FEBRUARY | BUILDING PRODUCTS
mammals, amphibia and insects. They don’t just
hop, fly and run around in them; they nest in
them and eat them. Traditional country hedges are
cheap and quick to establish. They’re attractive,
and recommended as security features. Properly
managed they can be squeezed into tight spaces,
and don’t mind the shade.
Roadside hedges can dramatically reduce
particulate levels from vehicle exhaust. They’re
much better at it than trees as they’re at exhaust
pipe level. Particles are either actively absorbed,
or stick to leaves until they’re washed off. This
stuff isn’t just good for our mental health; it has
physical benefits too.
I’m not going to drone on about other garden
features beneficial to wildlife – there’s plenty of
good information out there. What I would say is
Redrow, which was already working with the
Bumblebee Conservation Trust to make more
pollinator-friendly gardens, recently also
partnered with the Wildlife Trusts. It might be
doing it out of the goodness of its heart, but
there’s also a commercial logic to this. More
attractive, nature-friendly features are going to
bring in more attractive wildlife. They’re also
going to command higher prices for units for sale.
Gardens have a particularly important part to
play in the recovery of our wildlife populations.
They’re not generally saturated in pesticides.
They can offer varied habitats; ponds, woodland
edge, meadow. They’re often full of good plants
for pollinators like bees, which need the sort
of varied diet a row of gardens can provide.
Although garden sizes continue to shrink, they are
joined up to each other – for anything flying but
also, if thoughtfully designed, we can establish
“wildways” between them.
These “wildways” aren’t just holes for
hedgehogs cut in fence panels. What’s wrong
with a hedge? Our mixed native hedges here are
motorways for a vast range and number of birds,
This green and pleasant
land is one of the
countries in the world
that we should aim to create a range of attractive
diverse habitats, and that whatever you do should
also bring other benefits. An example? Sustainable
drainage systems, or SuDS.
Swales, detention basins, ponds, wetlands,
green roofs – these are all fantastic features to
suit a wide range of flora and fauna. We have
swales in our garden here in wet Somerset, and
have planted them with yellow iris and purple
loosestrife. Ponds and wetlands are two of our
richest and most attractive habitats. Green roof
substrates can now support wildflowers rather
than just non-native sedums. Mixes are varied
and interesting – even more so when a green roof
has solar panels mounted on it. This introduces a
whole new element of wet, where water runs off
the face of the panels and shade is created under
them. A mini world.
There are a bewildering variety of things to help
wildlife – rather than plants – that people tack on
to houses. Many of them actually work. There are
very good integral bat boxes
and solitary bee nesters
available, which can do
very well if properly sited.
That’s solitary bees; their
stings can’t break the skin
and they’re only distantly
related to honeybees. All
are under threat. Swift,
swallow and house martin
boxes are a real lifeline, and
fascinating for their human
features can help too,
although generally hard landscaping is expensive
and unhelpful. Where you have to use walls, why
not use dry stone or gabions? Dry stonewalling
is stunning but expensive; gabions look modern
and can be done cheaply. Both solutions create
fabulous habitats; we have wrens nesting in our
gabions and a large extended family of toads
lurking in their inner recesses. Hibernacula also
work well for toads and other amphibia and
reptiles. What a great way to bury random spoil
and garden detritus.
There’s so much that can be done to help
our beleaguered wildlife, and – at worst – at
no actual cost. Done cleverly and well, there’s
actually a financial gain to be had, as well as an
partnered with both
Conservation Trust and
the Wildlife Trusts.
Below: Green roof
substrates can now