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Time on our hands

For as long as I can remember our lives have been dominated by the responsibility of having children. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining – I’m just saying how busy it’s been  – school runs and cooking meals for four children, trawling through piles of washing and ironing every weekend takes its toll and leaves very little time to indulge in some of the more enjoyable things in life.

Our eldest is 23 now, with the middle two being 17 and 16 and our youngest is a very independent 12 year-old meaning that we’ve found ourselves with a lot more time on our hands lately…which is why I’ve found a love for garden wildlife.

We live in an urban area in the West Midlands and our tennis court sized garden is bordered on one side by a high wall that separates us from a road and busy walkway – (handily, the pub is just 30 seconds away) but it’s amazing the amount of wildlife you can attract if you create the right environment.


I’ve been feeding the birds in our garden for quite a while now and started doing the Big Garden Birdwatch a couple of years ago but it’s only recently that I’ve really started taking a real interest in what’s going on right outside my back door.

We have a couple of bird boxes, this battered old one attracts blue tits every year, and some other regulars to our garden are a family of black birds (possibly my favourite bird), countless busy sparrows that dart from the hedges to the feeders and quickly back again, a couple of inquisitive robins, a few comical pigeons and a mix of intelligent jackdaws, carrion crows, rooks and magpies.


Last summer I built a small pond and we had a resident frog – with a few smaller ones making an appearance later in the year.


There’s no sign of any frog spawn this year but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the pond becomes a breeding spot…I’ll keep you posted on this.


This year, after creating an account on the RSPB site and being given a plan to follow I decided to take my interest in the nature in our back garden one step further. First job was to create a bug hotel and hedgehog café. I was determined to use the things that were just lying around in our garden to build these homes for nature.

Luckily (although my wife might disagree) I’m a bit of a hoarder when it comes to wood – you never know when you might want to build something. I went hunting around the garden and found a couple of pieces of old trellis and some slats from a bed that we recently upgraded – I’d found my structure and went off in search of things to fill it with. I found some bamboo cane, a few pine cones, some rotten wood and a load of twigs.



I initially intended for the bug house to be fairly small but once I’d got my materials together it just made sense to build one as large as possible. I screwed the frame together and added all the bits that I’d found lying round the garden…making sure that I left enough space underneath to add a few rocks for frogs to use for hibernation, with a separate area at the front of the ‘hotel’ to use as a hedgehog café.

It was the first time that I’d spent any real time in the garden since winter began…it was freezing cold but it felt so good to be outside again. The bug hotel/hedgehog café/frog retreat sits at the back of the garden, under the shelter of the trees and serves as an excellent vantage point for the couple of nosey robins that love watching in the mornings as I put out the seeds and fat balls before I head off to work.

It’s early days yet, and there’s no sign of any hedgehogs, frogs or bugs taking advantage of the facilities but I’ll keep you updated…as they say, build it and they will come.


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