How to help keep Gloucestershire native.
PUBLISHED: 15:15 21 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:50 20 February 2013
why we must fight off the foreign invaders, and where we to see wild daffodils
We have some of the most wonderful flora and fauna in our Gloucestershire countryside ... but it may be surprising to know that amidst the beauty and tranquillity there's a battle going on out there.
It's a battle between our native species and 'foreign invaders', species that have been introduced from abroad or 'changed' through cultivation.
The problem is that when a new species is introduced to a wild habitat, the natural balance that exists for native animals and plants is often unable to keep the 'alien' in check simply because it isn't meant to be there. More often than not this leads to a battle for dominance, which our native animals and plants don't always come out of well.
Think grey squirrel, North American mink, Japanese knotweed and American water fern. These are just a few of the many alien species that now pose a major threat to our native wildlife.
But all is not lost. While most people aren't in a position to help the embattled water vole survive the onslaught of the North American mink, there is still quite a lot that most householders can do to help keep Gloucestershire native, particularly in the garden:
1. If you have a garden pond, try to avoid planting species like the New Zealand pygmy weed and American water fern which, thousands of miles from their homes, have no natural predators or competitors to curb their growth. This means they will quickly cloak the water surface and block the light which has a direct impact on newts and frogs as well as insects such as water beetles and dragonflies. Planting native species in and around your pond instead will give your garden insect population a real boost and help keep your pond life healthy.
2. At the garden centre it's easy to be seduced by colourful and exotic cultivated plants which look wonderful but, once they're planted in the garden, can cause unlimited problems. Always ask the provenance of a plant before you buy it to make sure it's native, cultivated in the UK or even better in Gloucestershire.
3. If you have a 'difficult' corner in your garden, why not take a risk and let nature take its course? Allow plants to colonise it under their own steam and you may end up with something rather attractive.
4. Set some of your lawn area aside, sow it with native wildflower seeds and allow it to grow as a wildflower meadow. It will be a treat for your eye, attract lots of wildlife and cut down on your mowing.
5. Keep cultivated or ornamental plant varieties in the garden to reduce the risk of cross pollination with wild species. Never plant them on road verges, in hedgerows or on village greens. Our native wild daffodils and bluebells are particularly at risk of being overtaken by hybrids.
6. If you feel a desire to plant something exotic and wonderful, remember that a scattering of ox-eyed daisies and evening primrose, or the draping of honeysuckle across a fence or pergola will result in natural beauty, wonderful scents and above all the satisfaction that you're helping keep Gloucestershire native.
Wildlife garden diary
March is the month when the garden really begins to wake up from winter. Bulbs will be bursting through the soil, buds will be appearing on shrubs and trees and (horror) the lawn will be starting to grow again.
All over the garden under rocks, behind boundary hedges, under log piles and in sheds, there are lots of animals and insects literally waking up too.
Animals like hedgehogs often hibernate in gardens to survive the winter, when their usual diet of earthworms and insects isn't available. When they hibernate they're not actually asleep in the normal sense, but in an 'inactive' state when their breathing and heart rates slow right down to conserve energy.
DID YOU KNOW: During hibernation a hedgehog's heart rate will drop from around 100 beats to 10 beats per minute.
Animals that hibernate tend to eat lots of food in the summer to build up a good 'fat store', which is how they survive without eating during the winter. When they wake up in spring they'll be a lot thinner than when they began their hibernation, and they'll be very hungry.
This is also the time of year when you'll start seeing more butterflies wafting around the garden. You may already have spotted the primrose yellow of a brimstone butterfly, which can emerge from hibernation as early as February, while the vivid orange comma butterfly which hibernates on tree trunks through the winter is more likely to make an appearance in March.
If you've already spotted a red admiral butterfly do tell us by logging on to www.gloucestershirewildlifetrust.co.uk. This is a butterfly that used to migrate to northern Africa but is increasingly over-wintering in the UK because of our milder winters.
As for the birds, many will be thinking about breeding right about now so it's a good time to put a nest box up in the garden or, if you already have one, making sure it's cleaned out for the next tenant.
The blooming of native wild daffodils in our woods and meadows is a sure signal that Spring has sprung. It's a delicate and graceful plant, smaller than its cultivated garden counterparts, with pale yellow petals enveloping a golden yellow trumpet.
Wild daffodils used to be common throughout the whole of England, but are now only found in scattered areas. But here in Gloucestershire we're lucky to be able to find them in their hundreds and sometimes thousands around the 'golden triangle' villages of Newent and Dymock. Here there's a 10-mile footpath known as The Daffodil Way that runs through woods, orchards and meadows. In the 1930s this area was so famous for the dancing displays of the little yellow plants that a 'Daffodil Special' train used to run city folk from Central London to Gloucestershire for day trips to see them.
The best time to see wild daffodils is from mid-March through to April, though the time when they're at their best is always dependent on the weather.
(Candia - not sure about copyright but might be nice to include this poem as a side panel)
I WANDER'D lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed -- and gazed -- but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
By William Wordsworth (1770-1850).
Places to visit:
Where to see wild daffodils in Gloucestershire:
- Betty Daw's Wood Nature Reserve - two miles north-east of Newent. From Gloucester take the A40 (for Ross on Wye) and then turn right onto the B4215. Continue through Newent and take the third turning on the left (about 2 miles past Newent) onto an unclassified road. Continue for about 1.5 miles. A path on the left gives access to the wood. OS Map reference: 162 SO 696284.