I seem to remember quite a lot of time spent in our garden as a child. I read a lot of Enid Blyton and was always imagining fairies, elves and magical animals getting up to all kinds of adventures. I’d use petals, leaves and pond water to mix all sorts of magical potions and delectable fairy treats. I have vivid memories of watching frog spawn grow into the tiniest, completely perfect frogs, finding knobbly old toads hiding in dark corners, searching under leaves for snails to join my snail club, and the only time I have been face to face with a hedgehog.
Its a very different world that my children are growing up in. If they want to know something they ask me to look it up on my phone. If they want a new toy they know that the postman could arrive tomorrow with it in his van. As they grow there is internet grooming, sexting and social media bullying for me to freak out about. There will be developments I have yet to even dream of. I will have to find a way to navigate these changes just as my parents had to face the dawn of the internet and mobile phones. And yet, there is still frogspawn ready to turn into tiny, perfect frogs.
There are so many reasons that I love our garden, many of which I have already shared with you. A big part though is allowing my children to interact with and experience the flow of the natural world. I am afraid I would never classify myself as an animal lover, but I am making real efforts to encourage wildlife into our little corner of the world, and getting immense pleasure from it.
I wrote yesterday of my newfound appreciation for the local birds. Today I put up my first bird box, and hope that is another step towards encouraging more to call this home.
We have some fabulous old established trees, with hawthorn, elder and holly with berries to help sustain them over winter. Our enormous old lime tree, whilst being covered in bee friendly flowers, also has the most wonderful tangle of branches that are just crying out for nests to be built. We have lots of ivy too, a fabulous late food source for bees, berries for the birds, and great evergreen hiding places for all sorts of creatures over winter.
We have some wonderful homes for all sorts of little wildlife. I bought a bug hotel, but almost feel it is superfluous, with our leaf mold corner, our pile of sticks corner (affectionately called the hedgehog house, though no sign of any actual hedgehogs) and our fabulous old Cornish wall full of tiny hideyholes.
Today I built a frogitat, an underground maze of broken terracotta pots, stones, sticks and leaves, hidden under a mound of earth next to the pond, which will hopefully give the neighbourhood frogs that extra encouragement to stay a while in our friendly home. It has been named Hornwort’s, after the pondweed currently oxygenating our new pond and a nod to the current familial Harry Potter obsession.
Add in the huge array of bee friendly flowers I have planted in the last year, the veggie patch, the compost heaps, the fruit trees crying out for pollination, the bird bath and feeders, the unmown lawns full of clover (and hopefully a few wildflowers this year) and some messy bits (a bit more mess than I would really chose) and I am hoping that our garden will be a wildlife dream. It will never be picture perfect but I am hoping that it will provide some experiences, knowledge and memories for my internet age children. I hope that they grow up feeling a part of the natural world, not removed from it. And whilst they may not grow up with Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy, God or Heaven, I hope that they may still experience that little bit of magic!