OUR NEWS

Our News

Projects we have delivered with local communities...

Little Free Libraries in Reigate, Banstead & Redhill

February 25, 2019

I 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 us 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 us as enquiries arrive 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!

Summer Lockdown Projects

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.

Our Big Garden Wildlife Survey, Surrey

September 30, 2020

As the restrictions of lockdown tightened I decided to assess the effectiveness of my improvements to our wildlife garden in making space for nature. I took advantage of an offer of free membership of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) so that I could take part in their Garden 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. I found 170 species of wild plants; including 120 species of wildflower; 20 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 garden really is a place where the wild things are!

Winter Lockdown Projects

December 31, 2020

With continuing restrictions of lockdown during winter I set about delivering some seasonal tasks to maintain the garden and improve features. I used some waste timber from a friends house-building project to make a Japanese shinto-style gateway from formal upper garden to wildlife area. I also coppiced some of the hazel stools in our field hedge along our eastern boundary and generated a good crop of bean poles. I managed to salvage a good supply of York stone paving from a neighbours patio project for laying a stone and gravel path through the wildlife area. Finally I pruned and lifted the 'crowns' of all the woody shrubs in our garden so that wildflowers will flourish underneath them.

New Use for Old Tyres 

January 31, 2021

Unfortunately spring saw an even tighter lockdown after Covid flourished from the Christmas break! Undaunted I looked for some fun projects to boost my interest whilst delivering the routine seasonal tasks of spring. I found an old lorry tyre dumped on a footpath in the village and 'wheeled' it home across the fields to our garden. I then borrowed a jigsaw from a mate and cut off the outer rim before filling it with a 50:50% mix of topsoil and peat-free all plant material compost. My wife salvaged a couple of old pick-up tyres from a local council tip and these were prepared the same way. She then planted them with wildflowers and plants purchased from our community Hope Nursery ready for summer. The soil we used was supplied tilled by our friendly and busy resident mole!

Boardwalk for People

February 21, 2021

Another fun project to boost my interest was building a new boardwalk behind our wildlife pond. During a chat a local landscape gardener mentioned that he had some lengths of redundant fence posts that I gratefully accepted. A mate had off-cuts from sleepers that he used for another job so all I needed were some external screws and decking. Applying my prior learning of countryside carpentry as a ranger I set about building a short boardwalk over hump in ground behind out pond. I finished landscaping using sandy soil being dumped by our neighbours daughter. This new feature gives us all year access behind the pond and is a great viewing platform to watch wildlife!

Bucket Pond for Frogs

March 21, 2021

To continue the ongoing theme of repairing, reusing and recycling materials in the garden we decided to build a bucket pond using old plastic containers. A neighbour mentioned that he had two redundant old sandpits that I gratefully accepted. Whilst one of the apple shaped plastic containers was cracked the other remained intact and watertight. So I placed it in a hollow by a birch tree and landscaped around it using soil and turf from our recently dug wildflower border. I used an old plastic intray as a planter for aquatic plants, as well as rocks, stones, gravel and ballast to line the base of the pond. The idea was to supplement our large wildlife pond by providing a safe breeding place for frogs and it has frog spawn in it already!

Affordable Housing for Hedgehogs

April 16, 2021

And yet another wildlife garden project based on our principles of repairing, reusing and recycling waste and redundant materials. A conversation with a local gardening contractor highlighted that he was throwing out anold hedgehog box. He also had on offer off-cuts of shutter board and plywood, which came in handy to repair the box. I covered the repaired house with pieces of roofing felt left over from our builders and made a roof using two bits of waste timber cladding. Once finished I placed the new detached property in a sheltered spot at the base of a dead hedge close to our ancient hedgerow. All I need to do now is set up my trail camera to check who sets up home.

Art in the Garden

May 21, 2021

Never being one to miss an opportunity a casual conversation with a Seeboard engineer whilst they were removing old redundant telegraph poles led to us being given some to create totem poles. This is my first attempt at carving a pole using one of the shorter off-cuts they provided using saws and chisels. The outcome was a single head inspired by the Easter Island moai heads and Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy movie!

Have a Grow Day - Open Garden

June 06, 2021

Despite the restrictions of lockdown we decided that we could provide a Covid-safe experience for our local community as part of the Social Farms & Gardens network 'Have a Grow Day 2021' event. So we opened our wildlife garden to limited numbers of people for self-guided trails between 10am and 4pm on Saturday 05 June. We had over 50 visitors and it was a great success with lots of positive comments, including "Truly inspirational! Have taken away many fantastic ideas. Thank you". We also recieved requests for walks, talks and workshops about wildlife gardening and nature. Highlight of the day was a visit by a grass snake!

Gardening with Wildlife Talk - Godstone

July 28, 2021

As restrictions of lockdown relax we have been able to provide Covid-safe service for local communities and this month delivered a 'live' talk to a WI group at White Hart Barn, Godstone. I spoke about our Top 10 Tips for Gardening with Wildlife and a very enthusiastic audience had plenty of questions. We spoke to about 40 people and got plenty of positive comments. We also recieved requests about talks and workshops for other groups.

Pop Up Meadow - No Mow May

August 18, 2021

One of the positive outcomes of lockdown was having more time to focus on improving habitats in our wildlife garden so that we encourage more wildlife to share our small green space. I decided to adopt the Plantlife Project - No Mow May and a small wildflower meadow popped up in our lawn. This success was helped by the 'meadow-maker' or yellow rattle (Rhinanthus minor) that we sowed into well prepared areas of the lawn. We were rewarded with over 450 plants this year that rattle noticeably in the wind now its autumn!

Wildflower Workshop - Brockham

September 05, 2021

Following the success of our Open Garden event this year we had requests for courses about establishing wildflowers into gardens. So in early September, as we are cutting our own meadows and sowing seeds into our lawns and wildflower beds, we provided a workshop in our garden. We had 6 local people attend on a lovely sunny Sunday afternoon to discover how we achieve such success with both perennial and annual wildflowers. After a short session in The Bothy discussing the biology of plants we explored the garden to discover how we manage semi-natural habitats using traditional organic methods to favour wildlife. We demonstrated simple methods for preparing the ground for success and how to sow seed effectively. Everyone went home very happy!

Gardening with Wildlife Talk - Felbridge

October 21, 2021

We continue to provide Covid-safe service for local communities and this month delivered a 'live' talk to Felbridge Horticultural Society at Village Hall, Felbridge. I spoke about Top 10 Tips for Gardening with Wildlife and a very enthusiastic audience had plenty of questions. We spoke to about 40 people and got positive feedback about the talk and our work with wildlife gardening.