Saturday, 22 March 2014

Homes for Wildlife in a Forest Garden

Last summer we had builders here for months, replacing an old tumble-down outbuilding, and doing some roof repairs on the house. When they had finished and gone away, Mr DW used some of the left-over tiles and wood to make a wildlife hotel. He based the design on several that we had seen on wildlife websites, trying to make a shelter that has numerous nooks, crannies and hiding places for insects and maybe small mammals or birds. 

It still needs two more ridge tiles on the roof, but it seems to have kept dry inside, despite the relentless heavy rain of this winter.

Most of the holes and tunnels were filled with natural material such as hay, straw, dry autumn leaves, sticks and pieces of bark. Horse hair and moss were added so provide warm bedding.

Wild rose hips, crab apples, acorns and chestnuts were scattered inside to provide food.
Upturned flower pots may give a home to some small creature.

Hopefully the narrow gaps between these tiles might be a place for a chrysalis to hide.

This garden is on the edge of New Forest heathland and would become a wilderness if left to nature. Seeds from Forest trees would drift in and germinate.

We try to compromise. Nature is encouraged and there are plenty of "wild flowers in the wrong place".
Ground elder is the only plant that we have to work really hard to control. It drives Mr DW mad.........!

Over the winter, leaves are left under some trees so that birds can root around to find insects and earthworms. Blackbirds, thrushes and starlings love this area underneath the liquid amber tree.

In wild corners of the garden there are several piles of old logs and branches rotting away. This pile has been here for years and we have seen stag beetles nearby.

Under the fence beside the yard there are several rodent holes this spring. Probably mice. We do have shrews, pigmy shrews and voles in the hedgerows.
Old mouse holes are valuable nests for some species of bumble bee.

A dead hawthorn by the pond has supported honeysuckle and ivy for some years. Sadly, it all fell down in the Valentines Day Storm.

The partially hollowed trunk will be good insect food, so we need to find an unobtrusive place in the undergrowth for the old tree to rot away and still be useful.

The raised vegetable beds need sorting out for replanting, but over the winter we left some areas fallow.  A few overgrown courgettes have provided food for mice and insects. Some teasels have stayed over winter and the seed eating birds have loved them.

A few years ago, a large conifer fell over in a storm. Some of the logs were used to make a log wall. The old boundary hedge above it is a mixture of hawthorn, holly, bramble ivy and honeysuckle. This hedge is always full of birds, whatever the season. Blackbirds and thrushes perch to sing in the overhanging oak and a family of sparrows gathers to cheep and chatter.

Ivy grows in most of the hedges and both its flowers and seeds are valuable to wildlife.

It has been a chilly start to spring over the last two days, but a few early flowering plants are in bloom.

Flowers  give nectar to butterflies and bees, while the hazel catkins are a feast for blue tits.

The tightest tree buds are beginning to swell and early willows are showing green leaves.
Even when the wind blusters cold again and rain showers blow in, the sight of bright garden flowers lifts the spirits. It has been a long, wet, grey winter here. Watching the birds begin to nest and butterflies visiting flowers has been a very welcome sight.


Louise said...

Such a lovely garden, and your bug hotel looks brilliant!

angryparsnip said...

Just lovely.
So interested in your yard.
I try to take care of the plants/trees around my land so all the wild animals have a place to eat, nap and escape the heat.
I do put some water out for them but I try not to feed them.

cheers, parsnip

Jayne Hill said...

What a beautiful set of photos, your garden truly does look like a 5-star wildlife habitat. The 'hotel' is much nicer and neater than my pile of prunings and branches at the back of the Coppice.

Good luck with the ground elder :{ I'm afraid it is the one thing I get glyphosate out for ...

The Weaver of Grass said...

What a wonderful wildlife garden DW - I am sure that special house is absolutely full of fascinating bugs and things - of course you will never know - that is the beauty of it - they are left completely undisturbed. It must be good to live so near the forest - not sure about the ground elder though. I once lived on an estate which had previously been a wood and we never ever got rid of the ground elder in the garden. It is quite indestructible.

Crafty Green Poet said...

what a lot of lovely spaces for nature, the wildlife hotel is amazing

rachel said...

Inspiring post, and one that I shall keep as reference!

Lucy Corrander at Loose and Leafy said...

Impressive hotel. Having said what you hoped would use it, have you any way of knowing who moved in without disturbing the creatures there? Is there are time of the year when they might have all moved out and you can do a little detective work?

Ragged Robin said...

What a wonderful wildlife garden you have and I really do love the new bug and small animal hotel - its amazing :) Lovely photos too :)

Would love to hear what sort of animals and bugs use your "hotel" :)

Jayne Hill said...

What about a Trailcam to see what goes in and out of your 'hotel'?

We've got Bushnell which is superb and works at night too.

Mum said...

Thank you for the wildlife tour of your garden. You should open to the public!
Love from Mum

Jenny said...

What a great idea! Hope you get some interesting residents!
We never clear the huge amount of apple windfalls, and they've kept the birds fed all winter.
One thing that makes my blood boil is the extent the hedgerows are cut back this time of year, when the buds are food for many birds. Not so bad on IOW, but where my folks live in the Midlands the hedges are barely a couple of foot high, even the ones nowhere near the roads!

Wendy said...

This is the kind of garden I love - so good for wildlife. The wildlife hotel is great; I have small bug houses here but I really must create a hotel, too.

Em Parkinson said...

That house is absolutely brilliant. I know someone in this house who would be VERY jealous indeed. Their every need catered for.....the wildlife I mean obviously...

Countryside Tales said...

What a lovely post filled with things I like! I love the insect house- what a clever husband he is, I shall have to show mine and hope he gets some inspiration! Things are starting to move here too... Roll on warmer days :-)

WOL said...

I'm moving in midMay to a block of flats that has no garden. It is a mixed blessing. I will be glad to have your lovely photographs to derive a vicarious pleasure from.

Bovey Belle said...

Wow! That is a wildlife PALACE, not just a hotel. Mr DW has done a wonderful construction job and I am going to see if Mr BB will make me something like that for our new house (WHEN we get there). You seem to have catered for every need and I hope the Hedgehogs took the hint and left your bonfire piles in preference.

Garden looking lovely, as always.

ann @ studiohyde said...

Mr. DW has made a wonderful job of the wildlife habitat...what a great des res for the insects etc.

Isabelle said...

How lovely it all is. I hope the bugs appreciate their house.

SeagullSuzie said...

A wonderful wildlife garden-just what I would love to have.