Category Archives: Flora & fauna

COUNCIL CONTRACTORS BECOME ‘HEDGEHOG HEROES’

Contractors working for North Devon Council are helping to save hedgehogs by placing special warning stickers on all of their grass-cutting machinery.

In conjunction with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, the council have provided free stickers to be placed on all grass-cutting machinery which warns contractors to check the area for wildlife before using the equipment.

Leader of North Devon Council, Councillor David Worden, says: “Hedgehogs are in decline in the UK, so we are delighted to partner with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and Tivoli Group Ltd to help prevent injuries to these lovely animals by reminding our grass cutters to ensure there are none around before they start work.”

Fay Vass, Chief Executive of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society says: “We are pleased to welcome North Devon Council as the latest group to join our Hedgehog Heroes roll of honour, after fitting our warning stickers on their contractors’ cutting machinery to help hedgehogs. Raising awareness of the problem is half the battle, long grasses and the bottom of hedges are both places hedgehogs are likely to be found; a quick check before work begins can literally save lives.”

Brad Cole, Tivoli Regional Director, commented: “Hundreds of hedgehogs are injured every year, sometimes fatally, as a result of grounds maintenance work. Working in partnership with North Devon Council, Tivoli are proud supporters of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, making sure all our operatives are aware of the dangers that mowers, strimmers, hedge cutters, etc. can pose to wildlife. These dangers can be avoided by carrying out a thorough visual check of the area before work commences. By attaching the BHPS stickers to our equipment and raising operator awareness, our aim is to reduce the number of hedgehog injuries and deaths caused by grounds-maintenance activities.”

Contact the British Hedgehog Preservation Society for more information at info@britishhedgehogs.org.uk or email the NDC parks team at parks@northdevon.gov.uk.

Photo: British Hedgehog Preservation Society

BUTTERFLY POPULATIONS BOUNCE AS LOCAL PROJECT IS CELEBRATED IN NATIONAL AWARDS

A project working across Exmoor, Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor has been shortlisted for a national award following exceptional work to rescue butterfly populations in the South West.

All the Moor Butterflies from Butterfly Conservation is one of six projects to be shortlisted for the prestigious 2019 Park Protector Award and the very first Year of Green Action Award for National Park projects from the Government’s Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Jenny Plackett, South West Regional Manager at Butterfly Conservation, said: “Butterfly Conservation is absolutely delighted to be shortlisted for this Award for our work to improve the fortunes of our declining fritillary butterflies across Dartmoor, Exmoor and Bodmin Moor. We have been working alongside dedicated farmers and landowners to increase the quality and extent of suitable breeding habitat, and it would be wonderful if our partnership efforts were to be recognised with this Park Protector Award.”

The project fought off stiff competition to be within touching distance of the Awards, the results of which will be announced in a parliamentary reception this month. This year saw the most applicants apply in the competition’s history!

“The projects are each making an outstanding difference in some of the most famous countryside in the world; they are more vital than ever, when the natural world is under threat like never before and in the year of the National Parks’ 70th anniversary no less!”

“From introducing asylum seekers to the Yorkshire Dales to rescuing endangered butterflies, it’s testament to the power of the National Parks that they are inspiring people to make our countryside a better place for all,” said Corinne Pluchino chief executive of Campaign for National Parks.

Launching the competition, Lord Gardiner of Kimble, the Government minister for National Parks, said: “From my experience travelling the diverse and beautiful landscapes of the Parks I know that there is work to be done, whether that is work to enhance nature or introduce more people than ever to the glory of the countryside. But I also know that very challenge is being embraced by projects up and down the country.”

The six shortlisted projects are:

LOCATE – New Forest National Park

 

 

This project is mapping precious archaeological sites in the New Forest, training volunteers in the specialist skills this requires. This project has helped to map Neolithic long barrows, Iron Age hill forts and Roman pottery kiln sites!

 

People and the Dales– Yorkshire Dales National Park Enabling people from a truly diverse range of backgrounds, including asylum seekers, disabled and inner city youths, to have life changing experiences in the beautiful countryside – improving community relations and introducing thousands to the National Park.

 

SWEPT – Pembrokeshire Coast National Park This project is training citizen scientists to go out and collect vital pollution data in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. This data has led to clean-up events and has shone a light on the relationship between land and marine environments.

 

 

Skill builder – Peak District National Park Skill builder is engaging offenders on probation in conservation work across the Peak District, teaching them new skills, improving the offenders’ health and wellbeing and helping their rehabilitation. They boast that no participant has re-offended with the project.

 

Carlton Marshes – Broads National Park An ambitious restoration of 1000 acre landscape for wildlife alongside Lowestoft, one of the UK’s most socially deprived towns. Carlton Marshes is proving that people and wildlife alike can benefit from conservation and has been supported by the likes of Sir David Attenborough.

 

All the Moor Butterflies – Exmoor & Dartmoor National Parks. This project by Butterfly Conservation is rescuing butterfly populations from collapse in South-West England. Through working with farmers and other organisations the project aims to save six threatened species of butterfly and moth.

 

Stephen Ross, of the Ramblers Holiday’s Charitable Trust, which sponsor the Park Protector Award, said: “This year we’ve had an unprecedented number of high quality applicants, judging has been exceptionally tough and because of that I know what we have here are some of the very best projects run by the most passionate people. I wish there was a way to award every project. “

The winning projects will be announced at a parliamentary reception on 10 July 10. The winner of the Park Protector Award will receive a £2,000 grant towards their work, while the winner of the Year of Green Action Award will receive £1,500.

The annual Award is generously supported by Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust.

Additionally, supported by Breedon Group.

PHOTO: A marsh fritillary, one of the species at the centre of conservation efforts. Photo credit: Tom Cox

WARNING OVER ASH DIEBACK IN EXMOOR NATIONAL PARK

Around 800,000 trees in Exmoor National Park may be at risk from ash dieback, the National Park Authority has warned, as work to clear potentially hazardous infected trees from land it owns gets underway in Simonsbath this week.

The estimate comes from a Forestry Commission report produced on behalf of Exmoor National Park last summer*. It follows a University of Oxford study last month predicting a nationwide cost of £15 billion to the British economy linked to ash dieback**.

Ash is the second most common native tree species in Exmoor National Park after oak. It’s estimated that at least 95 per cent of ash trees in the UK will be killed by ash dieback over the next 20-30 years.

Graeme McVittie, Exmoor National Park Authority Senior Woodland Officer, said: “The trees being felled in Simonsbath next week are on Exmoor National Park Authority land and will be the first of many that will be sadly missing from the Exmoor landscape in years to come. We always conduct a thorough check for nesting birds and if possible delay any tree work to avoid disturbing them. But because this disease progresses so rapidly we have to act quickly before trees become too hazardous.

“Many of the diseased trees won’t need removing and may even provide temporary benefits to wildlife – for example populations of woodpeckers and stag beetles peaked following Dutch elm disease in the 1980s. Yet the longer-term loss in terms of public benefits such as clean air and water and carbon storage is likely to be significant.

“We are committed to the government’s national action plan on ash dieback, which focuses on building resilience and encouraging tolerant species of ash and are happy to provide expert advice to anyone with concerns. It is always the landowners’ responsibility to deal with any diseased trees that may present a risk to the public.”

Ash dieback disease is caused by the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus. It causes leaf loss and crown dieback and once infected a tree will usually die, often as a result of the infection weakening the tree so it becomes more susceptible to attack by other pests and diseases.

There is no requirement to notify Exmoor National Park Authority about ash dieback but the Forestry Commission is collecting data about this and other tree diseases at www.forestry.gov.uk/treealert.

Exmoor National Park Authority has recently set up a new CareMoor Tree Fund for people wishing to donate towards replacing any cherished tree that has been lost from the landscape for any reason. Find out more at www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/caremoor.

* National Forest Inventory statistics for Exmoor National Park, Forest Research, July 2018, Online at: file://srvfs-app1/userdirs/astevens/VM_redirect/downloads/FR_NFI_Exmoor_Report_2018.pdf

** The £15 billion cost of ash dieback in Britain, Current Biology, Louise Hill et al, May 2019, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2019.03.033

About ash dieback: www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/Whats-Special/woodland/working/Info-for-woodland-owners/ash-dieback-disease

AWARD FOR EXMOOR’S WOODLANDS

Exmoor National Park has won a prestigious Royal Forestry Society (RFS) Excellence in Forestry Award for its sustainable approach to woodland management and involvement of community groups*. It complements a new Government accord announced last week that aims to expand and enhance woodland in National Parks**.

Moor Wood near Minehead is being slowly transformed by the National Park’s woodlands team using a technique called Continuous Cover Forestry, which harnesses the ability of woodlands to naturally regenerate.

The small temporary gaps created when carefully selected trees are felled  provides a stable habitat for a variety of woodland species, such as birds, butterflies and fungi, whilst allowing commercially viable amounts of timber to be harvested sustainably. This avoids the need for large-scale felling, which takes several decades to regenerate and generally involves uniform plantations that are more vulnerable to environmental pressures.

Graeme McVittie, Senior Woodland Conservation Officer for Exmoor National Park, said: “It’s great to get this kind of recognition for the work we’re doing to make Exmoor’s woodlands more resilient in the face of modern day threats from pests, disease and climate change. We’ve witnessed the loss of elm and larch in our woodlands, and are now losing horse chestnut and ash. Storms and drought have caused further damage and other diseases threaten our oaks and sweet chestnut. So it’s vital that we do all we can to prepare these places for the future.”

The Certificate of Merit was also awarded for the National Park’s commitment to creating opportunities for local communities enjoy and benefit from Exmoor’s woodlands.

Woodcombe Community Woodland is a project initiated by Forum 21, an environmental group in West Somerset.  It leases an area of woodland from the National Park to produce seasoned firewood to help local people in fuel poverty, with the help of local volunteers.
Graham Boswell who leads the project for Forum 21, said: “It’s great to see our idea for a community woodland brought to life through our ongoing partnership with the National Park. The next few years will be crucial in terms of developing a workforce with the necessary woodland skills, but we’re all up for the challenge and excited by the potential benefits for the whole community.”

Rob Wilson-North, Head of Conservation and Access at Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “Exmoor’s diverse woodlands are truly special, providing a rich haven for nature, from some of the country’s rarest birds, butterflies and bats, to seldom seen lichens, liverworts and mosses. But they’re also an important part of the local economy, providing timber and recreational opportunities, along with a host of public benefits, including educational opportunities, carbon storage and flood alleviation. Balancing these priorities isn’t always easy, but this award is a sure sign we’re on the right track.”

Presenting the Awards, RFS President Andrew Woods, said: “The Excellence in Forestry Awards have once again revealed a rich seam of excellence in woodland management – from some of the most prestigious estates in the country to some of the smallest of woodlands. As landowners and woodland managers look to an uncertain future with increasing climate and environmental challenges, these are all woodlands we can learn from.

“It is also uplifting to see the fantastic work that is being carried out among communities to encourage forestry and woodland skills. These projects tap into the enthusiasm of those who will be planning, planting and managing our woodlands in the future as well as looking at how timber can be used in construction for generations to come and deserve the recognition they receive.”

CHASING THE GHOST BY PETER MARREN

We are proud to have Peter Marren among our expert panel of writers. Here is a little review of his latest book – as featured recently on Radio 4 – which his friend and fellow contributor to our mag, Rosemary FitzGerald, penned for us. The book is available locally in Number Seven Dulverton and from Brendon Books in Taunton. If you, too, are a local bookseller and you stock this title please let us know and we will mantion you also, as we struggled to obtain a list of local sellers.

Peter Marren, Chasing the Ghost (2018). Square Peg. 286pp. £16.99.

Most of us who love the countryside have this strongly grounded in
childhood memories, and many, like me, retain a gently competitive
collector’s instinct about nature. Special sightings of bird or animal, the earliest date for catkins or frogspawn, seeing a new species of wild flower – all these are notable, small treasures added to a lifetime store, and it’s a wild flower quest which inspired this delightful book.

Readers will remember Peter Marren’s ‘Fungi at Your Fingertips’ (Exmoor Magazine, Autumn 2017). An admired and respected natural history writer, he is a good friend of many places and people in Somerset. His fascinating memoir (Where the Wild Thyme Blew) showed the sometimes hard road to becoming a dedicated naturalist. Chasing the Ghost shows his deep knowledge and love of plants, and a great capacity for fun! A lucid style and a quirky, entertaining viewpoint make it a great adventure story. Imagine The Famous Five Go Botanising and you’ll get the mood of this most original quest.

However, the subtitle may mislead at first glance. In fact, the author has already seen almost all of them, but decided to challenge himself to finish ticking off his final 50 never-seen species in one year. The framework of that bold decision comes from a significant West Country connection. Probably the most influential popular flora publication ever, The Concise British Flora in Colour, was by a Devon vicar, W. Keble Martin, and was illustrated with his exquisite watercolours. First published in 1965, it was a best seller, and drew countless people to wild flowers. The British flora has around 1,500 species, and ‘Keble Martin’, as the book is affectionately known, deals with a solid core of them, excluding the more difficult reaches of subspecies and varieties. Peter always used his copy to tick off plants new to him, youthful family holiday finds progressing to the wide range seen when working in plant conservation. Feeling he had time to spend on an extended adventure, he decided to hunt down the final tantalising rarities shown in this seminal book. This challenge gives the structure for this charming story.

Each plant has its own section, with an elegant line drawing and gripping account of each particular search. Some days were easy and sunny with good company and the plant located and looking perfect. Others involved terrible times, in frightening thunder on a mountain, being stuck on a Hebridean island through the pain of family bereavement, a diagnosis of serious illness – but the author’s good humour and spirit, and the wonderful nature of the quest, make this book both exciting and inspirational as one follows Peter’s every step, willing the target plant to be in flower for him that day!

Among the adventures there are some powerful conservation messages. Our threatened flora needs informed supporters, and Chasing the Ghost seems a wonderful way of encouraging serious thought in the guise of a perfect holiday or bedtime read. It’s a delightful book.

Rosemary FitzGerald

PHOTO: Editor’s own.

RSPB SAY ‘GIVE GULLS LOVE, NOT CHIPS’

News release issued by the RSPB

Gulls consistently get a bad press, but the RSPB is calling on people this summer to take a more understanding view of this most misunderstood of creatures. The RSPB and the RSPCA is offering practical advice to address the problems that sometimes occur between urban gulls and people.

Morwenna Alldis, spokesperson for the RSPB South West, said: “Personally I love gulls – I like a bird with a bit of personality and gulls have that in spades. They’re bombastic, cheeky, incredibly adaptable, opportunistic, intelligent, and if there was a prize for ‘bird parent of the year’, protective urban gull parents would win. However, our urban gull is often misunderstood. We need to change the way we behave around gulls and try to live harmoniously alongside them.”

The RSPB and RSPCA both cite examples of where relations have broken down. Last summer the RSPCA appealed for information after a gull was discovered on an industrial estate in St Austell with a crossbow bolt through its body. The injuries were too severe for the gull to make a recovery and it was put to sleep to prevent further suffering. This sort of attack is not an isolated incident.

Llewelyn Lowen, RSPCA Scientific Officer, explains: “Every year we receive calls about gulls which have been persecuted and the victims of abusive attacks. Many have stones thrown at them, others are left homeless after their nests are illegally destroyed and they may become the target of people taking pot shots at them with airguns.

“Gulls and their nests are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and it is illegal to intentionally kill, take or injure wild birds and action can only be taken against them under licence.”

The RSPB says one of the main issues people have with gulls is linked to the birds’ nesting behaviour. Morwenna continues: “May to July is prime gull-nesting season and during this period they can be quite noisy, which is an understandable annoyance if they’ve chosen a roof near you. But keep in mind that this period is short-lived.

“Gulls are also incredibly protective and proactive parents; they have to be as their chicks are quite worrisome. Before they fledge, gull chicks start to explore their rooftop homes, which can lead to them falling from the roof and sometimes even injuring themselves. When a chick is away from the nest, gull mum and dad will swing into action, protecting their vulnerable offspring from all possible harm – and that includes us.

“If a gull feels that you’re too close to its youngster, and so a potential threat, it will fly over you at great speed and alarmingly close – rarely making contact the first time. This is a warning – it’s meant to frighten you into backing off. If you encounter an anxious gull parent protecting their young, perhaps in your garden or place of work, the best advice is to walk carrying an unfurled umbrella. Again, this is just a temporary measure until the chick has fledged.”

The RSPB say that second main area of concern for people is the way some of the birds feed, but warn much of the problem is of human origin. Morwenna continues: “For years many people have openly fed gulls from their own hands – fish and chips on the beach were often shared with the gull eagerly pacing at people’s feet. Many people still leave bin bags of ripe-smelling food waste on the pavement (not in a bin or gull proof sack), again an easy snack for a gull. And, with the discarded curry containers, soggy burger buns and half eaten kebabs scattering the street outside many local takeaways – it’s little wonder that gulls see us as their free meal ticket. A gull can’t discern between a sausage roll dropped on the floor (free-pickings) and the one you’re unwrapping for lunch in the local park, humans have inadvertently taught gulls that our food is their food. We must all stop feeding gulls both in inland and seaside towns and in our gardens if we want to recondition their current behaviour.”

RSPCA’s Llewelyn Lowen said: “Unfortunately many see these birds as pests, but all it takes is a little care and understanding to minimise any inconvenience caused by gulls. The RSPCA believes that deterrents and non-lethal methods of control are the best way to reduce gull-related problems. Not feeding the gulls, disposing of rubbish properly, and limiting gulls’ nesting opportunities in urban environments will help to reduce any problems.”

PHOTO: Editor’s own.

FROG AND TOAD SIGHTINGS ARE DRYING UP: HOW WE CAN HELP

Survey results released in the last week of more than 174,000 UK gardens reveal that sightings of frogs and toads have declined.
Disappearance of garden ponds and pools has long been a factor linked to the declining numbers.

The RSPB is challenging families to take part in the Wild Challenge by getting outside and creating a simple pond or DIY pool in their outdoor space.

Results from the RSPB’s wildlife survey, which is part of the Big Garden Birdwatch, show that frogs had been seen in more than three-quarters of gardens across the UK. Despite being the most common non-bird garden visitor, seen at least monthly in close to 40% of gardens, this was 17% fewer regular sightings than the last time they were surveyed in 2014, when they were observed monthly in around 46% of gardens.

This pattern was similar for toads, which were seen in 20% of our outdoor spaces on a monthly basis, an alarming 30% fewer gardens than the 28% of gardens in 2014.

At a quick glance, a nature novice may not be able to spot the difference between a frog and a toad. Frogs hop, their skin is smooth and moist and they have a pointed nose, whilst toads crawls, their skin is warty and dry and their noses are rounded – almost semi-circular in shape.

Dr Daniel Hayhow, RSPB Conservation Scientist, said: “Most people remember seeing tadpoles at the local pond or a toad emerging from under a rock while they were growing up – these first experiences with nature stay with us forever. Unfortunately, the sights and sounds of wildlife that were once common to us are sadly becoming more mysterious.

“There are lots of simple things we can all do in our outdoor spaces to make them perfect for wildlife. Frogs and toads are amphibious creatures, meaning that they need a source of water close to their homes to survive. Creating a small pond in your garden, or a pool using a washing up bowl is so simple to do and could make all the difference.”

Other results from the survey revealed a small increase in the number of recorded sightings of hedgehogs. Despite the UK population suffering widespread declines in recent decades, 65% of people spotted one in their gardens over the past year.

Foxes remained one of the other most common garden visitors, with one being spotted in 72% of our gardens and outdoor spaces, while more secretive creatures such as moles and great-crested newts escaped much of the nation’s gaze.

Dr Karen Haysom, Species Programmes Manager at Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, said: “Frogs and toads face many pressures, including the loss of habitat like ponds. Helping these fascinating creatures by making wildlife habitat in your garden or taking part in species recording and monitoring schemes so we understand how nature is faring is fun and can make a difference.”

Big Garden Birdwatch is the world’s largest garden wildlife survey and takes place each year on the last weekend in January. The RSPB asks people to count the birds in their garden or outdoor space over the course of one hour at any point in the weekend to get an idea of how our feathered friends are getting on.

With the wildlife on people’s doorsteps becoming increasingly elusive, the RSPB is calling on families to spend more time outside this summer, discovering the nature that surrounds them and seeing how they can give it a helping hand.

By taking part in the RSPB’s Wild Challenge, families can have fun engaging in activities ranging from building a pool for amphibians to bug safaris, taking their first steps on their own wild adventure. There are 24 activities to choose from that will take you from your own back garden to exploring towns, cities, woodlands and even the coast.

Martyn Foster, RSPB Head of Education, Families and Youth, said: “Getting outside and discovering nature is important for every child. The Wild Challenge gives families the chance to turn the weekend walk into a wild flower foray or make the most of their school holidays by meeting the amazing minibeasts in their own outdoor space. And, as well as getting up close to some amazing wildlife, you’ll be helping to give nature a home.”

The RSPB’s ambition is for Wild Challenge to help more families across the country reap the benefits of spending time outside in nature. Research has shown that children who have a healthy connection to nature are more likely to benefit from higher achievement at school, better mental and physical health, and develop stronger social skills.

To learn more about the RSPB Wild Challenge and to see how you can take your firsts steps on your own wildlife adventure, visit www.rspb.org.uk/wildchallenge

Photo: Common Frog Rana temporaria, adult in pond covered in duckweed, by Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)

PIONEERING NEW APPROACHES TO EXMOOR’S INVASIVE SPECIES PROBLEM

Castration and electrocution are two ground-breaking new ways of tackling invasive plant and animal species being trialled in Exmoor National Park, highlighted as part of Invasive Species Week recently.

Japanese and Himalayan Knotweed are two of Britain’s most invasive weeds and they have caused extensive damage to several of Exmoor’s most precious watercourses, such as the Lyn, Heddon and Barle – all Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

A ten-year collaboration between Exmoor National Park Authority, the Environment Agency, Natural England and the National Trust to try to control the problem has proved highly successful, with the plant now being managed across an area the size of six Wembley football pitches, thanks to the support from local landowners.

Exmoor is now among a handful of UK sites where a pioneering new method of control is being trialled, involving electrocuting the weed’s root system. It is hoped the new approach will avoid the need for repeat spraying with herbicides, which can impact the environment, although not nearly so much as the plants themselves.

Elsewhere on Exmoor’s waterways, another non-native invasive species is being dealt a tough blow. An estimated quarter of a million North American signal crayfish inhabit the River Barle, with potentially devastating consequences for our native wildlife.

The River Barle Crayfish Project is now tackling the problem in an innovative new way never before tried outside of captivity – by castrating the larger, more dominant male signal crayfish. After this harmless procedure, they are returned to the river where it is hoped they will continue to outcompete smaller males to control breeding.

Later this year findings are due to be published on the project – which exists as a partnership between Exmoor National Park Authority, the Environment Agency and the River Exe & Tributaries Association.

Ali Hawkins, Wildlife Conservation Officer at Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “It’s great to be trialling innovative new techniques like these that could potentially help with the problem of invasive species on Exmoor, without further damage to our delicate ecosystems.

“Many of the habitats here are protected for their uniqueness and scientific value, so it’s vital that we do all we can to safeguard them from these foreign invaders. We’d love more volunteers to come forward and help us stop the spread by signing up to one of our training days, or reporting sightings of invasive species through our website.”

People wishing to volunteer for these two projects and others like them can find out more at www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/get-involved.

SOMERSET WILDLIFE TRUST’S ‘WILDLIFE GARDENS’ BACK FOR A SECOND YEAR

Some of the county’s most beautiful and inspiring wildlife gardens are to open to the public to fundraise for Somerset Wildlife Trust, and inspire us to use our own gardens to help wildlife on our own doorstep. These include gardens close to Greater Exmoor and some a little further afield.

After its huge success last year, Somerset Wildlife Trust is delighted to be bringing  ‘Somerset’s Wildlife Gardens’ back for a second year – an initiative that will see eight of Somerset’s finest examples of gardens specifically designed to support our county’s best-loved wildlife open their doors for the public to enjoy.  The gardens, which are spread across the county, as well as being stunning in their own right, each showcase unique features that provide special homes for our best-loved species – from small mammals and pollinators, to birds and pond-dwellers.

With many of our much-loved species facing challenges to find the habitats they need to survive – hedgehogs, bats and sparrows to name a few – making our gardens wildlife-friendly is more important than ever to help many of our species survive. In the UK there are approximately 16 million gardens – a vast amount of habitat available to wildlife. Somerset Wildlife Trust hopes that people who visit these inspiring gardens will feel empowered by them to make their own gardens more wildlife-friendly.

From putting bird feeders up in your garden and leaving parts of your garden wild, to creating your own pond and putting up nesting boxes – there are lots of ways that we can all protect Somerset’s amazing and diverse wildlife by making our own gardens, local green spaces, school playgrounds, or office gardens a secure home for wildlife.

Emma Jones, Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Community Fundraiser, explains: “Many of our much-loved and well known garden species are under threat, in part due to habitat loss. Hedgehogs, for example, have experienced a decline of 30% in the UK over the last ten years, and are disappearing from our countryside as fast as tigers worldwide. This brings home to us the fact that our garden wildlife needs our help. This is why it is so inspiring to see that so many people have dedicated time to create beautiful wildlife havens to support wildlife, and not only that but they are opening them up to the public to inspire other to do more for wildlife too.

“For those who are looking for some inspiration on how to make their gardens wildlife-friendly or fancy a wonderful awe-inspiring day out – don’t miss out on these gorgeous gardens. These events are also fundraisers for Somerset Wildlife Trust as all hosts of the gardens will kindly donate the proceeds to the Trust to support its work across the county.”

The entry fee is £4 per adult (free for children aged 16 and under). Tea and cake is available too, at a small extra cost. No booking is required but if you have any questions please email Emma Jones at events@somersetwildlife.org. For more information on the gardens, such as parking, accessibility and dogs please visit: www.somersetwildlife.org/wildlifegardens.html

Hillcrest Wildflower Meadow and Ponds (pictured)
Friday 13 April 11:00 – 16:00
There is a wildlife rich meadow and also a stunning garden that will be full of spring flowers… a perfect spot to revive after the long winter, something we all need! This is the first time Hillcrest has opened in the spring.
Where: Hillcrest, Curload, TA3 6JA

Bracondale Garden
Friday 18 May 11:00 – 16:00
Bracondale is a fabulous example of a garden that we can all try to create. There is a small meadow and pond attracting all kinds of wildlife. A calm space to sit and ponder.
Where: Bracondale, Staplehay, Taunton, TA3 7HB

Hillcrest Wildflower meadows and gardens
Saturday 26 May 14:00 – 17:00
Hillcrest has stunning gardens and a beautiful meadow created and looked after by passionate wildlife gardeners. It is an essential wildlife haven that attracts and protects the local species that in turn gives so much joy to everyone that visits!
Where: Hillcrest, Curload, TA3 6JA

Henley Hill farm
Wednesday 6 June 11:00 – 16:00
Come along to the inspiring Henley Hill Farm to see wild flower and grass rich meadows and pastures with incredible views. The meadow has been studied by experts from Somerset Wildlife Trust who could not believe just how many species of flora and fauna they found. Beautiful!
Where: Henley Hill farm, Haybridge, (near Wells), BA5 1AL

Model Farm Gardens
Sunday 17 June 11:00 – 16:00
Model Farm shows how much nature can create a sanctuary within a decade. The gardeners have made Model Farm a beautiful garden bursting with wildlife, a joy to spend time in.
Where: Model farm, Perry Green, Wembdon, TA5 2BA

Millers Pond and Garden
Saturday 30 June 11:00 – 16:00
This is a jewel for wildlife. Last year, a top garden designer came to visit when the garden opened for Somerset Wildlife Trust and was absolutely full of praise! Why not combine your visit with a trip to Nunney Castle.
Where: The Miller’s House, Nunney, BA11 4NP

Badbury Flower Farm
Sunday 22 July 12:00 – 15:00
Visit this wonderful flower farm… the owner is a flower farmer! Using the beautiful blooms, bouquets and arrangements are created for all occasions. Come and see how they are made and get the chance to create your own posy to take home.
Where: Badbury Dairy House, Isle Abbotts, Taunton. TA3 6RS

Elworthy Cottage
Thursday 26 July 11:00 – 17:00
An inspiring, peaceful wildlife garden full of bumbleebees, butterflies and bird song. After your visit, treat yourself to a beautiful cottage garden plant from the nursery
Where: Elworthy Cottage Plants, Elworthy, TA4 3PX

ACEARTS AND SOMERSET WILDLIFE TRUST LAUNCH OPEN WILDLIFE ART EXHIBITION

ACEarts is working in partnership with the Somerset Wildlife Trust on an Open Wildlife Art Exhibition, and is seeking submissions from artists and creators.

The submissions are now open and will be judged in May by a panel which includes Wildlife Broadcaster and Patron of Somerset Wildlife Trust Simon King OBE; Stewart Geddes, President of the Royal West of England Academy; Katie Arber, Director of Fundraising and Marketing, Somerset Wildlife Trust; Nina Gronw-Lewis, Curator of ACEarts; and Frank Martin, Trustee of ACEarts. The exhibition will take place at ACEarts between 6 October and 3 November 2018.

Nina Gronw-Lewis, Curator of ACEarts, said, “This is a really exciting opportunity for local creators of every discipline to be part of an exhibition of wildlife art. We’re really looking forward to seeing the artwork which is submitted, and are grateful to Simon King OBE and Stewart Geddes for agreeing to be part of the judging panel.”

Katie Arber, Somerset Wildlife Trust, comments, “Britain’s wildlife inspires many artists. Working in partnership with ACEarts we hope many more people will become aware of just how special Somerset is for wildlife and understand how important it is to safeguard our local wildlife and wild landscapes.  It will also help us and ACEarts raise the critical funds needed to continue to carry out our work.”

Interested artists can find out more details by visit ACEarts’ website www.acearts.co.uk, emailing aceartssomerset@icloud.comor visiting their Facebook page.

Somerset Wildlife Trust has been protecting vulnerable wildlife and preserving Somerset’s wild places for over 50 years and, with over 18,000 members, it is the largest conservation charity in the county.  Alongside its members and volunteers the chariety works year round to protect wildlife, transform landscapes and put nature back into people’s lives.

Top: ‘Launch’, by Kaye Parmenter