Get an exclusive insight into our work in the south east region and meet some of the people who make it possible.
Last month, our North West Surrey RSPB Local Group organised an event with RHS Garden Wisley, and spent a weekend talking to their visitors about the RSPB’s new campaign, Giving Nature a Home. Here Mary Braddock, co-leader of the group tells us how it went...
Giving Nature a Home
Once again, North West Surrey RSPB Local Group joined forces with RHS Garden Wisley to engage with the public over a weekend. This time it was during the RSPB TV advertising campaign encouraging the public to “Give Nature a Home”. We were lucky with the weather, warm, sunny and cooler than it had been earlier in the week when temperatures had risen to the mid 30’s here in Surrey. In fact, ideal conditions to tempt people into visiting these magnificent gardens at Wisley.
We arrived early to set up our stand. Our usual information stand was in the garden shop with pin badges, information leaflets and lots of information about our local group. The stand in the garden took a little more organising. With a large gazebo at our disposal we set about showing off how we could Give Nature a Home. As the weather was so good we kept the gazebo for shade purposes and laid our “wares” out on the grass – just outside the main cafeteria. The Wisley Garden Shop had provided us with a wealth of plants that attracted insects and bees, insect homes, bee boxes, bird feeders, bird nest boxes, a home for frogs and another for hedgehogs and we unloaded the car of its log pile, stag beetle bucket and the new “Give Nature a Home” sign!
We set up an area around the plants with information about bees . The plants were such a draw for people that before we knew what was happening people started wandering over to have a chat. Conversations about bees turned to hedgehogs, evolved to stag beetles, insect boxes, bird food and nest boxes.
It was an amazing two days!
What had seemed slightly daunting to some of us with more knowledge about birds and less about other species turned into a really enjoyable time and all our volunteers said how much they had enjoyed the experience and how easy they had found the conversations. Many of the 500 people we engaged with over the weekend were already making changes in their gardens and had been encouraged to do more having seen the TV advert. Many went away from our stand clutching items of information and vowing to increase their “Homes for Wildlife”.
All in all a good fun weekend, but one with a serious message that was shared with so many people.
Not only does summer signify the onset of BBQ’s, trips to the beach and ice creams, it also means that it’s time to open the public vote for the RSPB Telegraph Nature of Farming Award (NoFA)! For your chance to take part, visit our website at: rspb.org.uk/farmvote
This years South East Regional winner is George Atkinson, who farms near East Meon in Hampshire. The 490ha mixed farm lies within the rolling hills of the South Downs National Park, where George rears cattle and sheep, and grows crops including wheat, barley and oil seed rape. This varied farming system allows George to provide a range of habitat for all kinds of wildlife.
Feeding and nesting areas are created in the arable fields for birds including skylark, yellowhammer and lapwing. Nationally, populations of these birds have been in decline, but through the actions of farmers like George, their fortunes can be reversed. Cattle and sheep are used to graze areas of chalk grassland, which are full of wildflowers and plants. This in turn hosts colonies of butterflies such as silver spotted and dingy skippers.
George is also working on some specific species recovery projects. The rare Duke of Burgundy butterfly is being encouraged by clearing small areas of scrub to allow its primary food source, cowslips and primroses to flourish, and banks of the River Meon have been fenced off to allow them to grow up and provide cover for secretive water voles.
As well as delivering wildlife conservation on the ground, George is also keen to inform, educate and show people the work that he is doing. His passion and knowledge is evident as he shows various groups from school children to adults around the farm, explaining what projects he is undertaking and the benefits they are having on the local wildlife.
In a slight change to the competition this year, all eight regional and country finalists from the UK are going forward to the public vote. This will count for half of their overall total, with the other half coming from the ranking given to them by an expert panel made up of specialists from the RSPB, Butterfly Conservation, Plantlife and Countryfile. George is already off to a good start, coming third in this part of the competition.
So come on, fire up those laptops, smart phones and PC’s, go online, and vote for George!