To Love the Wild.
Wildflower areas that I have created. One, the cornfield is transitory and beautiful for such a brief time. With the correct management the seed reserve from the season will re-emerge to flower the next year. The typical cornfield plant requires disturbed soils as a trigger for growth. The opposite (or limited disturbance) is true for the meadow, and in particular one where orchids play a part in the plants to be found. This habitat, from creation to a system of regular and reliable flowering needs very careful management, a way that farmers from past times were familiar with. Cutting, harrowing and grazing play a vital role as do the tread of grazing livestock.
Humber Marsh, Herefordshire.
When in 1984 I made the decision to become self employed and begin my own business, ‘Nature’s Way’, with my wife, it was in order to create landscapes and gardens that lived for wildlife, nature and for people. I had become disillusioned about the way that horticulture concentrated on the perfect garden, and in particular the way that you created the perfect garden at that time.
For me, wildlife and wild landscapes, which can be part of any garden, and nowadays should be part of all gardens – bring a dimension that very few people have had the opportunity to truly discover. When you have, you never want to lose it, and nature plays such a part in your life that time stands still.
My work in ‘wild landscapes’ and ‘nature gardens’
Among the projects that we began work on almost immediately was Humber Marsh. This fragment of Herefordshire wetland was in great danger. It had been drying for many years, and scrub growth and encroaching trees were about to turn wetland to woodland. The surrounding and very intensive farmland had literally ‘flooded’ the marsh with both fertilizer and pesticide run off. It was the same old story, and this project was what had inspired me to leave traditional horticulture behind and to work on landscapes that could take ‘good gardening practice’ and conservation and wildlife habitat skills, and combine them.
Five years of unpaid work followed. I had to prove that I could do the kind of work that I wanted to do, and do it well, that was the only way that I could do it. With the support of Angela, and working together we turned around the Humber Marsh landscape and created a nature habitat that attracted everyday wetland wildlife – and the very rare, both were welcome. At Humber Marsh we created the UK’s first private, dedicated conservation and ecology teaching reserve for schools, colleges and universities and this work introduced us to British Telecom and gave us the opportunity to work on one of the most intensively hi-tech sites in the world. BT Madley is home to one of the most sophisticated satellite stations to be found anywhere in the world. Every telephone call and television signal, every communication in Britain leaves these shores and is received in this country through this sci-fi landscape. We turned back the clock with the landscape beneath the many satellite dishes, and in many ways we turned the clock forward in creating a wetland and close to 500 acres of wildflower meadow and cornfield, the corn hidden within a dazzling display of native wildflowers. This was the largest wildflower area that had been sown in Britain.
We went on to develop several more areas with BT and to undertake work with the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust, Natural England, The Nature Conservancy Council and work on a number of social wildlife and nature projects. This also included many wildlife and nature gardens.
Humber Marsh is now home to Wind and Sun http://www.windandsun.co.uk/
There could be no better site to combine nature and the green, renewable energy systems that they build and install. Please visit the site and support them. They are working hard to maintain and enhance the Humber Marsh landscape.