The wild side of Christmas with Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust

PUBLISHED: 16:45 21 November 2020 | UPDATED: 15:12 25 November 2020

Robin (Erithacus rubecula) adult perched in winter. Photo: Mark Hamblin/2020Vision

Robin (Erithacus rubecula) adult perched in winter. Photo: Mark Hamblin/2020Vision

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Christmas is coming and a great excuse for everybody to have a wild time, says Sue Bradley, who looks at nature-friendly ways to celebrate the festive season

Crickley Hill, GloucestershireCrickley Hill, Gloucestershire

Tis the season to be jolly, and after a year like 2020 we all deserve an enjoyable festive season.

Yet amidst the tinsel and glasses of Irish cream, it’s also a great time to think about wildlife and even bring a touch of the natural world into our celebrations.

Years ago it was commonplace to scour the garden for foliage to bring inside to cast away the gloom of short wintry days.

Nowadays this opportunity to get close to nature comes with the added benefit of encouraging mindfulness, allowing us to slow down, appreciate the colour and shapes of different leaves and do something creative.

Cotswold sheep at Farmcote. Photo: Martin FryCotswold sheep at Farmcote. Photo: Martin Fry

Once Christmas is over these natural decorations can be placed outside to provide habitats for insects, with some people attaching seed balls to festive wreaths to encourage birds to visit later on to pluck out twigs and moss for their nests.

Helping our feathered friends is something we can all do over the winter months, and the effort and cost involved in providing seeds and keeping feeders and tables clean will be matched, if not exceeded, by the sight of colourful winged visitors. Don’t forget to top up the bird bath, and break the ice on especially cold days too.

While Christmas brings excitement and bright lights, the short and sometimes gloomy days are enough to make us all feel a bit out of sorts, an excellent remedy for which is to go out for a walk to enjoy an hour or two of daylight and burn off that extra mince pie. Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust looks after many beautiful nature reserves across the county, almost all of which are accessible at this time of year. Visit the Trust’s website at: gloucestershirewildlifetrust.co.uk and start planning a few trips out over the coming days.

Attach seed balls to festive wreaths to encourage birds to visit. Photo: Michelle BrownAttach seed balls to festive wreaths to encourage birds to visit. Photo: Michelle Brown

Other ways to enjoy a wild Christmas is to think about food waste, whether this means composting peelings to provide enriching humus for the soil, or coming up with delicious uses for leftovers. If all else fails, portion uneaten food for the freezer for easy meals later on.

Shopping for food and drink locally is another good way to make the festive season that bit wilder, especially when it comes to supporting farmers involved in conservation grazing and the county’s fruit and vegetable growers.

Wildlife-friendly gifts certainly go down well with friends and family, whether it’s a bird box, packets of seeds, hazel dormice adoption certificates or even a year’s membership with Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust.

And when Christmas is over for another year, and it’s time to return your home to some semblance of normality, don’t forget to recycle as much as possible to keep waste levels low.

Mistletoe can be found growing in apple orchardsMistletoe can be found growing in apple orchards

Did you know?

The name mistletoe probably comes from the Anglo-Saxon words for ‘dung’ and ‘twig’ due to the way its seeds are often spread through the droppings of birds. The custom of kissing under this parasitic plant first originated in ancient Greece.

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