The Wildfest/Educational/Wildlife Garden is located opposite the bird hide at Moses Gate Country Park. The garden contains a pond, fruit trees, planters and long and winding path all of which had been left to go wild for several years until Bolton Council gave us the site to manage for our own use. Since then we have add a strawberry bed, sensory garden, willow hurdles, wild flower meadow, and laid the hedge. The garden became one of our flagship sites and the location for our Wildfest events, the last of which was in August 2019. It is also used several times a week by Rick in his educational sessions with local schools.
The problem with wildlife gardens is that they tend to go wild and overgrown, which usually isn’t a bad thing but when a site is being used for a educational purposes some management is required to bring things back under control. So, every year we have a tidy up and restore order to nature’s chaos, essentially this is gardening and involves the same procedures as gardening: digging up weeds, planting new flowers, cutting back trees and hedges, and clearing paths, all with the help of BCV volunteers, Rock Hall volunteers and local families.
The weeds and unwanted vegetation were composted, the willow stems were put to one side for use in Rick’s willow weaving sessions with schools, and the more random bits of branch were used to make a linear habitat pile near one of the hedges.
Being a wildlife garden we did come across plenty of wildlife including, newts, toads,and damselfies. Our habitat pile will provide habitat for birds and small mammals, the flowers in the planters and meadow will benefit pollinators, and the de-shaded pond will support more amphibians and invertebrates. One interesting and unusual things we came across were trees covered in silk. One of the trees had a large sack of grubs hanging between two of its branches, the culprits were bird-cherry ermine moth larvae. These larvae produce the silk which they use for protection and cluster in large nests prior to pupation. The moth itself is white with 5 lines of black dots on the underwing with the appearance of being covered in fur. The infestation doesn’t damage the tree but can reduce its growth rate.
St. Michael’s School, Green Lane, Bolton 15th November 2020
It has been announced that a new GCSE in natural history is to be launched in 2022. Brilliant news, but one commentator claimed that it kids would choose it as an easy option as all it would involve would be going out and walking around fields. They need a proper science like geography. Hmmm…..
Any GSCE that would need to cover, at the very least, biology, ecology, geology, geography and human impacts on the environment is not an easy option, it is a multi-disciplinary science. Any one who has done an Environmental Science degree will tell you just how complex natural environments and our relationship with them are. So, thumbs up to the kids who will take up this challenge for a better planet. Having said that, many schools in Bolton have already embraced nature within their curriculum.
St Michael’s School, Green Lane, Bolton first started to develop their outdoor classroom before the term existed, in those days they were just called school gardens. In 1990 the school asked the newly formed Bolton Wildlife Project for help with designs and costings to improve their grounds. In 2000 extensive boardwalks and ponds were installed in joint tasks by The Wildlife Trust and Bolton Conservation Volunteers. BCV returned in 2014 to restore the pond and some of the boardwalks. In 2016 the school won a Platinum Green Tree School Award from the Woodland Trust after pupils planted hundreds of trees throughout the grounds. Which brings us to November 2020 and BCV have returned again to do a bit of a tidy up.
Over the course of the lockdowns outdoor classrooms have suffered from lack of maintenance. On today’s task one of the boardwalks had netting nailed into place to prevent slipping on the wet and slippery wood, and the pond was dredged of leaves. Part of the boardwalk was so unsafe it needed to be replaced, but that’s for another time. The biggest problem on today’s task was working in such a confined area, everybody who could wear a mask wore one, with exceptions on medical grounds. Still, the job got done and there’s plenty more left to do here and at other schools.
Washacre Primary School, Westhoughton 19th and 26th June 2020
Washacre Primary School, Westhoughton first developed an outdoor education plot in 1991, it could well have been one of the first built with the help of the Wildlife Trust’s Bolton Wildlife Project. The site was turned from a patch of rough grassland into a meadow and a woodland surrounding a pond.
Like a lot of similar sites there were questions about how to use and manage these resources and the school approached the Bolton Wildlife Project in 1995 for help. What’s happened in the last 25 years we don’t know except at some point a willow dome was built. So, when BCV arrived things were a bit overrun, the pond had filled in and not much could be seen of it’s former greatness.
The first cohort of our intrepid socially distanced six, Tom’s Treehuggers, got to work and cut back the vegetation, gave the willow dome a haircut, and dug out the planters. Tom ordered some heavy machinery from Trucks ‘R’ Us but wasn’t impressed with the size of the diggers when they arrived. Anyway, they got the job done.
UPDATE – 28/07/20 Rick’s Rangers continued the work on the 26th by digging out a bit more of the pond and clearing more the earth from the area around the raised beds, finishing off with a layer of chippings. Finally a belated presentation to Dave of his hedgelaying prize. You can find out what that was about by going to Hedge Wars 2020.
Many thanks to Jackie (Anna’s mum) at Washacre Primary for asking us to work on this site, and well done to everyone for doing a great job. Hopefully there’s more to come.
Photos: 19th June: Jo Nalton, 26th June: Colin Mather