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I think this title will speak for itself, so here is something a little different from the things you usually find on these pages, but nevertheless we hope it will provoke some interesting thinking.



Running Wild

You wouldn’t think that controversy is part of ‘growing stuff’. I know the Gardener’s World Magazine has a regular viewpoint versus viewpoint column, where two people present opposite views about a particular topic but it’s not exactly controversial. Let me paint a scenario for you and see how you feel about it.

You have a back garden, it doesn’t matter how big it is; you keep it under control and cut the lawn regularly and plant flowers and even some vegetables. You enjoy it. Then one day some new neighbours arrive and before very long you notice that the lawn the previous owner kept in pristine condition has been let go. A year later the growth in the garden – and ‘growth’ is the only word to describe the long grass, the brambles, the creepers, the wild weeds and so on – shouts “Neglect!”  Not wanting to upset your neighbour you have a tactful word one day, only to be told, “Oh we let it go like that purposely; we believe in letting nature take its course, all this modern formality in gardens is the result of TV shows and we just think our garden is a haven for wildlife in ways that few others are.”  

So what do you feel about that? The fact that foxes have clearly made their home next door, not to mention a rat or two, and the seeds from the seed heads of their weeds constantly seek to make their home in your flower beds, should this really matter? Is not that the price of freedom and neighborliness?  

Now be quite clear; this is different from the old lady who can’t afford a gardener and who is now physically beyond coping with her garden. This is a couple who have purposefully decided on a particular style of garden or should I say non-gardening in the name of ‘nature’. There are such people around, apart from those who find themselves saddled with a back garden but who we have utterly failed to excite in these pages into ‘having a go’. Is “letting nature have her way” antisocial in a country where we live cheek by jowl next door to each other?

We have over the years here at Rochford Life carried articles on encouraging wildlife and I think we have probably talked about ‘meadows’ in some small way, but never approached this tricky subject. We have pondered this recently, not only because we have been observing the ‘left to nature’ approach around the area and on some allotments (and there may be very good reasons why some people have just not been able to keep control and really need help which they cannot afford), but also because we ourselves have been experimenting with a small area of garden that was a lawn and we are now encouraging to become a ‘meadow’.

Did you know that ‘meadows’ are ‘big’ these days? There are a number of websites that talk on these things (we won’t bother to document them because websites come and go and they may not be here in six months). There is one that registers meadows around the country and the nearest one on their map is Chignal St James, Essex, north-west of Chelmsford, described as a Community orchard with wild flower meadow planted in 2013 in unimproved land leased from Chelmsford C.C. and maintained by a group of volunteers who mow paths through wild flower areas. Wild life is recorded, to date 208 species.  That gives the idea of a ‘meadow’, a grassy area where wild flowers are encouraged and the land is carefully controlled.

Well, as I said, I have recently designated a relatively small area of my lawn near the bottom of the garden as ‘a meadow’. The Eden Project, not unsurprisingly, has an excellent page on how to make your own wildflower meadow so Google them and check them out if you want to do this thing!  But here was my worry: if I let grasses and wild flowers grow, would my neighbours suffer from uninvited seed arrivals? Looking at where I have done it, we have fairly high and thick hedges and substantial fences to minimize the problem – we hope!

There can be a tricky balancing act when it comes to encouraging wildlife and, indeed, the best way is to allow a bit of wildness at least. Sometimes the occasional nettle, if they can tolerated in areas out of the way, may be the very habitat that Red Admiral butterflies are looking for. If you are really serious about creating a wildlife habitat, and not just using it an excuse to be lazy and antisocial, then the creation of a ‘bug-hotel’ or two (ask my granddaughter how to build one) together with a bat box perhaps may convince the rest of us you are serious about these things. (Birthdays and Christmas become times when your commitment to nature can make life easier for family looking for presents for an otherwise ‘hard-to-buy-for’ person!)

The biggest difficulty for the ‘back-to-nature-in-the-garden’ enthusiast, that I have already referred to briefly, is that of creeping invasion. I have already referred to seeds from weeds and unwanted wild grasses, but ivy, brambles, bushes and trees generally, creeping over the face and invading you, the next door neighbour, are a very real antisocial problem. Overhanging trees (and I am a culprit in a small measure) can be a nuisance and reduce the area of your garden that can be usefully used because of loss of light etc.

Your neighbour, I am told, (according to the Sage website) has the common law right to cut off your overhanging branches, but here’s the joke, even though the branches belong to you, your neighbour, cannot simply throw them back over his fence as that could be deemed to be fly tipping of garden waste. He should advise you that he intends to burn them or take them to a recycling centre – for which you will no doubt be very grateful! Better to do your own trimming, but it is a difficult balance sometimes because you may end up making the tree look a mess from their side. Tricky!  

I suspect the answer to all these potential problems is a measure of give and take.  Bindweed coming through from next door (your nature enthusiast) is a pain but putting weed-killer down can be equally antisocial as you may kill off a lot of other stuff on his side. Patience and perseverance may be better in maintain good neighbour relations.

So, there we are, some slightly different food for thought. If you have a garden, be positive about it. To fall back on what we so often say on these pages, we’re in the business of encouragement, and gardening, it is increasingly being recognised, is both therapeutic and health bringing. Yes, it has its risks but overall on balance it is a very healthy activity, for both the mind and the body. If this was the Moral Maze we would no doubt debate whether garden owners have a duty of care not to allow their gardens to become a nuisance to neighbours, but as we’re not, we’ll draw a line at this point and wish you happy gardening.

And with thanks to the Mother Nature Network website -

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.  — Marcus Tullius Cicero

Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get. — H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

We must cultivate our own garden. When man was put in the garden of Eden he was put there so that he should work, which proves that man was not born to rest.  — Voltaire

The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.  — Alfred Austin


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