(Above) Donna Hollingworth and son, Eddie (below) Eddie with a slowworm & Donna's evolving wildlife garden
Meet, Donna, one of our new Make Wildlife Welcome Heroes!
Donna loves nature, is a proud mum to Eddie, and enthusiastic member and supporter of Dorset Wildlife Trust. We wanted to dig a bit deeper into Donna's love of wildlife gardening, here's what she told us...
What kind of wildlife have you spotted in your garden?
Donna: I have a steep stepped garden on 4 different levels. I have left the top level to grow completely wild and will continue to do so. I had one of the local foxes visit during the summer and lie down in the long grass, completely hidden from view unless he stood up to change position! I have had lots of bees, hoverflies and butterflies visit the garden as I have a large fuchsia, lavender and buddleia bush that they all love! We have the usual garden spiders, woodlice, ants and various beetles and ladybirds that my son loves to look for! We also have a resident robin, magpies, blackbirds and jays so there is always something to look at!
Gardening is good for wildlife, but why do you think it is important for people? Why is it important that we encourage our children to appreciate wildlife?
Donna: There is nothing more peaceful than just sitting in the garden and reading a book, listening to the background sounds of the birds and bees. If you sit still long enough they will come closer to you than you think! People need to reconnect with nature and the outdoors in general. Life is full of the stresses of work and family life and with the ever expanding range of games consoles and internet access, it’s easy to sit down and stay indoors all day instead of getting out and exploring the world around you. A good walk in the park, woods, a nature reserve or the beach blows away the cobwebs and makes you feel like you have done something useful with your time and family. There is nothing better than going out for an hour or two on a cold crisp day and coming back to hot chocolate and a snuggle under a blanket!!
Children have no concept of the world around them, they learn from us. If you teach a child not to squash insects and that their life in this world is as important as yours, they will accept this. Equally, if you teach them not be afraid of bees and spiders then they won’t be. When they are young they are like sponges and soak up information about the world around them, I believe this is the best time to encourage them to enjoy and hopefully respect and love the natural world around them. They will be the next generation who respects and protects their environment and with the way it is going at the moment they will be desperately needed! Children love to get muddy, wet and run around with no restraint. Let them jump in puddles, paddle in the sea, make sand angels, climb trees and touch and feel plants, insects and anything they want that is safe to do so!! It’s the only way they will learn to love what is around them.
The Dorset Wildlife Trust campaign, Make Wildlife Welcome, is all about doing something extra for wildlife, with whatever outside space is available to you. What is the most unlikely place you have used to benefit wildlife?
Donna: I have been very lucky in that I have always had a garden of some description to encourage wildlife so haven’t really had any ‘unlikely places’. But I do save wildlife where and when I can! I leave spiders in the corners of the house and won’t put house spiders outside! I have found struggling worms and moved them to soil and have even put stray ants outside that have found their way in on clothes (or more usually, my son!). Be kind, they have a right to be there too!
The 2013 State of Nature Report states that 60% of UK species are in decline. We’re suggesting that the 15 million gardens in the UK can help tip the balance if we use them wisely. But this is a huge challenge. How can one person with a small garden really believe that they can do something to help?
Donna: As a famous supermarket says “Every little helps!” If every garden has some flowers (borders, pots or even window boxes and hanging baskets) this creates a corridor for all the insects that need the flowers. This in turn will encourage animals that feed on those insects like spiders and birds. Every garden has the potential to help wildlife, however large or small. You can introduce a bug hotel easily as they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes (or build your own if you are feeling creative and get the kids involved!). This can be put in a corner of your garden and left alone to be colonised! A bird feeder which is kept topped up with food is always an easy one to start with. It could a seed feeder or fat ball hanging from a branch if you have limited space.
What’s the best and most useful wildlife gardening tip you have?
Donna: If you want to encourage wildlife into your garden, my best tip would be to start small. As mentioned above, introduce a bug hotel that you don’t have to worry about or a small bird feeder. Plant a lavender or buddleia that is low maintenance, but will teem with life during the summer months. Then if you feel you have the time and the will you can introduce more wildlife friendly plants (ivy growing up a bare fence encourages lots of insects, I even had a robin nesting in mine!). Watch what birds, butterflies and insects are visiting and plant with them in mind. And last, but not least, get the kids involved! Let them have their own patch in a border or their own pot to plant seeds, water them and watch them grow!
Why should people join the campaign to Make Wildlife Welcome?
Donna: Too many of us want a perfect low maintenance garden filled with decking and gravel. Whilst these can have their place, my own garden is mostly patio slabs due to the varying levels, this is no good for wildlife! They can’t feed off gravel, wood and concrete and need your help to thrive! The top level of my garden is and will be left completely wild. I moved into this property last November and left the borders to grow wild to see what came up! The wildlife loved it, so this has given me an idea of what I want to do with it for the coming year. I have 3 borders, one in full sun, one in half sun/shade and one in shade so I will be sowing some wild flower seeds in the sunny bit and let them do their thing! The rest will planted with wildlife friendly flowers and shrubs.
Everybody needs to realise that they are responsible for their surroundings and the environment and I hope through this campaign people will start to see the natural world around them with more clarity and that it needs help. The bumble bee is in serious decline at the moment and if they are not helped then by the time my son is my age or his children reach adulthood, the only place to see them will be on the internet or wildlife films. The sound of them buzzing and going about their business whilst you sit reading a book in the garden is one of the sounds of summer that everybody knows and hears, but if it wasn’t there anymore, would you care? Is this something that you really want to happen?**
Would you like to become one of our Make Wildlife Welcome heroes and join us to help garden wildlife?
We'd love you to be part of our campaign to make wildlife welcome in garden's throughout Dorset. There's a special pack of goodies for non-members (and a members only starter pack) plus we'll be providing tips to help you realise your wildlife gardening dreams. Find out more here