We recently spoke to James Neal, one of the Gardening team, about how he and our other gardeners are helping the Trust with our aim to Encourage Biodiversity across our sites.
“Spring and early summer have been a busy time in the gardens and there are lots of conversations going on within the gardening team about how we can develop the gardens with the environment and wildlife in mind. We do a lot of work in this area anyway; for example we try and avoid using pesticide or herbicide and stick with organic feeds and biological pest control wherever possible.”
“We have started to wonder whether some of our lawns could support a wider range of biodiversity and are hoping to create wildflower areas in the next year or so. This will help reduce the amount of time it takes to mow these areas and encourages more wildlife into our gardens. However, if you love our lawns, please don’t worry! We will still have large lawn areas, just with discrete areas of wildflowers that will add some much needed colour to the sites.”
“Hand in hand with this, we are looking at how we can change and adapt many of the planting schemes around our sites to make them both environmentally friendly and more beneficial to wildlife. For example, we are hoping to develop the Wild Bank area at Shakespeare’s New Place and improve the information available to visitors about this interesting area.”
James also spoke about one of the Trust's new projects, our Wilding area at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, a large orchard space which is being allowed to develop into a wildflower meadow. “I have some experience with wildflower meadows but it has been a few years since I worked with one” James told us, “so it is exciting to help with the development of this new area. Long term, I really believe that all of our orchards could become beautiful areas of wildflowers, rich with wildlife. This year, for the first time, we have found two Wild Spotted Orchids in different parts of the Cottage site, which is a great sign of a healthy meadow in the making. We have also found some Yellow Rattle. This is an excellent find as it really helps suppress larger perennial weeds while allowing a more diverse selection of wild flowers and smaller grasses to grow.”
As you can tell, this more natural approach to gardening is not something limited to the Wilding area: “We have also allowed areas of grass to grow freely around the sculpture garden at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, while maintaining natural looking paths to allow people to get close to the statues. Our plan for the sculpture garden is to cut the grass down at the end of the season and clear it away to allow it to remain as low grasses and wildflowers.”
So, has this approach to creating wilder spaces in our gardens helped us to encourage more biodiversity? “We have so much wildlife on our sites” James told us. “We have a family of Roe Deer who frequent the gardens and plantation at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, as well as several Muntjac. There are a good selection of birds, from the large murder of crows in the plantation, a green woodpecker and a nesting pair of Owls near our workshop. Even our sites in town have plenty of biodiversity. We recently discovered a fox in the Great Garden. We contacted a local wildlife rescue group who were able to tell us that the individual we had found had reached a really good age for a wild fox. And all of our flowerbeds are buzzing with pollinators - a swarm of bees flew through New Place just last week!”
To find out more about our work to become net zero in our carbon emissions by 2030 visit our Sustainable Shakespeare page.