Boxing hares

Brits urged to ‘grow wild’ for International Biodiversity Day (22 May)

New research published today (21 May) points to a growing disconnect between people and wildlife, despite many in the UK claiming they feel closer to nature following a year of lockdown. 

A survey commissioned by Jordans Cereals has found that almost half (44%) of the UK public have never seen a hedgehog in the wild, a figure that increases to 57% for those aged 18-34. The hedgehog has long been emblematic of British wildlife, but the new statistics appear to reflect the dramatic decline of the species in the UK, from a population of around 30 million in the 1950s to under 1.5 million now.[1]

And it’s not only our beloved hedgehogs that are vanishing. The survey also found that well over half of us have never seen an owl in the wild (59%), hare (70%), or badger (73%).

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This new research comes against the backdrop of an ecological emergency, with 41% of British wildlife now in decline, and one in four native mammals at imminent risk of extinction, according to the latest State of Nature report.[2]

Despite this, the majority (69%) of people in the UK say that observing nature in their own outdoor space has provided comfort to them during lockdown, with the same figure claiming that being able to spend time in their garden has helped them get through lockdown.

In response to the UK’s nature crisis – and aiming to harness the public’s renewed connection to their outdoor space – Jordans is launching Grow Wild with the support of charity partner The Wildlife Trusts in order to encourage people to nurture wildlife on their doorstep. The campaign, launching on the eve of the UN’s International Day for Biological Diversity (22 May) calls on the nation to follow the lead of Jordans farmers and dedicate a patch of their outdoor space to nature – whether that be a flowerbed, a wall, or even a window ledge.

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With an estimated 24 million gardens in the UK[3] covering some 10 million acres – and plenty more balconies, walls and window ledges besides – Jordans and The Wildlife Trusts want to highlight the importance of people’s outdoor space to act as important havens for wildlife, including birds, butterflies and bees.

Data from the survey suggests that whilst we are feeling more connected to nature, we’re not prioritising it when it comes to how we organise our outdoor spaces. When asked about their main motivation for gardening, only 10% of the public said that they were focused on making their outdoor space a better place for wildlife.

The research suggests that the necessity for outdoor socialising brought about by the pandemic has had a bearing on garden use: almost a fifth (18%) of people have installed outdoor seating in their gardens in the last year, a figure which rises to a quarter (25%) in the 18-25 age group. In addition, a tenth (9%) of people have installed a patio in their outdoor space in the last 12 months. Notably, a sixth of respondents (16%) stated that they are considering installing artificial turf, which is detrimental to wildlife.

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Through Grow Wild, Jordans aims to demonstrate to the public that by making small changes to the way they cultivate and enjoy their outdoor spaces, they can make a significant difference to nature – just as Jordans farmers make a difference by setting aside at least 10% of their land for wildlife. By training climbing plants up a bare wall, growing pollinator-friendly flowers and herbs on a balcony or window ledge, or simply saying no to artificial turf, people can have a big impact, even in a small space.

More seasoned gardeners whose beds are already blooming may want to pay attention to the products they’re using in their gardens. Over a third (32%) of survey respondents claimed they were unaware of any environmental impact of using peat in their gardens. Just this week, Environment Secretary George Eustice has announced the government’s plans to ban sales of peat products by 2024. This follows a public campaign by The Wildlife Trusts calling for a ban on the use of peat in gardening products due to the devastating impact of extraction on peatland habitats.

Craig Bennett, CEO of The Wildlife Trusts, said: Gardeners have the power to help nature’s recovery and reverse devastating declines in our towns and villages – transforming our communities into places bursting with wildlife!

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Hedgehogs, starlings and stag beetles are just some of the amazing wildlife that will reap the benefits of people taking action to turn their patch into a haven for nature. By making a conscious effort to avoid peat-based compost, choosing real grass over artificial and growing pollinator-friendly plants, everyone can make a difference to nature in the UK. Farmers in the Jordans Farm Partnership are doing their bit to make sure there’s space for wildlife on their farms, and the Grow Wild campaign is an excellent reminder that we can all help on our own bit of land – whatever its size.

And for all those taking part in The Wildlife Trusts’ month-long nature challenge, 30 Days Wild, which kicks off on 1st June – Grow Wild is a great initiative to get you started on your wild adventure, taking one small wild step a day towards a backyard full of nature!

The Jordans Farm Partnership (JFP) is a partnership between Jordans Cereals, The Wildlife Trusts, LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) and The Prince’s Countryside Fund, in which Jordans provides financial incentives for their British farmers to manage at least 10% of the land they farm as habitats for wildlife. Jordans established the JFP in 2016 in response to dramatic biodiversity decline in the UK. 

In the five years since the partnership began, a staggering 692ha of woodland, almost double the size of Sherwood Forest, has been protected, along with 717km of hedgerows, the equivalent distance from Aberdeen to Bournemouth. With Grow Wild, Jordans is aiming to demonstrate to the public the difference they can make in their own outdoor spaces.

Verity Wilks, Head of Responsible Sourcing at Jordans Cereals, said: “Jordans established the Jordans Farm Partnership in response to the UK’s biodiversity crisis. Species in Britain have been in decline since the 1970s, and the new survey results show that this is having a bearing on the general public’s awareness of wildlife native to the UK. In the last five years, our farmers have seen an increase in pollinators such as bees and butterflies, birds such as stone curlews, and mammals including hares and deer on their farms as a result of the nature-friendly farming practices they have introduced.

We are proud of the work the Jordans farmers do to protect nature, and we want to inspire amateur gardeners to do the same. Whether your patch is an entire field, a bare patio wall or even just a windowsill, there are things everyone can do to encourage nature in their outdoor space. With gardens and outdoor spaces covering around 10 million acres of the UK, imagine the impact gardeners could have if they each set aside a patch on which to encourage wildlife. We want to start a gardening revolution and are calling on everyone who values nature in the UK to Grow Wild this International Day of Biodiversity.”

To help people get started, Jordans have published a list of top tips to Grow Wild (see below), which include introducing pots to paved spaces and planting pollinator-friendly flowers. Jordans has also partnered with celebrity garden designer Katie Rushworth to create a series of videos on how to make your patch nature-friendly and launched a competition that will reward the lucky winner with £2,000 worth of gardening vouchers and a personal consultation with Katie herself. More information can be found at https://jordanscereals.co.uk/bursting-with-nature.

Grow Wild Top Tips

1.    Introduce pots of flowering plants into paved spaces. Different bumblebees prefer different flowers, so a mix of shallow flowers – including from the daisy family and alliums – and deeper flowers like honeysuckle help to cater to more bees.

2.    Ditch artificial turf in favour of real grass, and let it grow long.

3.    You can turn an outside wall into a green wall by hanging different plants in pots and attaching to wooden pallets. This way you can grow a real mix of plants and flowers (instead of a single climbing plant like ivy) to help preserve biodiversity.

4.    Plant herbs in a window box to attract bees and butterflies. The best wildlife-friendly herbs include rosemary, English lavender and common mint.

5.    Avoid soils that contain peat or try making your own compost. You don’t need great quality soil or fertiliser to grow wildflowers – they grow best on ground that hasn’t been cultivated recently.

For more information visit: https://www.cbd.int/biodiversity-day

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Steve Ott

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