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The Big Wildlife Garden

Back in 2012 we set out to try and develop our garden into a wildlife haven. With the help of the ‘Big Wildlife Garden’ now ‘Wild About Gardens’ we made several changes and started to introduce a variety of habitats to encourage our wild friends. As part of the process I had to write a short piece on why I felt gardens were so important and you can read this below. I am pleased to say we were successful and continue to build on what we have and have been very fortunate to see our family grow…

Let me introduce you to our newest resident – this beautiful female Great Spotted Woodpecker who last year gave us two offspring. Hopefully she will provide a further brood this year.

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With the hectic and stressful lives people have many do not have the time or energy to put into a garden. Building schemes are also limiting outdoor spaces to enable more homes to be built. As part of this development bigger boundaries are provided to ensure people’s privacy but by doing this it is stopping the freedom of wildlife to wander to and from varied habitats. Many people are opting not to have gardens or keep them low maintenance (patios, etc) due to limited time so we need to be encouraging wildlife gardening where care and maintenance is kept to a minimum but wild habitats thrive along with the wildlife.

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What people sometimes do not understand is that our own health and well-being comes from our interactions and relationship with nature (Biophilia) and by limiting this contact we are promoting poorer health. Sitting in an open space and watching the birds or exploring the garden can really enhance our sense of well-being in addition to building family relationships. With this engagement we are also educating our future generations on the power of nature and its benefits and, after all, they are the guardians of the future.

By encouarging The Big Wildlife Garden it helps to bring communities together and we can learn from one another. Generational learning and genuine excitement for what is around us is a great way of learning and stimulating interests. Different people within a community can become champions for specific animals or plants and then share this knowledge with their neighbours. This way we don’t all have to feel as though we know everything. Why not have an annual garden party where everyone is able to share what they have learnt and demonstrate to friends how to build and maintain a habitat or indeed how to grow certain produce and share what they have grown?

Once people have come together and know one another then why not offer skills and share. If someone is particulalrly good at building ponds or a particular habitat ask them if they would help you in your garden while you may offer to show them how to grow their own fruit or vegetables.

By building this wildlife community not only are we breaking down the barriers betwen people and engaging a community we are also breaking down some of the physical barriers between gardens allowing the wildlife more access and roaming opportunities. If we have to have a 6ft fence for privacy why not at least cut holes along the base or in gates to allow hedgehogs and the like to wander from garden to garden.

Starting small is a great way to work towards making bigger changes and we may start with a small bird table and a few feeders but who knows where this could lead? Once communities come together and start sharing with each other there are so many directions this could take. By starting and learning from one another we can then take this knowledge and pasison into our work environments wherever they might be and encourage buisnesses, hosiptals, residential homes to also adopt this change. Once again people who develop a passion for wildlife and nature often want to share and this we have seen through the development of community gardens and allotments and school gardening schemes. Not only does this bring everyone together there is an end product whether that be having somewhere pleasurable to sit and enjoy the green space or by having a product that you have grown yourself and can now enjoy eating and sharing.

We personally have become passionate about our native hedgehogs and we have become Hedgehog Champions within our street and are encouraging our neighbours to be more Hedgehog Friendly by making small changes to their gardens, such as not using pea netting and pesticides and instead using Hedgehogs as their natural pest controller. We are also trying to educate people on the benefits of not having immaculate gardens and to leave areas to grow naturally and develop log piles and by doing this they will have two distinct benefits. Firstly they will encourage and see more wildlife in their gardens and secondly it does not create so much work in terms of maintenance, thereby giving them more time to enjoy the outdoors.

What I hope the Big Wildlife Garden achieves is a wider engagement within local comunities and the sharing of knowledge and skills between neighbours and generations. Everyone has experiences and talents to share and if these can be used to enhance some of our wildlife environments and encourage us to be more active in growing our own rather than relying on supermarket imports this will in time provide natural food sources for the wildlife without any extra effort. We all just need to take a little more time to be aware before it’s too late. Once our wildlife has gone there will be no getting it back and it is only then we will realise how important our wildlife is and that we ourselves are only part of a much larger eco-system.