WWT welcomes the Festival of Gardening for Wildlife
By: Web Editor
The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) will be celebrating ‘gardening for wildlife’ throughout March by hosting a medley of green-fingered events and activities at its nine visitor centres across the UK.
Hampered by last year’s cold winter garden birds such as the great tit have suffered considerably and need all the help they can get to flourish throughout the upcoming seasons. WWT’s wildlife wardens across the UK are showing British gardeners how to take action and do your own bit of nature conservation without even leaving their homes.
In the UK, urban residential zones can account for up to 60% of urban land area, meaning gardens often represent a significant proportion of a city’s space available for wildlife. Private gardens are recognised as an important contributor in helping urban green spaces with climate change, and the existence of water can also encourage biodiversity. Ponds, that are becoming increasingly rare, can provide a number of benefits to an urban green space and is the biggest single contribution that can be made to increase wildlife visitation to the garden. They provide a breeding area for aquatic animals, namely frogs and insects such as dragonflies, which in turn provides food for birds, and also offers birds a place to bathe. Much like people that settled near the coast and wetlands, wildlife is also drawn to areas where there is a supply of water.
Whether you have a tiny urban courtyard, or a large estate in the rural countryside, everyone can do their bit to make a bountiful garden oasis for wildlife. WWT encourages everyone to make the most of even the smallest patch of outdoor space and we will be offering advice on how to entice wildlife into your garden, and showing you how to make the most of that butt of yours (water butt that is), make a temporary pond, and use water wisely.
Come and learn how to make a birds nest and create a wildflower area at WWT Martin Mere (Lancashire); head down to WWT London on 24-25 March where you can join an expert gardener on a tour of the centre and will show you the highlights of the garden areas; learn how to grow a butterfly garden at the ‘Green fingers weekend’, 17-18 March at WWT Arundel (East Sussex); and finally, if you’d rather something a bit more hands on, then find out about what’s living in your pond at home, with a microscope assisted pond dipping session at WWT National Wetland Centre, Wales, (Carmarthenshire).
Amongst the wildlife the campaign aims to help are some British favourites. The colourful goldfinch, enjoys snacking on Niger seeds that come from thistles, so instead of cutting down the prickly dead head of the plant, leave it be and enjoy watching the birds feed from it. The once common house sparrow, not as vibrant as some birds but just as charming, has seen numbers decline by 60 per cent since the 1970s, and is now red-listed as a species of high conservation concern. Insects are a main source of food for the sparrow, that often reside within dense hedge rows and climbers, so encouraging insects and planting suitable nesting areas will boost your chances of them becoming a regular visitor. And of course, hanging bird feeders and the occasional fat ball wouldn’t go amiss either.
What’s more, we will be highlighting the importance of the sustainable use of water in your garden, how to make the most of a water butt, and taking inspiration from our two RBC Rain Gardens open at WWT Slimbridge and WWT London.
Kevin Peberdy, Director of Centre Developments said: “Connecting the link between conservation and gardening is important as it shows that everyone can do their bit for nature on their own patch of land, even in the most unlikely of places. Create the right environment by providing an area such as a pond or places to nest, and the wildlife will come”.
The Festival of Gardening For Wildlife programme will include walks and talks covering topics such as, how to build a mini-beast hotel, plant a garden pond or build a butterfly garden - all adding to the ecosystem of your outdoor retreat. With specialists in gardening to attract an array of wildlife, we will be holding drop-in sessions where you can put your burning questions to our panel.
As well as the Festival activities, there’ll be a fun campaign to encourage people to make better use of water butts in their gardens, cheekily called ‘Work Your Butt’ following on from last year’s success. It is thought that a large proportion of people who have water butts don’t use them properly: either the stored water is not connected to a garden pond to take the overflow, or the water collected is left to drain away once full, rather than be used to water the garden or clean the car.
As part of the Festival of Gardening, the ‘Work Your Butt’ campaign will highlight the best way to use a water butt to both reduce the amount of water you use and save you money at a time when water conservation is becoming increasingly vital as the climate changes.
Visit www.wwt.org.uk/gardening for full details of all the events and activities at each WWT centre.
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