July, 2014

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Bugs, Birds and Beasts in the East

All of our up to date fun and frolics in the East from office antics to great conservation stories and those magical connections with nature.
  • Wish Lists and Destruction #OperationWildTimes

    Blogger: Adam Murray, Communications Officer

    Things are hotting up. Next step is looking at what you have in your garden and what you would like to keep and what would be on your new wish list of goodies.

    Phase 2: Embrace the wildlife and removing the not very [wildlife] friendly stuff

    □     Design your unique garden

    □     Remove the non-native shrubs

    □     Remove gravel and some concrete to improve drainage and stop my 3 year old throwing gravel everywhere.

    So before I went any further I had to be practical. Not only do I want my garden to be a home for wildlife but I need it to be family friendly. Interestingly, someone on Twitter yesterday asked me what family UN-friendly would look like. How about this?


    Mrs M and I sat down and thought about how to give our garden that unique personal touch. We came up with a list of all our favourite plants and “happy place” items. This didn’t include our old swimming pool we had in Fiji or a coconut tree but you get the general idea from our wish lists. We did initially ask our Little Chief but his thoughts were less structured shall we say.

    Click here to play this video 

    For the Family Wish List

    □     Patio for dining

    □     Outdoor kitchen

    □     Shade above patio – sail?

    □     Lawn for playing

    □     Shed for storage

    □     Hammock – need posts to hang?

    □     Path to back gate for buggy access

    □     Vegetable patch

    □     Herb patch

    □     Fruiting tree

    □     Den, tepee, climbing holds, rope swing, roly-poly grass mound ?


    For the Wildlife Wish List (refer back to original Giving Nature a Home FREE guide)

    □     Pond

    □     Lawn with long grass edges

    □     Nectar rich flowers

    □     Deadwood piles

    □     Feeding station inc. water bath

    □     Wildlife homes – bird box, bug homes, frogitat, hogitat, bat box, swift box

    □     Gabions with hidey holes for wildlife

    □     Green roof on shed


    Plant List

    □     Cherry tree

    □     Nectar rich flowers

    • Poppies
    • Alliums
    • Dahlias
    • Honeysuckle
    • Cornflower

    □     Succulents e.g. sedums

    □     Echinacea purpurea

    □     Ferns

    □     Cowslips

    □     Teasels

    □     Snakes head fritillary

    □     Snow drops

    □     Blue bells

    □     Jasmine

    □     Agapanthus orientalis

    □     Michalmas daisies

    □     Horsetail

    □     Grasses

    □     Frangipani?

    □     Hibiscus?

    □     Bamboo?


    Now we knew what we wanted we took a look out the backdoor and thought about how we could work with what we have (including our budget). This is what I came up with in the first instance.

    I think you will agree, not too shabby, considering – maybe I should become a Duplo garden designer ;-) After getting the nod from Mrs M – I brought in the muscle – well my brother, sister and I. Cheers Matt & Em. We used my limited tools (amazing what you can do with one rusty spade and 6 "guns") to rip out all the shrubs that were taking over the garden, leaving behind our amazing ivy/hawthorn/a.n.other hedge for cover for the birds and bugs. I should add at this point that this occurred a few months ago (checking for early nesting birds) and the apocalyptic pile of evergreen shrubs then sat in our garden for about 6 weeks until I finally found a weekend that I could visit my friendly recycling depot. Please refer back to my first blog post in the Operation Wild Times series, the clue is in the title.

    Next Time: Phase 3: Adding in the new (family or wildlife friendly) stuff

    For more information on some top wildlife friendly plants take a look at this BBC blog http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/22433553

  • Operation Wild Times

    Blogger: Adam Murray, Communications Officer

    So where do you even start! I have a packed week, sleepless nights and a walled south facing garden that is screaming out to be loved. Like a toddler, our garden can get unruly if you do not pay attention to it. So where do you go for advice to control your unruly child/garden? Like parenting, you can turn to How To books, ask your own wise parents and even your friends and colleagues.


    There are many perks to my job (doing my bit to save the planet for starters) but one of them that has been most helpful recently is picking the horticultural brains of some very knowledgeable folk around the office. It doesn’t stop there, with the launch of the RSPB Giving Nature a Home campaign – it feels as though the entire charity is aligned to helping me sort out my wildlife and family friendly garden.


    Even more fortuitous is our own resident wildlife gardening expert, Adrian Thomas, is going through the same “tame your garden” parallel storyline. I should admit that my storyline is a more sedate Last of the Summer Wine affair compared to Adrian’s epic Steven Spielberg adventure. But the theory still applies. I will be following the Giving Nature a Home FREE guide (OK so that is my only plug of the day) top ten tips:


    Giving Nature a Home Step by Step Guide 

    1. Grow flowering plants
    2. Invest in a tree or shrub
    3. Give your mower a rest
    4. Make dead wood piles
    5. Make a pond
    6. Feed the garden birds
    7. Build a wildlife shelter
    8. Create nature corridors
    9. Be green when you garden
    10. Tell us what you have done

     So first things first, the way I see it is we need a plan of campaign for “Operation Wild Times”.


    Phase 1: Know your garden (and you)

    □     Map out where the sun goes during the day and at different times of year.

    □     Move structures around to free up valuable south facing wall.

    □     Get things moving and pop in feeding station for your wildlife.

    □     Be inspired by your surroundings and make it personal.

    □     Start designing your new homes for wildlife (and your family).


    What is great about this is our Little Chief could get involved from Day 1. We are not talking about the make it a chore/ get a sticker for the sticker chart kind of vibe. We are talking about good old fashion quality family time in the Great Outdoors. Be inspired by what is around you, turn off the TV and do something more interesting instead (#kidoftheeighties). Trust me we had great fun going for mini adventures and seeing what our garden could be like and here are some of the pictures we took along the way. I highly recommend it.

       Woodlouse hunting out-the-back

      Off to the woods and getting tree envy

      Shabby chic bird house painting

      Building a bug hotel

      Watching for wildlife at the new feeding station 

      Our first ever wild visitor to the garden (excuse rubbish i-phone pic)

    Next Time: Phase 2 – Wish Lists and Destruction