With just five simple steps you can create a safe habitat for British wildlife to thrive in your garden.
The UK lockdown brought numerous stories of wildlife venturing out into empty towns, and thriving while humans remained indoors. However, society is slowly returning to normality, and BBC News have recently made the shocking announcement that a quarter of British mammals are now at risk of extinction. (1)
With this increasing urgency, I started to question my personal impact on British wildlife. What can I do to help protect these beloved British beings?
Clea Grady persuasively argued that being vegan helps wildlife in our July issue, however there must be something more proactive we can do to protect habitats and save our childhood creatures.
The intensification of farming has caused nature-friendly features such as woodlands, ponds and hedgerows to be destroyed and habitats to decrease, leaving many areas uninhabitable.
Nevertheless, there is one possibility we can consider: our gardens. Many of us living outside cities have reasonably sized gardens containing grass, flowers and bushes. These features make up some favourable components for encouraging wildlife, and making a safe habitat literally on your doorstep.
So, how can we actually make our gardens habitable for British wildlife?
1. Leave a section of lawn to grow longer at the end of your garden
Many types of wildlife love long grass to nestle and hide in, from hedgehogs to insects. Leaving a section to grow at the end of your garden provides these creatures a food source, and a safe haven from predators. If you’re on good terms with your neighbours, you could also create a ‘hedgehog highway’ by making a hole in your fence or hedge around 10cm wide to connect your gardens and allow hedgehogs to wander through and find food and safety.
2. Start a compost heap
By creating a compost heap in your garden you can simultaneously avoid food waste going to landfill while also attracting local wildlife to make a home in your garden.
Compost heaps are perfect for reptiles, hedgehogs and even newts. If you’re unsure on how to start, click here for an easy guide to make a compost heap from the Eden Project.
3. Build a log pile
Log piles are notoriously attractive to hedgehogs. However, they are also crucial for helping one particularly important insect: the stag beetle. Stag beetles were once prevalent in British woodlands but are now extremely scarce, increasingly threatened by loss of habitat.
You may remember searching for stag beetles when you were in school, as they were much easier to find even 10-20 years ago.
What makes stag beetles so vulnerable is the fact that they have an extremely long life cycle, spending 3-7 years underground as larvae feeding on rotting wood before emerging as adults for just a few weeks to mate and lay eggs. (2)
4. Planting wildflowers
Encouraging bees and butterflies to your garden is no doubt something most gardeners already know how to do. However, if you’re unsure about which flowers to plant, Kabloom has you covered, with ‘seedboms’ specifically tailored for bees or butterflies and moths.
Moreover, attracting these insects to your garden can also provide a stable food source for the 18 species of bat living in the UK, whose numbers have severely declined over the past century.
5. Install bird boxes and bug hotels
If you have trees in your garden it may be worth installing a bird box in the autumn for birds to nest and feed in. As Clea shockingly reported in her article, populations of farmland birds have more than halved on average since 1970, and therefore it is important to protect birds living in your area.
Moreover, you can even install a camera and secretly watch baby birds hatch! Another idea is purchasing or building a bug hotel. These ‘hotels’ provide a safe home for insects and mimic the natural environment that modern gardens generally don’t provide.
Things must change rapidly if we want our children and even our grandchildren to enjoy the wildlife we take for granted.
If you don’t have a garden space, or simply want to go even further to help local wildlife, there are hundreds of local wildlife groups you can join, and charities you can donate to. Here are just a few to consider: