The Pond and Marsh
In October 1990 our first project was to have the pond and marsh excavated. These are both 15 metres across and the pond is up to two metres deep in the centre. The marsh was created by the removal of the top soil to lower the ground level. The pond is fed by rain and groundwater only; the level changing with the season. The clay sub-soil and high water table ensures that water covers the marsh in very wet weather and it dries out in summer. Normally the water level of the pond has not gone below about one foot by the end of summer. However, the summer of 2003 was exceptionally hot and dry and the water completely disappeared for about a week, the first time this had ever happened.
In late 2001 a new pond-dipping platform was constructed to replace the 1993 one. It allows people to reach the pond without trampling the vegetation and allows wheelchair users to try pond-dipping. A lower level platform was installed to allow access to the pond as the water level drops. Some native water plants and marginal plants were added to the pond and management is necessary to prevent invasive plants from taking over. We were also given buckets of unwanted frogspawn from goldfish ponds and half a dozen sticklebacks which proceeded to breed until killed by the drought. All other wildlife (including dragonflies, damselflies, diving beetles, pond skaters, water stick insects and newts) has made its own way to the pond
Butterfly Habitat Mounds
The topsoil and subsoil in the spoil from the pond and marsh construction were mixed and formed into two long, low mounds to provide shelter. The south-facing slopes were planted with a variety of plants to attract nectar-loving insects such as bees, bumble bees and butterflies. We also introduced yellow rattle to try to check the growth of the grass which had shaded out some of the lower growing summer plants.
The Hazel Copse
In March 1991 a small area behind the shed was planted with about 20 hazel trees. By 2003, these were big enough to be coppiced on a rotational basis and we use the cuttings for pea and bean sticks and to provide support for climbing ornamentals in the kitchen garden. We started planting red campion, wild primrose and violet plants some years ago and more will be introduced once the grass has died back further.
Scattered around the park are extra habitats to encourage animals. These include a hedgehog house, solitary-bee houses, a ladybird/lacewing box, many bird boxes including a sparrow terrace, a bat box and log piles for hibernating animals and fungal growth.
The Bird Orchard
Fourteen varieties of native trees and shrubs providing fruit for birds were planted. Holly, ivy and bramble were already growing in one corner and, when the trees reached a reasonable size we introduced berry-bearing climbers such as honeysuckle and bryony, and herbaceous plants such as woody nightshade and wild strawberry. We also planted primroses, wood anemone and wild daffodils.
Our choice of tree was guided partly by soil conditions and partly by attractiveness to birds. Spindle, rowan and yew thrive. While whitebeam, for example, had to be left out of our scheme because it prefers drier conditions. Hawthorn and blackthorn were excluded because they are already growing in other parts of the park.
Fruit is available for at least six months of the year, starting with the wild cherry in June/July and ending with ivy in January, although the berries of yew, ivy and holly can remain on the tree until March. However, the biggest variety of fruit is in the autumn.
The Demonstration Wildlife Garden
This is designed to show that an ordinary back garden can be made attractive to wildlife. The shrubs and flowering plants here are a mixture of wild and cultivated species. Both sorts have been chosen for their value to wildlife. They provide nectar or pollen, seeds or berries as well as roosting or nesting places. Some of the plants provide food for caterpillars. These include cuckoo flower (seed pods eaten) and bird’s-foot trefoil (leaves eaten).
There are no goldfish in the pond because they eat tadpoles and other forms of wildlife. However, there are frogs and newts, dragonfly larvae and diving beetles. There are a few cultivated plants in and at the edge of the garden pond, but most plants are native.
At the end of the garden on the left is a miniature wildflower meadow surrounded by a native hedge with hedgerow plants and woodland edge plants.