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Preserving the natural environment: wildlife gardening
Reg Snowdon of Northumbria MM tells us how to make a difference where we are
There is an outside chance that humanity may stop the overheating of the planet and preserve our natural environment. But excess carbon dioxide is not the only product of industrialisation we need to watch out for. Intensive farming is an efficient destroyer of wildlife; and, unless we find ways to conserve and restore Earth’s green mantle, there will be no natural environment worth preserving. Only fifty yards from our garden gate there is a bridle path leading directly into open farmland. Over the last half-century, walking our dog, we have seen hedges grubbed-up together with their primroses, the disappearance of lapwings and skylarks, unimproved pasture replaced by well-drained arable land and a prairie-like monoculture of oil-seed rape or short-stemmed barley. There is no particular moment when I realised that the countryside of my childhood had gone forever; fields of cowslips I used to walk through on my way home from school; the corncrakes I listened to just
over our garden fence in County Durham, now completely banished from mainland Britain. In fifty years, we have lost ninety-eight per cent of our flower-rich meadows and 200,000 miles of hedgerows. Every year each English county loses one species of wildflower. What is disappearing is biodiversity. Because of the total complexity of all life, its interdependence, this will have consequences far beyond our immediate observation. So, the precautionary principle must apply. This is usually written up with reference to exotic places about which, directly, we can do little or nothing – like clearing the tropical rainforest or over-fishing the oceans. The good news is, however, that just here, where we live, in our ordinary suburban gardens, we can begin to make a difference. In 1962, when we first moved into our newly built house, we knew nothing about gardening except that we wanted a play area for the children and a sheltered growing-place for flowers. Shifting the emphasis to increased support for wildlife began in spring seven years ago when we stopped using chemicals, including insecticides and herbicides. The grasses were allowed to grow, creating meadowlawns front and back. They are mown once a year, in autumn, and shelter over thirty different kinds of wildflower. Our pride and joy is saw-wort – now rare in Northumberland – grown from seed collected locally. Even the
wind and the birds help. As if by magic, a few heath spotted orchids appeared in both lawns for the first time last year. The pond was dug out in our second year – ‘a wildlife garden without a pond is like a theatre without a stage’. Now in ecological balance, it is home to aquatic plants as well as frogs, newts and snails. Dragonflies and damselflies hover nearby in summer. Rosebeds have been ruthlessly eliminated to create a nectar corridor for butterflies, those flowers of the sky, and a nettle patch for caterpillar breeding. Of course, we have a waterbutt and a compost heap. There is a logpile for hibernating hedgehogs and frogs. Our nestboxes have been armour-plated with old biscuit tins after confrontations with a quite beautiful but seriously predacious great spotted woodpecker. There are roosting pockets, a bird table, a concealed bumble-bee nest and two ladybird houses. One myth which must be laid to rest is that wildlife gardening is wilderness gardening. It is not. Outrageous competitors with other wildlife – dandelions and ground elder, for example, or the great spotted woodpecker – must be contained. A wildlife garden still needs weeding; but the faith of the wildlife gardener is that she is acting as part of her natural environment and not as something opposed to it, no longer humancentred but a confessed daughter of Mother Earth.
the Friend , 5 January 2007 Deaths
Jill COOPER (née Commander) 20 December.Shipton-uderWychwood.Sidcot scholar 1945-50. Memorial meeting Burford FMH, Pytts Lane,Burford,Oxon,2.30pm, Saturday 27 January.
Kenneth CROSS 23 December. Peacefully in hospital.Husband of Doreen,father ofAndrew and Bruce.Member ofMold Meeting, North Wales.Aged 87.
Freda Rosemary MANSFIELD 26 December ofcancer.Quaker school governor.Member ofLewes Meeting,formerly St Albans Meeting.Aged 70.Memorial meeting 11.30am,Saturday 17 February, Lewes FMH.Donations: Epilepsy Bereaved (tel.01235 772850).
Joyce H. M. MILLINGTON 19 December.Member of Stourbridge Meeting,previously Bull Street,Birmingham and Liverpool.Widow ofTom,mother ofVeronica and Caroline.Aged 86.
Monica SHALLIS 15 December. Peacefully in hospital.Founder/ Artistic Director ofCygnet Training Theatre.Attender at Exeter Meeting. Memorial Meeting,Exeter FMH, 3pm,10 January.Contact telephone 01392 425777.
Changes of clerk
All from 1 January 2007:
AYLSHAMPM Clerk: Felicity Cox, 103 Sir Williams Close,Aylsham, Norfolk NR11 6AY.Telephone 01263 735079.
BOLTONPM Clerk: Bronwen Hardy,Notices clerk: Hilary Murrant,both c/o Friends Meeting House,50 Silverwell Street,Bolton BL1 1PP.Tel.01204 528616.
BRENTFORD&ISLEWORTHPM Co-clerks: Frank Cranmer and Bessie White.Correspondence to Frank Cranmer,Central Lobby Consultants,1 Millbank,London SW1P 3JZ.Tel.07774 981988. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Bessie White,tel.020 8560 5887.Email: email@example.com
DUNDEEMEETING Clerk: Marion Mainprize,c/o Friends Meeting House,7 Whitehall Crescent,Dundee DD1 4AR.
HARROWPM Clerk:Sandy Horsfall, 104 Bessborough Road,Harrow HA1 3DQ.Tel.020 8422 2269. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Correspondence:Alison Johnson, 10 Scarsdale Road,South Harrow HA2 8LW.Tel.020 8422 5550.
TELFORDMEETING Clerk for PM Correspondence: Jackie Fowler, 1 Lea Court,Telford TF1 3PL.Tel. 01952 253378.Email: email@example.com Telephone enquiries:David Rolfe 01952 222619.
A MEETINGFORWORSHIPto celebrate the life ofMargaret Le Mare will be held on her 100th Birthday, Sunday 14 January,10.30am, Sibford FMH.Refreshments afterwards.All Friends very welcome. Details: 01295 788393.
AMMERDOWNA place of hospitality,spirituality and growth. Spring courses include Silent Prayer,Writing for Wellbeing,Art and Conflict,Stained Glass Window Making and more.Information or free 2007 programme 01761 433709 or firstname.lastname@example.org www.ammerdown.org
BUNHILL FIELDS FMH Wednesday 17 January and the third Wednesday ofevery month, 12.45 - 1.15 pm,meeting for worship followed by a light lunch.
Alteration to meeting
AIRTON RECOGNISED MEETING, Settle MM. Meetings for Worship now take place at Airton Meeting House on the second and fourth Sundays ofeach month at 3pm. Enquiries: Kevin Berry 01729 830121.
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MATURE, THINKING and sensuous Friend with wide cultural, academic and practical interests, seeks similarly minded lady Friends ofall ages for companionship,friendship,relationship.He Cambridge but can travel and accommodate without strings.Box 836.
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the Friend, 5 January 2007