The virtual nature reserve

England’s newest wildlife reserve – the Big Wildlife Garden – is ready for exploration!

Natural England Big Wildlife Garden

Natural England Big Wildlife Garden

Launched this week by Natural England, via it’s website, it creates an online network of gardens and open spaces and encourages people of all ages to discover how to attract more wildlife into their gardens.

The website enables users to log their own diaries noting seasonal changes, swap gardening tips and families are encouraged to upload their favourite photos of wildlife.

Dr Helen Phillips, Natural England’s Chief Executive, said: “The Big Wildlife Garden is for anyone who is passionate about encouraging wildlife to their garden.

By bringing together a community of enthusiasts of all ages and getting them to join forces online, we can create a virtual nature reserve in which wildlife can thrive.”

One of the aims of the Big Wildlife Garden is to inspire children to enjoy the natural world and learn how to enrich outdoor spaces.

Groups with access to gardens and green spaces, such as scouts and girl guides, can sign up to get recommendations for ways to make their local sites more wildlife-friendly.

Fulfil their potential

Marjorie Davy, Natural England’s regional Big Wildlife Garden spokesperson said: “The Big Wildlife Garden is a great way to ensure that the 19 million gardens in England fulfil their potential as hugely valuable habitats on which so many species depend.

Our aim for the first year is to attract 10,000 gardeners, then this enhanced wildlife friendly area should be making a real impact.”

Garden Path and border

Garden Path and border

Families, individuals and schools can collect Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards for their efforts to attract wildlife – with the highest accolade reserved for the appropriately named Green Award.

There is also a brand new competition to find England’s ‘Best School Wildlife Garden of the Year’. Schools progress through each Award level by collecting points for each wildlife wonder added to their garden.

Waiting to be transformed

One school that has already registered with the Big Wildlife Garden is Greenhill Primary School in Wakefield.

Headteacher Martin Fenton said: ‘We have been looking at ways of getting the children closer to nature and wildlife gardening is an obvious way of doing this.

Here in the school grounds we have small patch of land that is just waiting to be transformed, so we wasted no time in signing up.

Children love nothing more than getting stuck in and they learn so much from practical experience’. Gardening in a wildlife-friendly way can create an oasis for species in decline such as hedgehogs, holly blue butterflies, song thrushes, bumble bees and stag beetles.

As the climate changes, a robust nationwide network of wildlife-friendly gardens can help all creatures great and small to adapt and migrate throughout the land.

In developing the Big Wildlife Garden, Natural England has worked closely with the  Wildlife Gardening Forum, an association of approximately 70 leading gardening and conservation organisations.

Its Chair, Dr Steve Head, said: “Domestic gardens are England’s rainforest, richer in species than any other single habitat we have.

They are home to our favourite birds, and for a bewildering variety of insects and other mini-beasts. And since every garden has its own unique mix of habitats, every patch of land added to the Big Wildlife Garden will increase the number and populations of species we are helping to protect.”

Shelter for wildlife

Appearing on the home page of the Big Wildlife Garden, Alan Titchmarsh, the nation’s best-loved gardener, said: “By providing flowers for butterflies and bees, as well as larval food plants, and by putting up bird boxes and bird feeders, we can all do our bit for wildlife conservation.

It is vitally important that urban, suburban and rural gardens provide food and shelter for wildlife, and it offers us, the observers, great fun, too. Wildlife gardening is not onerous, it is a positive delight.” Now, if that is not encouragement enough that the Big Wildlife Garden and its users can really make a difference to wildlife whilst also enjoying it, we don’t know what is.

So, get your trowel at the ready, and help create the biggest virtual wildlife reserve in the country at:

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