In our rapidly urbanising world, green spaces are becoming increasingly scarce. As forests are cleared and grasslands are developed, countless species lose their homes and are forced to adapt or die. Urbanisation also brings pollution, invasive species, making it even more challenging for wildlife to thrive. Yet, even in the middle of concrete jungles, we have the power to create pockets of biodiversity that not only make our surroundings more beautiful but also provide habitats for various forms of wildlife. Gardening for wildlife is a practice that goes beyond a pretty garden. It plays an important role in conserving and supporting local ecosystems.
In Kingsbridge, a number of gardeners have been recognised for their wildlife friends gardens. Gardeners Karen Tompkins of Montagu Road and Juliette Baston-Kuil of Wallingford Road have both received plaques from Devon Wildlife Trust as part of a countywide scheme to get our gardens buzzing.
Juliette makes sure her garden provides food for both people and wildlife.
Applications for the Wildlife Garden Awards are open to anyone with access to a garden or outside space who is actively attracting wildlife by providing food, water, shelter, management, and connectivity. Wildlife Gardens display an abundance of these features and attract lots of visitors, providing safe-havens for species such as hedgehogs, frogs, toads, newts, bats, dragonflies and garden birds. Karen has ensured her garden provides habitat for wildlife by incorporating ponds, bug hotels, bird and bat boxes, hedgehog feeding stations, hedgehog nest boxes, toad houses, water baths and ground level water stations. She also plants specifically for pollinators, filling her garden with varieties of herbs and flowers such as lavender, sage, verbena, foxgloves and catmint that are loved by bees and butterflies.
There are 15 million gardens in the UK, that’s an area greater than all our National Nature Reserves put together. Devon Wildlife Trust hope that the awards will encourage gardeners to set aside spaces for nature and help tackle some alarming statistics that have placed the UK among the most nature-depleted countries in the world.
A variety of wild grasses, herbs and flowering shrubs provide food and habitat for wildlife in Karen's garden.
Juliette says of her garden: “I’m very proud to have a non-chemical, bug loving garden that I’m privileged to steward. I happily pay my nature tax - bugs get to eat some of my veggies and live on, and I get to eat some of my veggies too. During the spring & summer months the garden is abuzz with countless butterflies & bumble bees and it should be like that in every garden.”
Juliette follows permaculture principles and No Dig methods to ensure her garden is a thriving haven for wildlife.
Wildlife Gardeners Question Time: Learning from each other
As a grassroots action group, Kingsbridge Climate Action love thinking of ways we can bring the community together to share learning and inspire each other. During our Nature Festival in June, one of the ways we did this was to host a Wildlife Gardeners Question Time in the park. This brought together members of Kingsbridge in Bloom and Devon Wildlife Trust with local gardeners, with the aim of providing a space to ask each other questions about how best to create habitat, food sources and connectivity for wildlife in our gardens. The result was a joyful sharing of ideas, tips, knowledge and even seeds.
Wildlife gardeners question time.
The group discussed things like which plants attract the most bees within their gardens (Vipers Bugloss, Borage and Oregano were top contenders!) and how to sow wildflowers on steep Devon banks! There is a huge amount of knowledge within our community that we can tap in to so we can all make our green spaces more nature friendly. We would love to offer more opportunities to come together like this, do you have an idea for an event to help promote or learn about gardening for wildlife? Please let us know, we would love to hear from you.
Local Wildlife Champions
Kingsbridge is full of incredible people helping make our town more wildlife friendly. One of them is Vivienne Mugford, whose passion for our local fauna, especially hedgehogs, led her to create a map of Kingsbridge that highlights where there are “hedgehog highways” between houses - gaps in fences, walls and gates that allow hedgehogs to freely travel through neighbourhoods. The aim is to create as much connectivity as possible for safe passages across our town that allow hedgehogs space to roam wild and free. You may have met Vivienne during various events across town, she often accompanies us on our stalls at festivals, seed swaps and other activities.
Vivienne with her hedgehog highway map.
Here are some of Vivienne’s top tips for helping our local hedgehogs thrive:
Make ways in and out of your garden such as holes in or under fences that are 15cm in diameter. And ask your neighbours to do the same to create a hedgehog street!
Create hiding places such as piles of leaves or log piles.
Provide safe, low-level water in a simple bowl, or a ramp if you have a pond.
Don’t use garden chemicals that harm hedgehogs - choose nature friendly options instead.
Do you have any tips to share for creating more wildlife friendly green spaces? Have you received the Devon Wildlife Trust Wildlife Gardening Award? Do you have an idea for a small project to create a more nature friendly town? If so we would love to hear from you!
If you would like to find out more about the Wildlife Garden Award visit https://www.devonwildlifetrust.org/wildlife-garden-award.