Columnist: Bridget Flanagan talks about garden visitors

Badgers will come into gardens to find food.

Badgers will come into gardens to find food. - Credit: NIGEL SPROWELL

In the Great Ouse Valley we are fortunate to be surrounded by beautiful countryside. And this means that while we sleep, the wildlife also enjoys our gardens – sometimes to our dismay! Here Bridget Flanagan, from the Great Ouse Valley Trust, describes some of her own experiences.

GREAT OUSE VALLEY TRUST

The Great Ouse Valley Trust. - Credit: GREAT OUSE VALLEY TRUST

We are very keen on drawing up boundaries and delineating spaces – but nature and wildlife pay them little regard. We generally think of our settlements of town and village as being separate from the countryside.

We go to great lengths to invite some wildlife to visit our garden spaces – while simultaneously doing our utmost to keep others out.

Almost all birds are welcome, and the nation spends fortunes buying food to entice them nearer. Rabbits, on the other hand, are certainly not on our guest list. And then there’s the rest of the visitors, mostly nocturnal, who come uninvited and unannounced – some who leave little trace, and others who disregard house rules, treat the place as their own and leave a mess.

So who are these night visitors? It is a delight to be sitting in the garden, as dusk falls on a warm summer evening, and watch bats darting at insects, or be gradually aware of a hedgehog shuffling in the shadows. The foxes are everywhere. Only a garden ‘militarised’ zone might make them cautious: a quick tour of neighbourhood plots is just their regular evening jaunt.

Food is the big attraction and the wildlife visitors see our gardens as repositories of juicy, tender offerings, often beautifully presented and in great abundance. Easier than having to forage in a hedgerow. 

The Muntjac deer – seemingly ubiquitous – find the flowers of winter pansies to be irresistible, and even more so when conveniently planted in a pot at head-height.

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The buds of tulips are a special delicacy, as are the soft shoots of young rose stems and leaves.

A recent arrival in my garden is the badger who takes deep gouges out of the lawn to find grubs and worms. He couldn’t believe his luck when he came across new plantings of crocus and scilla bulbs, so he unearthed and ate the lot.

And an even bigger mammal, with a larger appetite, has now appeared. As I returned home one evening last week my car headlights shone on two Roe deer in the front garden. We stared at each other in astonishment, and then they were gone. No doubt they will be back. Whose garden is it anyway?

The Great Ouse Valley Trust promotes for public benefit the conservation, restoration and enjoyment of the landscape, wildlife and heritage of the Great Ouse Valley and environs in the county of Cambridgeshire. For more information about the Trust please visit www.greatousevalleytrust.org.uk and follow us on Facebook.