Design and History

Design and History

The site of the wildlife garden seems to have had quite checkered history. For decades it seems to have been used as a tipping area and was full of rubbish. At some point in its history this stopped and eventually attitudes shifted enough for remediation projects to get off the ground. Occasionally individuals would attempt to work on it but it was such a big project that only the concerted effort of years was going to get the job done.

Chris Dovey was instrumental in setting up a group of volunteers to start work in 2014 with the understanding that it was a long term undertaking. Here’s a typical shot of what the land looked like back then.

It took months of work to clear the surface of waste, especially the large amount of glass.  After clearance what remained was a very limited range of pioneer plants such as bramble, nettle, bindweed, dock and willow herb. In the distant past whether by accident or intent someone had introduced a variety of invasive forms of comfrey and over the years these built up a minimal surface of soil.

After the surface clearance and the removal of bramble the site was still a series of monocultures and quite daunting.

It was clear that we had our work cut out for us.

One of my fondest memories of Chris is working with him on clearing some of the land when on digging up a sheet of plastic buried about a foot deep we disturbed a family of voles.  The look of pleasure on Chris’ face when one of the baby voles sat on his spade gazing at him fearlessly,  was priceless.  He was overjoyed as he’d never seen a vole. His dream was to clear up the site and convert it into a vastly enriched area to encourage as much wildlife as possible. Sadly poor health took Chris very suddenly and just a few weeks after this photo, he was struck down by a massive heart attack.

Losing Chris was quite a shock and it took a while for us to reevaluate the projects direction. It soon became clear that we needed a plan! It was obvious that this was going to take years so the first plan was to landscape the site as illustrated below and we’d work on enriching the environment as we went along.

Once we knew where we were heading it was time to get some essentials in place,  like sand and gravel for leveling and paving.

Fantastic service with a smile from Keyline, Lancaster.

That meant the real work could begin and there was plenty of it to do.

It took a lot of effort from a large group of volunteers to get all the materials we needed on to the site and to clear the space to use it.

And then more materials

And even more…

After a lot of hard work the central section of the garden was roughly levelled and Chris’ shed was put up on the new space. Now that we had a central space for storage, shelter and brew making, work could really progress.

Beds were constructed and filled with good soil and intermediary plantings began.

The first phase of paving was completed and we had functional space to manage the work from.

A first season

 

We ran into a lot of issues we hadn’t anticipated with the land itself and the plan had had to be modified to reflect that we simply cannot dig into this land.  Everything will have to be built up which is going to make creating a range of water features in the lower half of the garden an interesting challenge. As of August 2017 the team are working on developing a full sowing and planting plan for next year and an updated overall landscape plan.

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Amphibians

Amphibians

Image Courtesy Maurice Pennance ©2014

One of the first things that we did on the site apart from clearance,  was to create a pond. It couldn’t be simpler.  We were given the bottom of a cut off water container,  solving the problem of not being able to dig into the ground. Over the last couple of years we’ve received many donations of small vessels that would be suitable to create a number of water features and getting those in place is going to be a major part of the winter season work 2017-18.

Here are a couple of videos that are representative of the kinds of things we want to be creating. When the plans are fully drawn up for winter work we’ll post them here and maybe we might even start doing our own YouTube channel.

Pollinators

Pollinators

The best resources we have to work with in the wildlife garden are the ones that are already there. We are lucky to have inherited a large amount of comfrey which the bees and other pollinators love.