I was up at four o’clock this morning, walking the floorboards with the Little Paddler. She woke up later on this morning bright and chipper. I feel like I have been dragged through a hedge backwards. Having said that, sleep deprivation and mainlining caffeine seems to do a lot for my crossword skills if not so much for my motivation to carry out physical work. So today, I started to flesh out a plan I have been hatching for a while.
You see, a few weeks ago I was driving home on a Sunday afternoon only to see in the distance a small brown creature waddling drunkenly along the road. As I slowed I realised it was a hedgehog. You have no idea how excited I was to see my first non-squished hedgehog. The neighbours two boys were hanging out over their wooden fence watching him as well and they were bursting to tell me all about him. He had been wandering up and down the road for the last half hour obviously looking for something but nobody was sure just what. I think he was looking for a new home.
So what has this got to do with this plan of mine? I want to build a wildlife haven. Wildlife hotel. Bug motel. Mini-beast apartment block. Call it whatever. Of course I have no money to put into this so it will all have to be built with found items. Fortunately we are doing a bit of building work and the builders have left a few bits lying around which I am going to commandeer.
I found four mini wooden pallets that the slates arrived in on. These will form the structure of my latest project. I’ll stack them up, one on top of the other but with the bottom one upside down to create bigger gaps at the base for hedgehogs etc. I reckon we should put a roof on it and I may have found just the thing. Two rectangular pieces of an old marble kitchen counter were dumped nearby and I reckon together they should cover most if not all of my tower. I had thought about building a green roof but that’s probably not a runner if I use these as a roof. But my succulent garden is overrun at the minute with weeds and the plywood barrow that Mr. Fairweather made for me and that houses them is falling apart. So I think I’ll re-home them in my tower somewhere.
So that’s my overall structure but who exactly am I catering for? How do I attract the right type of critter and not just rats? What was the right type of critter? More research was needed. Hang on a minute, let me Google that. Turns out there is an awful lot of info out there. Surprisingly, RTE had a great resource provided by Dermot’s Secret Garden. So armed with a bit more information I decided I wanted to try attract hedgehogs (drunken or otherwise), frogs and toads (because they need somewhere safe from the ducks who think that they are a delicacy to be fought over). Lots of bees and solitary wasps and I especially want to set up a few homes for a hibernating bumblebee queen. The beetles and woodlice shouldn’t be too much of a problem to attract but I really want to encourage the ladybirds as well. The hoverflies seemed to be thriving this summer or maybe I have just been keeping more of an eye out for them. Either way, I better do something for them and I would love to spot some lacewings. Or maybe even damselflies or dragonflies. Not asking for much, am I?
As for kitting out the individual apartments, I turned to Cheshire Wildlife Trust for a fabulous step by step guide. Fuelled up on coffee, I braved the wet and went out in search of raw materials. I found lots of stones to make hideouts for frogs, toads and maybe even some newts but I’ll have to provide a little bit of water for them. Think I’ll sink an old flower pot tray into the ground and see how that goes for starters. I have lots of logs and sticks I can use to make houses for hedgehogs and I am sure if I sweet talk Mr. Fairweather, he’ll drill holes of various diameters and depths into ends of logs for my solitary bees and wasps. I found a few old cardboard boxes which I’ll cannibalise to roll up and put into some left over Wavin pipes for the lacewings. And actually the Wavin pipes could also house some bamboos and the stalks from my lilies now they have died back for the bees and wasps. I’ll need to keep an eye out for some terracotta pots to turn upside down for bumblebee queens. Lots of decaying bark for beetles, woodlice, centipedes and maybe the spiders. Dry sticks and leaves for the ladybirds will need a bit of extra shelter to keep them dry and straw for the invertebrates. Couldn’t believe I found such a great haul.
And I got the perfect spot for it too. In the back corner beside the shed and near the new clothes line. It’s a nice, quiet, sheltered spot, bounded on one side by our hedgerow and the other by the ditch between us and the woods with lots of trees overhanging. It’ll get sun on some sides and be nice and damp on others. I’ll put some old slates down under the timbers of the base pallet to stop it rotting away too quickly, but when it does it’ll go on providing more homes for wildlife. I have another plan to propagate some lavender plants and put them down near the washing line so my sheets smell nice when they come in off the line. The bees and pollinators will love the lavender so maybe I’ll plant a few other bits near to it as well. They’ll provide food and shelter for the residents as well as looking and smelling nice for me. Everybody wins!