Go wild – do your bit to protect Britain’s native species

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GARDENERS and community groups are joining forces to try and stop the decline of native species in the UK.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and The Wildlife Trusts (TWT) are calling on people to get involved in Wild About Gardens Week (October 25-31).

In May, the State of Nature report, compiled by 25 wildlife organisations, found that 60 per cent of the 3,148 UK animal and plant species assessed have declined in the past 50 years.

For example, hedgehog numbers have reduced by a third since 2000 and the once-common tortoiseshell butterfly has declined by 77 per cent.

The RHS will encourage its 3,300 community gardening groups, 17,250 schools, 145 Partner Gardens and the public to hold wildlife gardening events during the week. Gardeners can log on to www.rhs.org.uk/wildaboutgardensweek for information.

Gardens offer a wealth of habitats – a pond is one of the most effective ways to attract wildlife, and wildflowers provide essential food for insects such as butterflies and bees.

During Wild About Gardens Week, there will be wildflower seed giveaways by TWT and the public will be asked to “Do One Thing” – whether this is to create a pond, build a hedgehog house or just put out some bird seed.

Helen Bostock, RHS horticultural advisor, said: “What’s most alarming at the moment is that many of the ‘common’ garden species – hedgehogs, house sparrows, starlings and common frogs, for example – are becoming much less common.

“Historically, these species have done well in our gardens. This is where gardeners can make a difference and help to halt the declines we’re seeing, by making their gardens more wildlife friendly. This should be a wake-up call to all of us.”

Chris Baines, vice-president of The Wildlife Trusts, said: “The nation’s gardens are hugely important for wildlife and as a habitat network they are second to none.

“Inner-city balconies and courtyards, the suburbs’ hedgerows and lawns, and the orchards and allotments of market towns and villages: all have the potential to be incredibly rich habitats for wildlife.

“There are many simple ways in which we can make our gardens naturally richer. Nest boxes, birdfeeders, log piles, nectar plants, fruiting shrubs, wall climbers and ponds all improve the life chances for many garden creatures; and, as each of us improves our garden habitat for wildlife, the plants and animals that we attract will bring more pleasure in return. It’s a win-win situation.”

TWT and RHS will be offering free advice and resources via the website www.wildaboutgardens.org.uk and via the RHS Advisory Service.