By Stuart Collier
I really love the ‘Garden watch’ campaign launched by BBC Spring Watch and really believe that we can make a massive difference on our doorstep. Nature is in desperate need of help, and our own lives not only depend on a healthy environment but are enriched by it.
This is a personal reflection of how I have rewilded my own garden over the last couple of years.
When I bought my house, the long, multi-levelled garden, lined with trees, is what sold it to me, I had always dreamed of living the ‘good life’ and wanted to grow as much food as possible. This is still the case although I’m a sucker for nature and often sacrifice my veg for butterflies, slugs and anything else that wants to eat them. I’m known to go slug picking in the evening, plucking up the little buggers and placing them on sacrificial crops. I can not bear the thought of using any chemicals within the garden, nature does so much better when you garden using natural methods.
So what I have done so far? Upon the first inspections of my garden, I was blessed to find a wealth of crickets within the un-mowed lawn. Now the lawn defiantly needed tidying up but I did not want to lose the majestic sound of crickets at dusk, the solution was easy, I simply left rough areas and wild borders. Within a week or two I stumbled across one of my favourite British species, the slow worm! Wow, what a treat! I would now build my garden that had these lizards at its heart. I created a compost area which would be left for wildlife, I also sporadically placed squares of roofing felt around the garden to provide basking areas for the lizards. On the last count, I found twelve individuals, these are the ones that I can see, I know there will be many more!
Bird baths, feeders and bug hotels came next, all easy to source, with pretty much instant rewards! I find something new every time I visit my garden, I embrace my inner geek and become garden detective.
Bats, Bats, Bats! Whilst sat on my turf sofa (you should make one, being close to the earth is good for the soul), it is a pleasure to watch the bats foraging above, the next step was to install a bat box, it remains vacant at the moment, but I remain confident that one day I’ll have bats roosting above my garden. The turf sofa is also a favourite spot in the morning, where I can be found drinking a peppermint tea whilst listening to the dawn chorus.
So what’s next? Well, its something I regret not doing sooner (I can only imagine the encounters I have missed out), build a pond. Ponds are essential ecosystems and globally amphibians are at serious risk of extinction, we must give them all the help they can get. The pond will not be too big but will be surrounded by wildflowers and suitable hiding places, a few metres away will be the managed area of nettles and brambles (I kept these because they attract all sorts of life). My heart would simply melt if I attracted amphibians.
I would love to know what other people are doing to rewild their gardens, what tips can you share?