"Even the smallest of areas can be turned into a haven for wildlife."
The devastation agriculture has caused to our wild spaces over the years isn’t news to anyone (unless you’ve been living under a rock). However, slowly but surely there are gradual changes in farming practices being implemented by many to reduce and rectify some of the damage caused.
When writing up the management plan for the site I’m based at, I included adding more wildlife friendly spaces within the pockets of redundant ‘green spaces’ to our list of future aims. Not only did I feel that it would provide value to the site by improving visitor experience visually, it also seemed like a great opportunity to provide education to members of the public about the impacts of farming and its history, whilst showing them how even the smallest of areas can be turned into a haven for wildlife.
Recently the Friends Group of our site (which are a registered charity who support us with funding for site improvements) secured a grant for a number of gardening tools. The only requirement was to provide evidence that the tools had been used to improve the site. With the Friends Group decided on utilising the tools to improve our community allotment area, I jumped at the opportunity to add a few projects of my own to the mix.
A few (terrible) quick sketches later, and support from everyone for me to go ahead with the implementation of my ideas, project Wildlife Pockets was a go!
The first area I wanted to tackle was a small space that hugged the pig sty’s. Its frequently viewed by the public when they come to see our little pink beauties but offers nothing other than bare stony ground tickled by a small patch of beautiful Vinca. However, its potential stuck out to me like a sore thumb and I instantly knew how I wanted to rejuvenate the space. I’d decided that a key focus for this area was to engage with members of the public, particularly children. Nature is filled with folklore and magic, which provided me with a great foundation for the space. A wildlife patch maintained by the conservation fairies who live within the magical hedge that borders the area.
This may sound a little wishy washy but hear me out. Kids engage so well with mystery and magic. It makes even a cardboard box have unlimited potential, so why not sprinkle a little of that magic over areas of education?
We have lost an enormous number of hedgerows which offer incredibly valuable corridors between fragmented areas of habitat for wildlife. They offer shelter and food and really aren’t given the recognition they deserve. Of course there will be some children who will happily digest the facts as they are, but an easier way to create engagement is to add an element of fun.
With the hedge already firmly in place, it needed minimal work doing to it aside from pulling off some of the ivy which had started making its way into it. (There is potential to lay the hedge at a later date but for now it serves its purpose). With the ivy removed I was able to begin working on filling the main bulk of the space.
Within our community allotment garden were two disused beehives. They were once in used but due to complaints by visitors had to be taken out of action. Nevertheless, they remained on site as an empty shell, hidden away. I decided that they were too interesting to keep out of view. Although we may not be able to utilise them for their intended purpose, they make for a great talking point. Before they could be set in place the ground needed digging over and levelling in order to lay slabs to put the beehives on. Let me tell you…the ground was like concrete. Thankfully I had a few keen volunteers helping me out so all in all it didn’t take too long to prep the area. With the beehives in place, it already looked like a new and improved space, but we were far from done.
Hidden amongst the Viola are two small ponds, which to my disbelief are home to smooth news! You can imagine my squeals of delight when I came across them. It was then than I decided to add another small pond into the area to increase the mosaic. After digging around in the yard, one of our volunteers found a hanging planter that definitely hadn’t been missed on site. I decided to use this as the third pond for the Fairy Wildlife Garden, removing its chains and filling the holes within it with large stones. With a small rockery area already sort of established, I chose to nestle the planter next to it as it provides a great hiding place and shelter for any critters that need it. Once the planter had been set in place, we developed the existing rockery by layering smaller rocks and continuing the stone circle around the circumference of the pond.
In order to allow for the ‘fairies’ to find their way through the garden (which in time will hopefully be far more overgrown) I decided to incorporate a steppingstone trail. I had seen a pile of large stones sitting in the yard with no intended use and thought they would be perfect for the job. We lay the trail from the fence in the hedge all the way along past the beehives to the existing ponds amongst the Viola. I have to say, I feel like it really brought character to the area. Who doesn’t love a cute trail?
You’ll notice that despite the improvements the area still looks very bare. My hopes are to encourage the Viola to spread, but we have also sewn some native wildflower meadow mix to really add come colour, texture and hopefully pollinators to the area! We also translocated two foxgloves from a different area on site to either side of the beehives as I think they will look wonderful in their tall glory framing the wooden structures.
And that’s it so far for the Fairy Wildlife Garden. One of the best things about it is that other than the wildflower seed, everything else had been repurposed at zero cost. There’s nothing like a bit of upcycling!
To finish the space off I want to get my hands on some Pignut seeds and some native English bluebells to put behind the pig sty where the trail from the hedge starts. Bluebells are surrounded by folklore tales and smell amazing! Which may act as a natural air freshener on the days when the pigs are kept inside rather than in their paddock haha. I’m going to save the finishing touches for another post though as the Fairy Wildlife Garden isn’t the only patch I’ve been working on. I have another area undergoing transformation which you can read about in my next blog post.