all mothers – Mother Nature.

Bumblebee on Willow tree Bumblebee on Willow Tree Clare-Louise Donelan Clare-Louise Donelan

She is the creator. The giver of life. She provides. She shelters. Unconditionally.
You also realise very quickly that Mother Nature is failing at our collective hand.

She needs us to show her the love and respect we show our own mothers. She provides all and asks very little – but even that now seems to be too much to us in our arrogance.

Our race to progress. Our disconnect.

Foxglove Wildflower Foxglove wildflower at The Bee Sanctuary Clare-Louise Donelan Clare-Louise Donelan

So this Mother’s Day how about we cherish and celebrate our mothers and the original mother? Mammy and Mammy Nature.

Bring flowers to one if you like but sow wildflowers for the other.

Don’t take either of them for granted.

It’s too late when they’re gone.

Thanks for everything, Mum. x

Paul Handrick, known as The Bee Guy runs The Bee Sanctuary in County Wicklow.
Save the bees with us by becoming an Official Friend of the Bees via the website - To honour Irish Mammies the sanctuary is creating The Mother Woodland on the site – a willow woodland habitat specifically dedicated to mothers. You can gift a tree planting for Mother’s Day. For more on The Mother Woodland, see


Paul Handrick - The Bee Guy
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