Why garden for wildlife?

Just a few weeks ago I paused in my work and realised that I have been working in the Nature Conservation industry for 21 years. It was most definitely one of those ‘wow!’ moments, and it did stop me in my tracks a bit and I found myself thinking about all the things I’d gotten up to over those years.

The word ‘industry’ may seem an odd choice for something so frankly ‘unindustrial’, but in reality, in the world beyond my garden, that is what nature conservation has become and perhaps needed to become. To some degree there is nothing wrong with this. Industry after all suggests efficiency, delivery, getting the job done and the profit secured. Phrases like ecosystem services were born, shunned, redefined, tolerated and eventually accepted. Lots of clever and dedicated people, including I might add a good many landowners, farmers and political types who normally get blamed for everything, are now genuinely trying to move things in a positive direction. As do the many of us working in the front line of this industry. The will is there but the pace of progress can occasionally be tiresome and the disappointments still to frequent.

Yet in the garden that at least can be different. I know I can make a small difference, anyone can and there are lots of gardens, window boxes, communal areas and open spaces which when combined could suddenly become very significant. This to me is the main reason I focus on wildlife in my garden, but this hasn’t always been the case.

My children are almost grown up now and they spend less time in the garden than they did in the recent past. Sandpits, trampolines, ball games, tents, not to mention pets, were all brought in at one point or another and to a certain extent wildlife had to take a back seat, as it will for many young families at one time or another.

Many people like to focus on growing vegetables or like nothing better than a neat lawn with a BBQ and a garden bar for their mates to drink in. And this is all fine, people seek different ways to relax in their own private space. The magic of gardens is they are as diverse as the people who own them and this I’m convinced can be as beneficial to wildlife as any woodland, heathland, lake or grassland of a similar size, indeed much more so.

However a growing number of us feel a deep regret for the rapid demise in wildlife we have seen in our own lifetimes. Take moths for example. I love moths, I don’t know why, I’m absolutely fascinated by them. They come in so many shapes, colours, patterns, and sizes. They have by far the best vernacular names, like The Uncertain or Dark Arches. And unlike my kids I’m not at all bothered by them and this I attribute to the fact that when I was a child any warm summer evening would see a plague of the things enter our home looking for the moon before hiding in my hair, or ear, or up my sleeve. My generation had no choice but to get used to them. Nowadays the odd one might crop up if I leave the back door open for long enough, usually a Large Yellow Underwing which are still fairly common. Otherwise moths appear less and less frequently every year, as if they all upped and flew away forever.

Clearly this isn’t the case, they are there, most of them anyway, just in lower numbers. Their lifecycles are not always straight forward, so it’s easy to think we can do little for them, but we can help and I think most of us now want to. It’s a moral thing to some extent, underlined with a sense of lose we don’t for the most part even acknowledge. The same of course applies to all wildlife, even most the pests and weeds, as one day these to may become rare or threatened with extinction as happened to a vast array of annual plants associated with farmland once we invented lots of chemicals to kill them.

One garden wont make a difference, but look online and its clear to see a growing number of people are setting space aside for wildlife. So we thought we would do our bit as well!

DC – 31st May 2021