Wild About Your Garden Episode 1 Tales from the Riverbank

Wild About Your Garden Episode 1 Tales from the Riverbank

Wild About Your Garden is introduced by Nick Knowles and he tells us that in Great Britain people's gardens covers more area then all the nature reserves.

Every garden could be made into a wildlife haven, have a look at your own garden is it welcoming for wildlife?

This programme is to transform peoples gardens to make them welcoming for our natural wildlife.

The Wild About your Garden Team includes Award Winning Garden Designer Chris Beardshaw, Wildlife expert Ellie Harrison and Presenter Nick Knowles.

The Team are in Crayford, Kent at the home of Betty who loves to over mow her garden and this is preventing the wildlife from making it their home.

The Garden
Betty shows Nick Chris and Ellie the garden, starting with the patio area and straight away they spot the river at the bottom of her garden.

Chris asks about the river and if it is tidal and they are not expecting this in her urban surroundings.

The garden before

The only wildlife Betty sees are the squirrels that steal the birds nuts from her feeder.

Ellie explains it is because there is nothing to eat in the garden, nowhere to shelter, there the patio and wooden fences stopping them coming in, the only birds are plastic.

Betty wants a more wildlife friendly garden because of the decline in wildlife and she love to have Butterflies as she rarely sees them now.

Betty has tried feeding the birds but none come only the Squirrels.

Betty and the team

Betty brings them all tea and biscuits and the team discuss how about bringing the Water Vole into the garden, which is  Britain's rarest  mammal. 

In 2008 they have just started to be protected by law, as numbers have declined 90% in 20 years.

Ellie says in Spring they eat buds and shoots and this worries Chris and his planting scheme.

Wildlife Visit
Great Britain used to have a diverse range of wildlife  like Lynx, Bears and Wolves all roamed free.

Ellie is taking Betty and her Granddaughters, Kiera and Macey to Wildwood Trust in Kent to try and get her to want Water Voles in her garden.

Betty and rats

Wildwood have got a breeding programme running for Water Voles but Betty not keen on the look of them and thinks they look Ratty, Wind in the Willows confused people over it whether a Rat or Vole?

They have both to compare and the Rat is a lighter colour as well as difference to the ears, nose and tail.

Water Voles stay in their own territory never come in your house.

Betty and Granddaughters

The number are down due to non native predators like the American Mink and the loss of habitat.

Ellie shows Betty there messy habitat and she agrees will be fine just on the river bank bit.

Garden Plan
Chris says Betty has done what most people do and have put the plants all up against the boundary and says gardens should be like Poker where you never reveal all of your hand.

Garden plan

He plans to put an area over there, there and there so there is a journey through the garden.

Chris plan is to rip everything out of the garden and start again to make the garden look bigger by adding lots of trees and planting.

Garden before

The first job is to get rid of the concrete and it will look a lot worse before it gets better which may put Betty off.

Work commences
The machinery and contractors arrive to break up all the concrete and Betty looks out the window at her Garden of 50 years being destroyed.

Work starts on garden

Gone is the concrete paths, crazy paving and concrete borders and under the concrete path there is yet more concrete, which turned out to be another path.

A lorry takes the concrete away to be recycled so there is no waste and this could even be used on the Olympic Village down the road.

They are working into the night laying the Pergola base so it will be ready for the morning and it is pouring and steam is coming off the Contractors.

The next day the Pergola can be completed and the Landscape team are making big holes for the trees.

Big tree

Chris says the biggest tree weighs a ton and a half with a root ball of 1.5 metres and its 7 metres high in total, so what has he done in building the Pergola right in the way!

So manoeuvring the trees he has bought is going to be tricky as they are using a telescopic fork lift with long prongs.

Chris wants to take the Pergola down but Mick the site manager wants to drag the tress into place.

The trees arrive and  the description of a 'few little trees' does not match how many there are in the lorry and the big tree is enormous.

The Landscape team are not happy especially when they see it is a Hawthorn tree which is spiky and that is going to make it harder to move into place.

Moving big tree

The fork lift does not fit so they can only get the tree halfway to the hole, so it is dragged into place with a mini digger.

With a lot on man handling and scratches it is in place only 9 more trees to go including a prickle less Holly.

Chris is showing Ellie a Crab Apple tree that will provide food for the Water Voles, he also has a Hazel tree and he asking Ellie where she wants them placed as the Crab Apple is ornamental and might not look right on river bank?

Chris and Ellie

Ellie says if its food it needs to be on the river bank but now they have to get it down there.

Chris also seeks her advice on the concrete slab that is down there he wants to deck, but Ellie says thats not wildlife friendly either.

Chris suggests some 20 cm holes under it for hedgehogs.

It is another late night working in the dark in the garden for the Landscape team after a long day planting the trees but Mick has admitted to really liking the Hawthorn tree now it is in.

The final day just the decking and loads of plants to get in but even this is not straight forward as the soil needs to be improved, with barrow loads of compost.

nick and ellie

Nick says he 'remembers what he does not like about gardening, the hard work'.

Chris says unfortunately it has to be dug in for the plants to have a good chance of survival.

Chris has selected hundreds of plants to attract pollinators and birds to the garden to provide food all year round, even for the Water Voles,

Ellie is in a boat planting out the bank just so the Water Voles can eat most of it.

Ellie in boat

Chris is planting in drifts throughout the garden so they flow into each other and he has different areas like damp shade and sunny.

For the damp shade he is planting Ferns, Figwort and Hellebores and Ellie is helping put them in although Nick says they are not in drifts and Chris comes and sorts it out.

Unfortunately the planting list is no longer available on the website.

Laying lawn

One of the final jobs is to lay the lawn and a closely mown lawn is not that good for wildlife but this is a space for Betty and they have sown a wild flower meadow close to the river bank for the wild life.

Boat Trip
Ellie takes Betty down the river to look at the other gardens and concrete is being used a lot replacing the natural river banks so they will make sure Chris puts lots of plants at waters edge for cover.

Boat trip

As they go up river there is a lot of rubbish in the river, plastic bags and bottles, old toys and tyres.

They will need to arrange a river clean up too.

Trip to Neighbours
Nick has popped next door and they have another reason for not seeing any Water Voles Sooty AKA Beelzebub the neighbours cat!

Sooty AKA Beelzebub

They explain unfortunately she does kill things like birds, mice and young rats, wood pigeons, moor hens and she likes to also bring them indoors!

Bells on collars have not worked as she takes them off, they need to find a way of stopping the killing?

Ellie suggests a regular evening feed time and also to keep her in at night time, if they are out all day they wont miss the night time hunting.

River Regatta Meeting
The neighbours tell Nick how they have a River Regatta and there is a meeting tonight so off he goes.

It seems more of a booze up but they tell him they have had a 8ft remote control Alligator, A Sea France Ferry as they do a quick re-cap for Nick and the new residents.

Nick at meeting

They do make sure they mark out any nests so they do not get disturbed but Nick more interested in the home made Garlic dip.

Nick tells them about the River clean up needed for the Water Vole project and ropes in some volunteers before turning back to the buffet.

River litter pick
Ellie and the Regatta Committee are doing a litter pick of the banks of the river as well as Nick being in the water with John & Ashe Hurst the river keeper in a boat to get the floating litter.

Litter pick

They sail up to the workers on the bank and Nick says he getting excited finding the litter including lots of takeaway wrappers that encourage rats.

Rubbish can be fatal to Wildlife as well as attracting rats and they will populate and take over the Water Voles habitat.

Water vole

Then it happens they actually spot a Water Vole going along the water on the other side of the bank, so they are in the area, the team are ecstatic and do a silly Water Vole dance.

Water vole dance

Wildlife moment
Nick and Ellie sit on Betty new deck swinging their legs and discuss how marvellous it is that wildlife can be thriving in any area even somewhere industrial like this.

Ellie says good wildlife habitat can be found alongside Motorways as no one actually goes there.

Nick and Ellie

They are both excited for the garden to be completed. 

Final touches and the garden is complete

Grand Reveal 

Nick and Betty

Betty sees the finished garden and she is shocked, 'oh my goodness' ' my heart is missing a beat' she loves it and is near to tears.

Finished garden

5 Months Later....
The garden is transformed even more as the plants have matured and the team are amazed and pleased with how it is looking.

Finished garden

It is now the sanctuary they wanted for birds and bees and the garden is alive with life and Betty says there has been so many Butterflies and Damsel flies.

Finished garden

Betty tells them she has had Water Voles and in the evenings she puts carrots and apples on the feeding station and watched one eating and coming back, luckily the camera man whilst there caught one too.

Wildlife Camera Reveal
The team install motion activated cameras all over the garden and the camera reveals all sorts of bird life from Swans, House Sparrows, Green Finches, Chaffinches, Starling and Blue Tits.

Blue tit

Betty life has now changed in the morning she checking the Water Vole feeding station and she always in the garden now seeing what is going on.

Finished riverbank

Betty garden has changed completely and so has the wildlife visitors she has come to it.

All Photographs are Copyright of BBC.com

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