When we acquired The Patch in 1990, it was, and still is, our intention to increase the wildlife that was sadly lacking there 20 years ago.
First we planted berrying and nut-producing trees that would benefit a wide range of birds and animals. A decade ago we planted the native saplings that have, albeit more slowly that we would have liked, become to resemble the woodland that is so necessary in this area. We have sown and planted wildflower areas that are now a sea of cowslip yellow and bluebells, and seen the bee, butterfly and other beneficial insect population increase enormously, and there is now an establishing hedge of indigenous shrub species, including wild cherry, crab apple, hazel, sloe, alder, hawthorn, native roses, guelder rose, oak, beech and hornbeam around three sides of the field.
This year we have seen the first signs of nesting in this hedge – the birds beat me to it when it needed a trim, so I will have to do the job in the autumn to avoid disturbing our new residents.
I keep all pesticides and weedkillers away from this project; in the beginning viburnum beetle, couch grass and other beasties threatened to wreck our good intentions, but now that the beneficial wildlife population has taken over and the hedge has begun to smother the unwanted herbage at its base, these kinds of problems are diminishing to a tolerable level.
We are lucky in that we have a large area in which to create such a haven, but anyone with even a tiny garden can create a similar sanctuary – it doesn’t need to be covered with nettles or old fridges and redundant carpet to bring all kinds of wildlife to your back door; just plant food and shelter and lay off the pesticides as much as possible and you will soon notice a difference.
You can imagine my horror on discovering this weekend that whoever has sprayed herbicide on a neighbouring field has managed, not only to rid the shared dyke of “weeds”, but has caught a section of our hedge and the grassed ride in front of it as well, which are now turning delicate shades of brown and cream. I know not what the chemical was, so it will be some time before I find out whether or not this careless spraying has put paid to a part of our project that has taken so long to establish; I have my fingers crossed that because we have had so much rain recently, the damaged area will recover; perhaps anyone using agrochemicals (which I am not licensed to use, nor wish to) might enlighten me on what would be used on brassicas and whether there is a chance of recovery.
I am not anti-pesticides in the right place, either on an agricultural scale or in the garden – I saw the first signs of blackspot on my roses this morning and I shall take careful steps to ensure they aren’t completely bald by high summer – but I would appeal to anyone using them to remember the neighbours – consider that they would probably prefer to have control over what lands on their plants and in their ponds, and use them with care and consideration. It is our duty while we have the privilege to be alive to conserve for the generations to come what Nature has given us; careless management today means so much less to pass on tomorrow.