Forgotten Garden Flora & Fauna
(By Brian Wilkinson autumn 2015)
The forgotten garden is not only a lovely tranquil spot for one to walk dogs or just stroll around away from the noise and pressures of everyday life, I also see it as a conservation area for our diminishing flora and fauna. With the development of the pond and the planting of small trees and shrubs many birds and insects are being attracted to the area, an early morning walk in spring time one is met by a cacophony of bird song, everything from blackbirds and thrushes to woodpeckers drumming and the throaty croak of a pair of ravens which nested in the tall trees at the top of the garden. The presence of water has attracted a pair of mallard ducks, a heron and a dipper. I think that the rarest bird seen has been a tree creeper wending its way up an ivy covered tree trunk in search of insects. The animals which have been seen include squirrels, rabbits, deer, foxes and badgers; fortunately not too many squirrels which can damage trees – especially sycamore, a couple of years ago the photographer Ian Smith used camera traps to take some excellent photos of badgers going about their nocturnal business.
This year (2015) the flower meadow has been much improved, the spring cutting seemed to help a lot, the poppy trial was quite successful giving an interesting splash of colour amongst the daisy’s, yellow rattle, campions etc etc; earlier in the year there was an excellent display of daffodils thanks to Caroline’s efforts the previous autumn, followed by foxgloves then rosebay willowherb. The pond is becoming established thanks to generous gifts of lilies, bulrushes and various water plants, in a couple of years it should be really attractive, not seen any frogs or newts yet.
Butterflies are not as common as they were, but the garden is attracting several species and hopefully more will come as the flowering shrubs develop. This year I have seen – Brimstone (a large yellow butterfly) normally the first seen in March, Orange Tip, Speckled Wood, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Red Admiral, and rarer Painted Lady which migrate to and from North Africa, Comma and Fritillaries. It is important to keep some nettles and brambles as a food source for butterflies – despite the urge to cut them all down!
Having spent most of my life in rural West Devon and being a keen observer of natural history I have seen a huge decline in wild life since the 1960’s when cuckoos could be heard all spring, streams and rivers were full of trout, grasshoppers would “sing” all day long (seen one this year),
I could go on and on; I feel that the use of modern farming methods has broken the food chain and without abundant food species don’t breed and subsequently die off. though the garden and woodland is only a few acres I feel that it is important to maintain it as a conservation area.
Unfortunately I have not made a full study of the trees, so they have been omitted from this article, but hopefully included next time.