Open Garden - Where the Wild Things Are

We plan to open for self-guided tours of our wildlife garden on Saturday 05 June 2021 10am - 3pm so please contact us to book a slot or find out more. With careful stewardship it is a haven for wildlife, as well as an outdoor room for our family and friends to relax, exercise and learn about nature.

Front garden

We have a very small north-facing front garden that is in shade most of the day. We laid paving stones and gravel with large rocks added to add visual interest. It is planted with native shade tolerant woodland plants and exotic flowering shrubs to attract a variety of insects.

The shaded conditions seem ideal for a small populations of self-seeded sweet violet, ferns and lords & ladies. The fence between our neighbours front garden is dominated by a large mature evergreen honeysuckle that provides plentiful nectar for insects such as moths and smells lovely.

Our garden lies on light free-draining soils of sand, alluvial silts and clay in the Mole Valley between Brockham and Betchworth. We manage it for wildlife, people and pets with numerous Gold Awards from Surrey Wildlife Trust.

Side gate & fields

A gate in our privet hedge opens into an arable field that contains large populations of common poppy, scented mayweed and common fumitory during the summer months. You can see a small footbridge across a field ditch that gives access to a meadow lying alongside the full length of our rear garden.

We have an old field hedge on this boundary that has 12 species of trees, shrubs and climbers. It provides nesting habitat for a variety of birds, including robin, house sparrow, wren, song thrush, blackbird and dunnock. It is home a very active bank vole.

Entrance to rear garden

You enter our rear garden from the parking area through a wooden gate between our workshop (blue building on left) and house. It opens immediately onto a patio with raised beds for herbs that was made using waste materials left over from friends and neighbours building projects. You can just make out the pallet bench on the right above which is mounted a sparrow nest box that is used every year to raise at least two broods.

Allotment - fruit & vegetables

The area closest to the camera is for fruit with strawberries growing in a raised bed next to the path. Behind is a row of rhubarb (we love fruit crumble!) and then some blackcurrant, loganberry, gooseberry and blueberry bushes. At the back is raspberry with blackberry growing wild in the hedge.

We use old tyres and hazel poles cut from coppice stools in our hedge to grow runner beans, broad beans and sweet peas. The wire fence used to exclude wild rabbits is covered in a beautiful small flowered clematis and at the back are two compost bins.

Hedgerow & long grass margins

In this image you can see our old field hedge on left hand side that contains 12 species of native trees, shrubs and climbers, including wild cherry (in foreground), hawthorn, blackthorn, hazel, guelder rose, ivy, honeysuckle and dog rose.

We allow the grass to grow long in margin between the hedge and rest of the lawn. This supports dog's mercury, cow parsley, bush vetch, ox-eye daisy and ground-ivy and provides shelter for crickets, grasshoppers, slow worm, grass snake and bank vole.

Conditions appear ideal for local populations of meadow brown, ringlet, small, Essex and large skipper butterflies, as well as wasp spiders, hoverflies, solitary and bumblebees.

Totem pole bed

This new area of our wildlife garden highlights our two main passions, nature and art. The raised bed at the front contains various allium bulbs, poppies, Macedonian scabious and sweet rocket (tall white flower) to attract insects.

Behind this flower bed is a circular area made using broken tiles from our roofing works, cut logs and old pallet box at the back. The Australian aboriginal style totem poles were made using redundant fence posts. A semi-circular dead hedge at the back provides cover for small mammals, reptiles and birds.

Woodland glade

After a long career managing commons and woods in Surrey it is great to have a mature field maple tree at the bottom of our garden. It attracts a lot of wildlife and is used by our resident whitethroat as a high point for singing.

In the foreground you can see a rowan (mountain ash) tree that lends its scientific name to our company title. An arbor entrance rescued from the skip and pallet fencing creates an entrance to a small glade that supports bluebell, selfheal, green alkanet, small-flowered cranesbill and creeping cinquefoil.

The long grass area in the foreground contains ladies bedstraw, woodruff, common knapweed, field scabious and bird's-foot trefoil. We find field voles and shrews under the reptile refuges alongside slow worm and juvenile grass snakes.

Compost area & insect hotel

Located at the bottom of our garden in the woodland glade is our main composting area. Screened by a dead hedge using the cuttings from trees and shrubs are three bays made from used pallets as well as another plastic compost bin.

This area is directly below our large mature field maple that has elder bushes underneath that every year provide a good crop of flowers and berries. At the back of this image you can just make out blackthorn and sallow scrub growing by the river, which is why we get visited by willow warbler and chiffchaff.

In the foreground you can see our new insect hotel made from layers of used pallets containing a variety of waste materials, including brick rubble, sticks, fir cones and logs. We have built a raised flower bed on top so that it has a green roof to provide nectar in spring for emerging insects.

The Bothy

Named after the boys grandfather who gave them a large shed for sleepovers and parties, it was made from decent timber left from the old shed. Hanging flower boxes are full of strawberry plants to provide a sweet snack during gardening breaks and the entrance is 'guarded' by two pyracantha bushes.

We decorated it with a variety of ornaments and a pair of robins succesfully raised a brood of chicks in an old metal lamp. The boys now have a gym there whilst we use it to relax and teaching wildlife gardening work shops. 

Chicken bed

This new raised bed was created on the site of the old chicken coup and run, which was made from the frame and netting of the boys old trampouline! After the last hen died we decided to create an 'insect cafe' or nectar-rich flower bed for butterflies and bees using lavender, catmint, herbs and wall flowers.

On the left is a bird bath made from a redundant wooden cube frame, roof tiles and an old metal dustbin lid. The metal flower heads trap rainwater drunk by a variety of insects. We made a climbing frame for honeysuckle and clematis using hazel poles cut from our hedgerow.

Insect cafes

Following a sustainability theme we rescue, repurpose, repair, reuse and recycle a wide variety of materials and items to make features for wildlife. After identifying a lack of nectar sources in different parts of the garden we decided to create 'insect cafes' with nectar-rich flowers to feed them.

As grass constantly invades normal flower beds and we have 11 species of wild grass growing in our lawn areas it was clear we needed raised beds. A local council had four redundant metal wire waste bins that were ideal. We filled the bottom two thirds of each bin with brick, concrete and mortar rubble to create a  stone wall or rock face habitat.

Then we placed a fabric liner on top and laid a hessain sand bag full of soil along each side the bin into which we will plant some creeping thyme and cascading rockery plants. The central void was filled with a general purpose compost mix and planted with more nectar-rich wild flowers.

Wildlife pond

It attracts nine species of dragonfly and damselfly, as well as newts, frogs, toads and grass snakes. We used recycled materials to build a wooden bench, raised flower beds and small patio to sit and enjoy the pond and its wildlife.

Our raven statue looks a large log pile where newts and snakes spend the winter. On the right our apple tree attracts a variety of wild birds and our dog (who loves apples!) but also provides us more delicious fruit for crumbles.

Gravel garden

This gravel garden is located next to our decked area and was inspired by the gravel beach at Dungeness. It is cultivated with chaos in that we allow the plants to self-seed each year and only weed out plants to reduce dominance by any one species. This year saw lots of ragged robin, poppies and corncockle.

The outer border comprises a raised bed that is planted with a variety of flowering shrubs and taller perennials. A main feature is lavender bushes that attract large numbers of bees and other insects in the spring and summer.