Wildlife gardens are a compromise between wilderness and what we think of conventionally as a garden: an area of ground that provides us with leisure, pleasure and food. As such this will be in constant flux with activity around any site. At Specialcats we also manage vegetation to attract in wildlife. Destructive pesticides and herbicides would be inappropriate, so we have a Permaculture plot with minimal digging, much mulching and permanent plantings to replicate a forest ecosystem. Apple, plum, quince and cherry trees co-exist along with native species of trees.
Free range hens and sometimes ducks visit the cats; deer, hedgehogs and badger potter by. The trees are under-planted with soft fruit bushes, nut trees and cane-fruit. There is also a meadow area for toads and voles and to provide food-plants for insect larvae. Piles of logs and hügelbeds, mud banks and stones also offer hiding places for animals. There are stone basins for water and a pond. You will see docken and nettle left as caterpillar fodder (our hens like them too) and thistles and teasels cultivated to provide seedheads to attract siskins and goldfinches. Teasels also provide nectar for butterflies whilst their leaves provide drinking pools for other insects and birds. Other flowers like crocus, Centaurea (hardheads) and mint favour our honeybees who occasionally provide us with honey when they have surplus.
Our honeybees and resident solitary species pollinate the fruit crops, In fact the railway branch line adjacent appears to be acting as an extension of the garden now as fruit and flower seeds are spread by the birds, squirrels and voles. We have a complete food chain here in that kestrel, tawny owls, peregrine and weasels can all be seen hunting here.
The copious amount of cover and regular feeding means that 53 species of bird are now seen here regularly and many interesting insects fly about the cattery, sometimes pursued by bats. So no, it is not a tidy garden but it is surely an interesting place to be for both cats and people. If you can be still, and watch and listen as do our feline guests, there is much to see.