Making space for nature: how to help British wildlife
British wildlife is in decline. Many people don’t realise it, but some of Britain’s best-loved species are under threat. Luckily, there is something we can all do about it. No matter where you live, you can help make space for nature and protect our wildlife.
Here are our top tips for making space for nature where you live.
How to make a wildlife garden
If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, it can be tempting to keep the lawn neatly clipped and the plants perfectly pruned, but that might not be the best thing for nature.
- Let the grass in your garden grow, and it will become a haven for bees, insects and butterflies. Better still, plant wildflowers to attract even more pollinators into your garden. If you’re not ready to commit your entire lawn to creating a new habitat, why not leave a small patch of grass to go wild?
- Create a hotel for insects – just leave a pile of logs, rocks and other garden waste in a corner of your garden. This will create shelter for all kinds of animals like beetles and spiders.
- Make and use your own compost - not only will it enrich the soil in your garden but it will also provide a habitat for worms, woodlice and other animals – even slow worms and frogs.
- Create a pond – as well as looking good, a pond can be another vital habitat in your garden. If you don’t have enough space for a full-size pond, you could dig a small hole and put a bucket filled with water inside. Be sure to fill your pond with water that has no chemicals in – ideally this would be from a water butt. And most importantly, leave some rocks and logs around the edge to make sure animals can get in and out.
- Don’t worry about the weeding – weeds can provide a food source for insects, so leaving some weeds in your garden can help out the creepy crawlies.
- Make sure there’s a gap under your garden fence so that animals like frogs and hedgehogs can move between gardens more easily.
- Trees can provide somewhere for animals to nest, as well as protection and shelter for animals on the ground.
- Ditch the pesticides – they can be really harmful for animals – especially bees and other insects. The worst are a pesticide called neonicotinoids, which can kill bees when they’re used on plants they are pollinating.
What are neonicotinoids?
They’re a group of pesticides commonly used in farming which are especially harmful to bees. In 2018, countries around the EU voted to ban these pesticides. Now we need to make sure the government keeps this ban in place, even once Britain has left the EU. The best way to show your opposition is to avoid pesticides and create a bee-friendly garden. Friends of the Earth have loads of great ideas to help you save the bees.
As well as these natural habitats, you could also build a tailor-made home for a variety of animals.
- There are less than a million hedgehogs left in the UK, so they need our help. Do your bit by making a hedgehog house in your garden for them to nest in. Check out this guide to making one over on The Wildlife Trusts’ website. And if you’re not feeling that crafty, you can get a ready-made one from Ethical Superstore.
- Bats are another creature that are struggling to find places to nest because so many of their natural habitats are being destroyed. You can build a simple bat box to encourage them to nest in your garden. The RSPB have got some handy instructions on their website, or if you’d prefer to buy one you can get them from the National Trust.
- Birds can always do with somewhere safe and warm to nest. Follow our step-by-step guide to making a bird box for your garden, or get one online from the RSPB.
How to make a rooftop garden
Even if you don’t have your own garden, why not create a rooftop garden paradise for nature?
- Before you start creating your garden, you need to check two important things – how much weight can your roof hold? It’s no use going crazy in the garden centre if your roof won’t even hold everything you’ve bought to go on it. Secondly, do you need planning permission for your garden? Once you’ve got some plans, make sure to check with your local council to ensure you can go ahead with them.
- Don’t use plant pots that are too small – they might blow away if it’s windy. Choose large pots that won’t dry up quickly, and that are fairly low to the ground.
- You won’t be seeing hedgehogs visiting your rooftop garden of course, but you could still create a new habitat for pollinators and other insects that can access your roof. Make homes for bugs such as ladybirds and lacewings – just tie a bundle of bamboo together and put them in the crack of a wall.
- Build an insect hotel – you can make it out of old junk to give bugs some nooks and crannies to hide in. The best time to create an insect hotel is in the autumn, ready for hibernation in the winter. The Eden Project has a great guide to how you can build the best bug house.
- If you have a wall, you could install a bird box for birds to nest in – a great alternative to a tree hole. The placement of the box will dictate the type of birds that are attracted to nest in it, and remember to make sure there’s easy access for the bird to get in – there shouldn’t be anything in front of the entrance. You’ll also need to make sure that the box is tilted forward to stop rain from getting in. The RSPB have a step-by-step guide to making a bird box and choosing where to put it.
- Plant different types of grasses and plenty of wildflowers to attract bumblebees and other pollinators. Try to choose a variety of plants that will flower all year round so that pollinators will have a food supply for as long as possible throughout the year.
Which plants are best for pollinators?
Bumblebees and other pollinators are in decline – since 1900 we’ve lost 13 species of bee in Britain, and a further 35 are under threat of extinction. It is vital that we protect our bees and other pollinators because they’re a big part of our ecosystem. In fact, they pollinate a third of the food we eat.
An easy way to help bees and other pollinators is to plant flowers that are packed full of pollen and nectar that they can feed on. The Royal Horticultural Society have created a comprehensive guide to the best Plants For Pollinators – it covers every season so you can make sure there are flowering plants in your garden for most of the year.
Some of the best plants to grow for bees and other pollinators are chives, lavender, cosmos, marigolds, honey suckle, crocus, snowdrops and sage.
How to make a window garden
Even if you live in a flat, you can still do your bit for nature.
- Put up a window box with some pollinator friendly plants – you’ll have a mini pollinator safari right outside your window!
- Put bird feeders on your windows – you can get them complete with suction cups to attach to your window, making it easy to feed the birds.
In reality, there’s only so much you can do if you live in a flat and don’t have a garden – practically, at least. But there are lots of things you can do on a wider scale to help nature and do your bit for endangered wildlife in Britain.
- Switch up your diet – a huge reason that so many habitats for animals have been destroyed is intensive farming. A really simple way to reduce the impact this industry has on the environment is to reduce your meat and dairy consumption, so not as much land is needed to produce food. It’s now easier than ever to go vegetarian or vegan, so it’s a simple way to give nature a helping hand.
- Think about how you travel – travel is something that has a huge impact on nature. Not only does it contribute to climate change because of the carbon emissions released every time someone uses their car, but as roads are built they destroy natural wildlife habitats. Plus, animals are often hurt or killed by cars and other vehicles on the road, so reducing how often you drive also reduces that risk. Leave the car at home and walk or cycle instead, or even take public transport.
- Switch to an ethical phone service that’s trying to help the environment. Anything that’s doing something for the environment is helping make space for nature because it’s conserving our planet. Companies of all shapes and sizes can do their bit! Our mobile phone service, Ecotalk, is currently the only one in Britain that uses the money from its customers’ bills to buy land to give back to nature. The land is managed to make it the best possible habitat for wildlife. Being with a mobile phone service like this is an easy way to help nature - it means your money is being used for something good every time you pay your phone bill.
- Join a wildlife conservation charity – there are local charities doing their bit for nature all around Britain. You can sign up to donate to one, or better still you could volunteer your time! The Wildlife Trusts have lots of one-off and regular volunteering opportunities on their website. You could even choose an animal that you’d like to work with – you could help protect frogs and toads as they cross the road to stop them being squashed by traffic with Froglife, or work to look after owls with The Barn Owl Trust. There are small local charities all over the country helping all sorts of animals – a quick Google search can help you find volunteering opportunities near you.
- Get involved with Trees For Cities. They’re a charity that – you guessed it – plants trees in cities, so they’re helping create space for nature in areas where construction has destroyed lots of natural habitats.
- Write to your MP – tell them that we should all be making space for nature and ask them to start supporting more community projects that are working to protect wildlife.