Over the last six months, the Wildlife Garden has been thriving, blissfully unaware of the pandemic. Although closed to general visitors, the garden has been a sanctuary for our volunteers, and has benefited from their high level of TLC.
Between April and July, volunteers visited in twos for three sessions a week. Since August we have expanded to four volunteers each session, again covering three sessions a week. By appointment we will show visitors around during a session, providing the total number at the garden stays at six or less.
Other Covid safety measures are also in place, including everyone using their own gloves, handwashing and sanitising, mask wearing if people have to get close to each other, and disinfecting tools and furniture at the end of the session. Only one person is allowed in the office hut and tool store at any one time – which brings some challenges with heavy rain showers.
Over the spring and summer the garden suffered with the drought and the pond got very low, despite our work last year to double water storage capacity. Very helpful neighbours did provide us with some water. Drought tolerant plants, like wild carrot, teasel, vipers bugloss and oxeye daisies thrived, but the apple trees haven’t done well this year.
Butterflies were abundant – brimstone, small skipper, peacock (with nettles covered in caterpillars), speckled wood, gatekeeper, and a marbled white. And of course the cinnabar moths, with their stripy caterpillars stripping the ragwort bare.
Just before lockdown we had thankfully just completed the installation of our composting toilet, and in the last month have put in the soakaway. Clearing the area for the toilet has enabled us to plant a new hedgerow of dogwood, alder and common buckthorn, under-planted with red campion and primroses.
For the autumn and winter there is plenty to keep us all busy. We are remodelling the small pond to make it more child friendly, creating bare earth areas in the meadow and seeding for next year, clearing paths, weeding borders, and tackling invasive brambles and bindweed. Let us hope that by next Spring we will be able to welcome the public back to enjoy the garden as we can.