Our News

News about projects that we have delivered for local communities...

Little Free Libraries in Reigate, Banstead & Redhill

February 25, 2019

I recently built and installed little free libraries in the parks, gardens and green spaces of Reigate & Banstead Borough Council. Our aim was to help the Green Spaces Department encourage outdoor activity and reading for families by placing them near playgrounds and cafes at four locations. This community project was grant-funded and books donated by local shops and employees. Each little library was designed and painted differently by local artists and employees from the Council. Where possible materials and fittings were reused or recycled making this a truly sustainable project.

Wildlife Garden Project in Betchworth, Surrey

March 08, 2019

This small project for a private client involved building a viewing area so she could enjoy her wildlife pond this summer. Our aim was to use waste and found materials wherever possible to create a unique and accessible area next to the pond that we created last year. I achieved this using half-sleepers, paving slabs, soil and hardcore recovered from a neighbour who was having an extension built. The rest of the materials I had stored at our workshop and the liners were off-cuts from the pond liner used to make this wildlife pond... so yes another truly sustainable environmental project.

Tree Biology Course in Headley, Surrey

April 04, 2019

A group of enthusiastic adult learners joined Sorbus Learning for a short course at Surrey Wildlife Trust educational nature reserve at Nower Wood near Headley. The day started with a presentation about the biology and evolution of trees, a diverse and successful group of plants that share a common body shape adapted for survival. During and after a refreshment break students tried to identify a variety of British trees using logs, bark and leaves. After lunch we rounded off with a guided walk around the reserve looking at the trees and shrubs that form a diverse community in this ancient woodland. A successful day with good feedback!

Big Wildlife Count in Brockham, Surrey

May 30, 2019

This was the second 'Bioblitz' in our garden, albeit that we started in March and ended in July to ensure that we did not miss any key species. We completed the BTO Gardenwatch, RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch and Butterfly Conservation Big Butterfly Count, as well as identifying other wild plants and animals. Of the 150 species of native plants we found highlights were the not so common fumitory (Fumaria officianalis) and five snake's head fritillary (Fratillaria meleagris) flowers. We recorded 230 species of insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Finding smooth newt larvae, as well as young slow worm and grass snakes, hints at healthy habitats for wildlife.

Wildlife Gardening Workshops in Betchworth, Surrey

June 22, 2019

This summer we decided to run a half-day workshop for a small group of local gardeners in our wildlife garden. It was an opportunity to share our experiences of making space for nature in a residential garden and help to promote the concept of rewilding. The three-hour morning session covered the basic principles of providing wildlife with food, water, shelter and space as well as demonstrating how to create habitats and make animal homes. It was such a great success that we ran a second workshop in July and more sessions are planned in August and September to consider other aspects of wildlife gardening.

Garden Moth Survey in Brockham, Surrey

July 30, 2019

As summer is in full swing we decided it was about time that we carried out another moth trapping session. I wanted to compare with our last survey in 2017 when we caught and identified 35 species of moth. No moths were hurt as we used a Skinner-type light trap overnight and moths recovered the next morning were photographed for identification and released. This year was a lot more successful thanks to the help of young ecologist Josh Brown (aLyne Ecology) who raced about capturing those moths that had evaded trap, including this amazing Poplar Hawkmoth (Laothie populi). Our final tally was 75 species of which 45 were new to our records.

History of Surrey's Landscapes Course, Surrey

August 15, 2019

We were asked by Surrey Wildlife Trust to provide a series of short courses about the history of landscapes in Surrey. The first considered man's impact on the county from the stone ages to modern day. The second explored the cultural and biological importance of ancient woodland at Nower Wood SNCI near Headley. A visit to Mickleham Downs in the third week discovered a diversity of plants and insects that inhabit this ancient chalk down. In week four we visited a Bronze Age earthworks, ancient oak pollards and wet meadow on Ashtead Common. Finally a trip to Bay Pond Educational Nature Reserve in Godstone to study wetland habitats included pond dipping. It was a successful course with good feedback but next time we must include heathland!

Pond Restoration in Strood Green, Surrey

September 14, 2019

Last November we advised local volunteers how to restore a pond at Wheelers Lane in Strood Green. Our recommendation was to cut sallow (goat & grey willows), remove stumps and roots of some trees, cut back the bramble and dig out years of leaf litter down to clay. Today I went back to look at the results of their work and pleased to see a 'new' pond with lots of wild flowers growing around edges, a few aquatic plants emerging from the water and healthy sallow pollards. Encouragingly I also saw a Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens), a male Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) and Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanae) dragonflies hovering over the water.

Trees & Skulls with Cub Scouts, Surrey

October 21, 2019

A week before Halloween I was asked to dust of my box of dead things, logs and leaves so that I could educate and entertain Brockham Cub Scouts about trees and skulls. First activity of the night was for the cubs and their helpers to take 'brass rubbings' of the bark of logs from various British trees and try to match them with leaves. Using keys the cubs were then set the task of identifying as many trees as possible and they certainly rose to the challenge. However, the highlight of the evening was definitely identifying skulls in my collection that includes a badger, roe deer, rabbit, pig and a wallaby!

Dead Hedges in Betchworth, Surrey

November 16, 2019

Finally in November we were able to find a dry weekend to get on with cutting our garden hedges. We do not cut them in summer months to avoid disturbing nesting birds and other wildlife. Also when cutting them in the winter we coppice, pollard and prune shrubs and trees in our hedges in blocks always leaving some alone so that birds and insects can feed on fruit and ivy flowers. To retain a physical barrier to our property and discourage our dog from wandering we lay the cut material into dead hedges, which also provides a linear habitat for birds, small mammals and other wildlife. The hazel poles we cut are used to make bean poles and climbing frames in our vegetable garden.

Apples & Pears, Tree Pruning Course in Compton, Surrey

December 10, 2019

Last week I ran my popular apple tree pruning course for Surrey Wildlife Trust in their old orchard at Pucks Oak Barn, Compton. Ten students braved the rainy weather to practice their tree pruning skills caring for the old apple and pear trees in this orchard. We started in a classroom session uncovering the biology of trees and discussing the need for restoration and formative pruning (winter) and maintenance pruning (summer) to conserve old fruit trees. After an introduction to the safe use of tools we visited the orchard to apply our learning so that these beautiful old trees thrive and produce healthy fruit for many years to come. I will be running another course in January.

Art & Wildlife Garden Project in Betchworth, Surrey

January 31, 2020

One way to burn off any excess calories gained over the Yuletide festivities is to come up with a building project for a client's garden in January! We had a stash of broken roof tiles and not wanting to throw away materials we came up with this idea. Surplus corrugated metal strips enabled us to create a circular area filled with broken tiles and rubble to create a scree habitat. Redundant fencing posts were painted to create aboriginal style totem poles and three large logs 'rescued' from local tree surgeons add another dimension. An old paving stone crate lined made a raised bed to finish the project. The outcome - new habitats for wildlife and a feature for our other passion of art in the garden!

Cider & Apple Tree Pruning in Chiddingfold, Surrey

Febuary 12, 2020

Word of my apple tree pruning course has spread across Surrey to Chiddingfold near Godalming. Located close to the border with Sussex is the Garden Cider Company that brews a wide variety of flavours using apples gathered from gardens across the county. The enthusiastic team working at Mill House Farm invited me to run three half-day workshops for their members followed by cider tasting. A short classroom session seen here uncovered tree biology before we embarked on formative pruning in their orchard of 4 year old trees. Generally the weather was kind to us for our first events with a corporate partner and as I love cider... what a gig!

Wildlife Garden Surveys, Surrey

March 10, 2020

Spring sees a new opportunity for Sorbus Learning as we get enquiries from private clients in Epsom and Shepperton to prepare plans for homeowners to make space for nature in their gardens. We carried out site visits, assessed the gardens for the existing wildlife garden features and then prepared reports that outlined recommendations for making improvements. These included creating mini meadows, log piles, dead hedges, small ponds and planting native trees and shrubs as well as pollinator friendly plants. Let's hope they enter Surrey Wildlife Trust's wildlife garden award scheme this year!

Lockdown Projects in Brockham, Surrey

June 27, 2020

Well the opportunities of spring rapidly gave way to the challenges of 3 months of lockdown as business stopped overnight! With time on my hands I tackled a range of DIY tasks in our home and of course improved features in our wildlife garden. Firstly I laid a new patio and built raised herb beds using materials recycled from other DIY projects of friends and neighbours. Then I set about repurposing four redundant wire waste baskets recovered from a local authority to create 'insect cafes' for pollinators. As you can see from the image the bottom half was packed with rubble to make a hibernaculum whilst hessian bags filled with soil were used to make a raised bed in the top. These have been planted and seeded with herbs and wildflowers.

Wildlife Garden Survey, Surrey

September 30, 2020

As the restrictions of lockdown tightened I decided to assess the effectiveness of my improvements to features in our wildlife garden. I took advantage of an offer of free membership of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) so that I could take part in their Graden Bird Watch Survey 2020. I got up early every morning to record songbirds for an hour and then later in the day spent another hour recording insects, amphibians, reptiles and mammals. My survey recorded 170 species of wild plants; including 120 species of wildflower; 20 types of grasses, sedges and rushes; 20 native trees, shrubs and climbers; and 10 different aquatic plants. This diversity of plants attracted 220 species of insects, 50 types of birds, 10 species of mammal and 5 species of amphibians and reptiles. Our wildlife garden really is a place for nature!