KEEP WILD NEARBY

Gardening for wildlife, in Beeston

Seven years ago, this odd patch of grass next to Myford’s factory on Wilmot Lane was basically a dumping ground for litter, garden trimmings and erm… discarded golf paraphernalia. I passed it, wearily, twice daily.

Wilmot Lane: littered, sprayed and very sad indeed.

Five years ago, I got the Council to not cut it, and started establishing it as a wildflower dumping ground for litter and garden trimmings instead.

Two years ago, it was recovering from erroneous grass cuts due to the Council’s sheer circumlocution-like ineptitude. The burgeoning meadow flowers I’d planted and sown the years before were denied their fifteen minutes of fame and, despite managing to win a Level 4 award in the ‘RHS East Midlands in Bloom: It’s Your Neighbourhood’ competition, it looked pretty sorry for itself.

When Broxtowe Council went to mow a meadow.

Despite more set-backs last year, [fanfare] the grass did erupt in a SUMMER BOOM of colour. This is largely thanks to extra wildflower seed donated by a guy called Chris, who sowed it with his daughter, Holly, once the footpath reopened earlier in the year.

It’s not just about pretty flowers, though. There’s a brash heap and log pile (good for grass snakes, insects, invertebrates and small mammals), and free fruit trees and hedglings I received from The Woodland Trust. 

RHS Wisley it ain’t. But it IS a-buzz with pollinators flitting from plant to plant, taking pit stops on the #BugSquat (hotels are sooo ‘Bridgford). Here too, hedgehogs rummage around; bats and swifts (numbers of the latter were worryingly low last year – I counted only four, when we used to have double figures) hunt overhead in the the gloaming.

To some, it may look weedy (“I’d torch the lot” said one lady to me while I topped-up the bird feeders). But wild verges work hard, helping our under-appreciated Beestonians: the critters pollinating your fruit, veg, and flowers; or eating the ones eating your fruit, veg and flowers. And they need all the help they can get.

We love to see wildlife in our gardens. But if we tidy away the places it lives, feeds and breeds, or if the only ‘wild abandon’ we allow is that with which we throw down slug pellets, then it could soon disappear. Don’t get me started on slug pellets…

Although small, wilded areas like this connect one patch of habitat to another, so species who thrive or rely on linear movement, on mixing species through urban areas, or on stop-offs to larger habitats – such as Attenborough Nature Reserve – can survive.

It really is simple: less is more. Leave a piece of your garden to ‘go over’, or plant wild flowers if you prefer (native ones are best – so you know they’re adapted for our insects, not ones that don’t exist here). If you have space for a pond, this will exponentially boost the benefit – even an old washing-up bowl sunk in the ground, filled with rain water and some rocks (escape route) will soon be colonised.

If all this sounds like too much mess and effort, or you’re only up for doing one thing to help wildlife: please, please stop using slug pellets.

True to its word, an established ‘wild’ patch can get on with very little interference from us.  And, though We Dig NG9’s will never be proper idyllic ‘meadow’, of course – if it looks nice, well that’s just a bonus. 

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