Little Green Space
One of our projects is the restoration of Hackney Leys, over five acres of grassland lying in the Derwent Valley, near Matlock in Derbyshire. We are creating an environmentally-friendly smallholding, with wildlife habitats and sustainable living features that address climate change and habitat loss, and that encourage biodiversity.
The site is also used as an educational and skill-building resource, and as a model to inspire others to create green and sustainable places.
The site is managed through traditional and organic methods as far as possible. No chemicals, pesticides or chemicals are used.
We want to attract as many different wildlife species as possible by creating and maintaining a rich variety of habitats. We are recreating native wildflower meadows and establishing wetland areas and native, broadleaved woodland.
Much of the land will be maintained as hay meadow, allowing many species of wildflower to flourish. Ox-eye daisies, vetch and the rare greater burnett are already present. Through careful maintenance we hope to introduce many more varieties.
We are deliberately leaving areas of wild hedgerow along the field edges. These have huge benefits for wildlife, functioning as wildlife corridors, as well as being feeding and nesting areas. Brambles, for example, provide shelter for a range of creatures. Comma, gatekeeper, peacocks and small tortoiseshell butterflies all feed on bramble flowers while blackberries are taken by birds.
We are repairing the traditional dry stone walls which border the meadows and provide a good habitat for a range of creatures. In December 2008 and January 2009, BTCV's Derbyshire Biodiversity Action Team visited the site to carry out work on the walls, providing hands-on experience in countryside management skills for over a dozen volunteers. Native hedgerows have also been planted.
Close cut grass can be far more beneficial for wildlife such as butterflies and birds if it is allowed to flower and then cut for hay.
We have planted almost 250 broadleaved native trees. Species include oak, beech, birch, hazel, hawthorn, willow and rowan. These will be under-planted with native shrubs and wildflowers. There are already a number of trees on the site, including two veteran ash trees.
Native trees provide food and habitats for many animals, and absorb carbon dioxide. Two large ash trees already established on the site provide homes for tawny owls.
Mini-beasts and fungi are encouraged by log piles, and we have built a bug hotel. We have introduced feeding, nesting and over-wintering sites for birds, insects and bats.
In the north-east corner of the site there is a wildlife garden which includes native fruit trees and nectar rich plants. The pond is inhabited by frogs and toads, and attracts dragonflies and damselflies. Foxes and badgers come to collect windfalls, while bees and butterflies visit plants such as buddleia and viburnum.
Alongside the garden, we have an organic vegetable patch, and have created an orchard area that is home to free-range chickens. The orchard of over 40 trees includes a wide range of cultivars to improve biodiversity and to help maintain traditional and Derbyshire varieties.
Left: BTCV volunteers work to repair dry stone walls at Hackney Leys, December 2008
Right: The repaired stretch of dry stone wall, January 2009