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The Year so far...

Posted: Tuesday 21st July 2015 by

The Year so far...The Year so far...

Firstly to introduce myself; I am Dawn Fielding (pictured left) and my full title is ‘Community Engagement Officer, Wildlife Gardening’ (quite a mouthful). This new post was created to enable Surrey Wildlife Trust to share wildlife gardening expertise, to educate and inspire people on the importance of making outside space a haven for wildlife.

It has been a busy few months, as well as creating the Surrey Wildlife Garden Award, I have been advising schools and churches on their grounds, helping to improve our 2 wildlife gardens at Bay Pond Nature Reserve and Newlands Corner, organizing an Autumn Hedgehog conference, updating the web pages, attending events and many more new projects.

Hampton Court Flower Show 2015

My highlight at this years show was the RHS ‘Community Street’. The garden was inspired by a real street in Bristol where residents have been transforming the grey spaces in this neighborhood for over a decade. They have reinstalled street trees and tackled problems such as fly tipping.

As you walked through the exhibit you journeyed from a grey, unloved street into a lush green one. A beautiful, practical and environmentally-clever garden. The installation aimed to show how important gardening is to tackling climate change and how the hardest, bleakest space can be greened, not just to look and smell good, but to combat air pollution, assist drainage and mitigate flooding as well as being beneficial to mental and physical wellbeing.

One in four front gardens are now completely paved over and our modern streets are becoming more grey than green. Perhaps people can be inspired to carry our similar improvements within our Surrey villages and towns?

Wildlife Garden Forum – Natural History Museum

I have been attending these conferences for a number of years and always leave slightly dazed. The speakers often challenge general assumptions with fascinating research and facts.

The latest conference took place in June and focused on Soil Biodiversity in the Garden.

Did you know that there are as many organisms in a teaspoonful of soil as there are people on the Earth? That a quarter of the planets biodiversity is in the soil? That it takes 1000 years for 1cm of soil to accumulate?

It really makes you think how precious a resource soil is and that garden soil can contain an amazing amount of life that we are mostly unaware of. To illustrate the importance of garden soil, a ploughed field has aprox. 290 earthworms per cubic metre whilst a humble garden has aprox. 440! 

Matthew Shepherd, Natural England’s soil biodiversity specialist removed a small bit of weed from his patio. On analysis he found the weed’s roots contained a rare species and so he promptly put it back, where he had found it. Much to his wife’s consternation! If you’re interested in looking at the weird and unrecorded wildlife in your soil, you can buy a cheap microscope online and as Matthew said ‘Soil life is accessible, fascinating, identifiable, and all over your garden – there’s a new world to be discovered!’.

If we take care of our soil and garden organically, our plants will benefit and we will help all those creatures further up the food chain – hedgehogs, birds, amphibians etc that feed on those bugs.

Check out the Forums website for useful information and practical advice and perhaps I will see you at the next conference.

Patchworking Garden Project - Dorking

The Patchworking Garden Project had its first open day on Saturday 11th July to celebrate the opening of their community garden. The project is based within a very beautiful walled garden in Dorking, with the stunning Box Hill framing the background.

The group has only been established a few months, with volunteers working hard, to clear back bramble from the site, building raised beds and fixing the polytunnels. What they have achieved in that space of time is truly incredible. The Project aims to ‘bring positive change to people’s lives through gardening’.

They offer people the therapeutic benefits of gardening as well as the possibility of new friendships, enabling an improvement in wellbeing and the support of a welcoming environment. New gardeners are always welcome!

I have the feeling we will uncover a vast number of community gardens doing amazing work across Surrey. It is my hope that we can connect this community, providing a support network and helping to encourage others to take up the mantle.

Please share your Wildlife Gardening experiences

Are you part of a community garden or an allotment/business/school/nursing home etc that is interested in wildlife? Send me your wildlife garden photos and encounters at and we'll share our favourites.

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