Not much good news came out in yesterdays State of Nature Report, where 50 nature organisations put their finding together to reveal the extinction of 50 UK species, partly due to fragmentation and loss of habitat. To learn more about our local nature, there are so many good talks going on at the Ecology Centre in Holland Park, and there are two left. If you missed the first two here’s a little résumé.
First up, the brilliant Chris Baines, one of the UK’s leading independent environmentalists who is also a horticulturalist, landscape architect, naturalist, television presenter and author. He gave a wide ranging talk, but the take home thing was that we can all create a flourishing and lively spot full of plants and insects and birds and the odd mammal even if we only have a window box. More space is obviously better, as he was really keen on ponds, even a tiny one is a good thing. The thing is to make your garden patch alluring to wild things. “Why I want more wildlife in my garden is because I like the sound of the birds and of the bees.” He said there has been a huge mind change in gardening and the use of insecticides and slug killers since he started out. “In the 1960s I was taught to kill everything, there has been a big change in 40 years.” Of all the people on the Earth today, one in 100 lives in the British Isles, and Baines said a lot of our waste drifts north to the Arctic. He says: “So much pesticide is used that it has been found in polar bear milk.” On the positive side here are some things we can do in Notting Hill. Baines says: “The most important wildlife plant and the most unfashionable, is the English Ivy.” If it’s growing up trees, leave it he says, it won’t harm the tree. It’s good as it harbours insects, the birds feed on those, and also it has very late nectar for insects to feed on. Also, Holly Blue butterflies lay their eggs in it.Candytuft is cheap and brilliant at attracting insects. If you have a wet patch you could plant some Lady Smock which Orange Tip Butterflies love. I could go on here … honeysuckle for night flying moths and bats, echinops for bees, ooh and muscari is good and sedum … best read Baines’ RHS book Companion to Wildlife Gardening came out last week.
Hedgehogs were the subjects of yesterday’s talk by Dr Nigel Reeve who has worked with them for 40 years (above). Hedgehogs! They have been loved by humanity since the Bronze Age, we know that because hedgehog carvings have been found at Stonehenge. They don’t do much, they potter around on their own but are quite promiscous and they wander around 2kms every night, feeding and mating with different hogs. The ones we have here are called Erinaceus europaeus and used to scamper round all the Royal Parks, including Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park until the 1970s. What went wrong? Maybe too much predation, roadkill, not enough ground cover and shrubberies? Nobody seems to have the exact reason. Now they are only found in The Regent’s Park where 200 volunteers watch over them and do night counts and rescue missions. Wish we had some Notting Hill ones …
Next up is a talk on the mammals of Holland Park on Saturday 17th September, 9.30am – 11.30am and then an Autumn bat walk on Thursday 22nd September, 6.30pm – 8pm. If you haven’t already been on a bat walk, please do and if you have a teenager even better. The night really comes alive and you’ll be amazing at all the activity out there in the dark. Book for any or all of them here … [email protected]