Spring is here… and OK, so at the moment, Bristol is still pretty cold and wet, but brighter days are (hopefully) on their way. To compliment this, our challenge this month is themed around nature.
Horrifically, since 1970, there has been a 50% decline in marine populations, a 68% decline in wild vertebrates and an 83% decline in freshwater wildlife globally. Closer to home, in the Avon area, birds are on the decline. There are 80% fewer linnets in our skies than there were in 1994, and we’ve lost a shocking 96% of starlings and swifts. UK butterflies are also dying out.
Photo by __ drz __ on Unsplash
Therefore, encouraging biodiversity is one of the most important things we can do to tackle climate change. Here are a few ideas for individual actions we can all take to try to encourage more nature in our lives.
1. Encourage wildness
If you have a garden, can you let it go back to nature? This page of our website contains all kinds of tips for how you can let nature take over in your garden. Cut back spring shrubs such as flowering currant so that they produce plenty of flowers for nectar and pollen next spring - just make sure nothing is nesting inside them first.
One beautiful if pricey option for wilder gardens is to invest in some wildflower turf. My partner and I have some of this in our front garden. Between March and September, new flowers burst into colourful bloom, seemingly on a daily basis. I've spent many happy hours when I should have been working gazing out the window and pointing out new plants. Wildflower Turf attracts wildlife, absorbs carbon and is beautiful. It does set you back a few quid, but if you’ve got the money, it’s a fantastic investment. Plus, great news for the non-green-fingered among us (which includes me), it is extremely low maintenance.
Whatever the size or shape of your garden, if you have grass, you can take part in No Mow May. What do you have to do? Well - nothing at all! Just sit back and let nature do its thing in your garden. That's the kind of gardening I can get on board with.
The people who have run this project have discovered that cutting the grass once every four weeks allows plants like daisies and white clover to bloom, boosting nectar production 10 fold. Given the bee crisis facing the planet, this has to be worth a try.
Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash
Of course, we don’t all have gardens, but we can all enjoy parks and verges. Unfortunately, at the moment, councils mow verges and parks frequently, cutting back the wildlife that our city is crying out for. Sign this petition to ask Bristol Council to stop mowing and let nature in.
2. Encourage wildlife
Letting nature take over your garden will mean you get more furry visitors. And what’s not to love about that?
For example, did you know that May is hedgehog season? Make sure your garden is safe for hedgehogs by getting rid of any loose netting or other litter. You might also want to leave out some food and water for the little critters - they like meaty pet food or chopped, unsalted peanuts.
Hedgehogs and other animals also love log piles, so build one of those to get all kinds of animals hanging out in your backyard.
If you fancy seeing more butterflies flitting about your yard, check out this handy article on wildflowers - could you plant some to encourage butterflies to your backyard? These colourful plants are just as beautiful as the butterflies they will encourage, so that’s a double win there.
This suggestion is a pretty big project… but if you fancy digging a pond in your garden, nature will really thank you for it. Ponds are homes to frogs, newts, toads and insects, and provide drinking water for birds and hedgehogs. Plus they’re soothing and beautiful, meaning they are pretty good for the mental health of us humans.
If you feel intrepid enough to give this a go, check out these three articles - and let us know how you get on.
3. Read and watch
In her book Wilding, Isabella Tree tells the story of the 'Knepp experiment', a pioneering rewilding project in West Sussex, using free-roaming grazing animals to create new habitats for wildlife. Although I haven’t read this myself, two of my friends have read the book and they loved it. I asked those pals for their key takeaway points:
"The key takeaway for me was the data around carbon sequestration in soil. We all give a lot of attention to meat, animal welfare and emissions and so on but soil improvement literally pulls carbon out of the atmosphere. Cure, as well as prevention."
"The fundamental structures and systems that nature needs to restore and recover are ones that it has total capacity to do already if humans stop interfering. We need to free ourselves from the neat and tidy countryside that was fashionable in Victorian times. Trees that fall need to be left where they are, while ugly and daunting thistles which are the sole environments for rare and beautiful butterflies should be left well alone."
Photo by Gabriel Jimenez on Unsplash
Additionally, you might want to check out the documentary Kiss the Ground on Netflix, which is a full-length film about a “new, old approach” to farming called 'regenerative agriculture', which the filmmakers say has the potential to balance our climate, replenish our vast water supplies, and feed the world. Plus, the film is narrated by Woody from Cheers. What’s not to love?
West Bristol Climate Action is hosting an online talk about Regenerative Agriculture on Wednesday 26th of May. For full details and to book tickets check out the Eventbrite page. If you're reading this blog after that event already took place, the video of the talk should be available on our Youtube page.
If you have some ideas of your own for how to encourage Nature, post them below. We always love hearing from you!