Have you ever noticed how an everyday activity sometimes turns into a magical event? We live in a small village in the North West of England. We’re just on the edge of the village with our garden stretching out into the surrounding countryside. Apart from traffic passing through on the main street it’s a peaceful place. Just the way we like it. Everyday I make a point of walking to our local post box to send orders on their way to my lovely customers.
Today on my walk into the village I spotted a glossy, golden brown, fat mouse sitting in the sunshine. He was close to the hedge on the warm pavement eating the biggest ripe blackberry I have ever seen. It was like a scene from a story book. I stood a few feet away and watched as he munched and wiped the sticky juice from his whiskers with his pink feet. He didn’t notice me, even when I rummaged noisily around in my pockets for my phone. There was no chance of a picture, the phone sadly left at home plugged into the charger. Eventually I tore myself away. Posted the seeds. Popped into the newsagents. Chatted to a neighbour. Sauntered back home. Would you believe it? The mouse was still there completely oblivious to everything but the blackberry. I don’t know why he didn’t scamper off… perhaps he knew that I was no threat or perhaps the blackberry was just too good to resist! Once again I had to force myself to leave the scene. Things to do. You know how it is.
Walking home I realised how lucky I was to see such a beautiful little creature. We have mice and voles in our garden but we only ever catch fleeting glimpses of them. They are quite timid. Encounters with wildlife are so amazing to me. I started to think about what we can do in the garden this autumn so that they will survive winter, no matter how harsh the weather becomes. We’ll be collecting barrow loads of fallen leaves but as usual we’ll leave a good mulch of them under the hedges. They’ll provide shelter for small creatures and eventually they will enrich the soil. Small mammals need food too so we’ll leave seed heads on some of the more sturdy plants. I know that mice collect and store seeds and nuts so they will all have a little stash somewhere. If they venture out on a mild winter day it would be rather good if they could find food and fresh water too… so we’ll keep the saucers topped up every day with clean water.
Striding back up the driveway deep in thought a flash of gold attracted my attention high up in a Beech Tree. Just a few leaves have changed colour and a shaft of sunlight lit them up. I am sure they didn’t look like that on my way down the driveway! Changeable autumn weather means that lighting conditions can change quickly too so I ran to grab my camera. Luckily I managed to take a few shots of the golden leaves.
I didn’t catch a shot of the golden mouse but I was very happy that the sun lit up those leaves at just the right moment. I didn’t spot the holes in the leaves until later. I was quite sure I had some lovely shots. I laughed out loud when I saw that the leaves were not quite as perfect as I thought. I must have been blinded by the light! The Beech tree is mature, tall and healthy so whatever has been eating the leaves is very unlikely to have an impact on the tree. I’m guessing that some kind of moth caterpillars have been feeding there. That’s great for small garden birds… plenty of insects means more food for the wild birds. We don’t use pesticides so there are always colonies of some pest or other that our garden visitors quickly demolish.
Five things you can do to help wildlife in your garden
- Provide a source of water in the form of a small pond or large deep saucers of water.
- Bin the pesticides. They kill caterpillars and insects which would otherwise be a food source for wild birds.
- Rethink your autumn garden tidy up. Overwintering Butterflies and, amphibians and small mammals hide in dry sheltered places. Rake up the leaves, leave some under your hedge and make a big bin of leafmould (which you can use on your borders next year) rather than using a leaf blower to collect them. There’s no need to bag them up and remove them. That’s such a waste!
- Leave seedheads on hardy perennial plants. They’ll provide food and shelter for insects and small creatures.
- Bin the herbicides. It’s tempting to spray weeds to kill them but you are kidding yourself if you think it won’t harm the wildlife. Chemicals kill insects as well as the plants they need to feed on.
You may already be well aware of the simple things you can do this autumn to help wildlife. If you have already changed how you manage your garden that’s brilliant. Can you persuade your family and friends or your neighbours to make a few changes too? Tiny creatures won’t survive without our help.
There’s no doubt in my mind that encounters with wildlife enrich our lives. It would be good to know that our children and grandchildren will be able to see some of the amazingly beautiful insects and small mammals that we see can all see today. If they are very lucky.
What are you doing in your garden for the wildlife this autumn and winter?
Thanks for reading, liking and commenting too. Happy Gardening! Gillian