My Wild Life

Cotswold Life - - COTSWOLD COUNTRYSIDE - RICHARD GATENBY HEAD GAR­DENER AT BARNS­LEY HOUSE, NEAR CIRENCES­TER

It’s hard to de­scribe how I feel about the gar­den at Barns­ley House, where I’ve worked for al­most 20 years: to me it’s a place with which I have a re­la­tion­ship.

The gar­den was cre­ated by Rose­mary Verey, who I got to know dur­ing my early days here. She planted a gar­den sim­i­lar to a woodland, with rides, glades and open ar­eas and lots of trees and shrubs. It’s a habi­tat for a wide va­ri­ety of species be­cause there’s lots of light and shel­ter.

We have a peanut feeder in the mag­no­lia and niger seed in the ginkgo. We see chaffinches con­gre­gat­ing here and it’s great to spot black­birds mess­ing with slugs. There are great spot­ted and green wood­peck­ers, black­caps, and we have a mis­tle thrush that nests in the gar­den. We know sum­mer has ar­rived when swallows and house­martins ap­pear – I send a text to one of my friends when I see the first swal­low. Of­ten we’ll have spar­rowhawks and kites com­ing through.

In the sum­mer we see lots of but­ter­flies and moths, and oc­ca­sion­ally day­light-fly­ing bats, and there are newts in the pond.

I come from Mid­dles­bor­ough and I’ve al­ways been in­ter­ested in birds. Our chem­istry teacher was an RSPB rep and used to or­gan­ise trips, such as to Leighton Moss to see bit­tern and Black­toft Sands for marsh har­ri­ers. Even now I’m al­ways look­ing out for birds.

At Barns­ley House we take an in­te­grated ap­proach to­wards pests and plant dis­eases and avoid us­ing chem­i­cals.

In the green houses and poly tun­nels we use bi­o­log­i­cal con­trols, such as the En­car­sia for­mosa wasp for white­fly and Aphi­do­letes aphidimyza for aphids. If we have a big prob­lem with slugs we use or­ganic pel­lets. We dig out weeds rather than use weed killer.

We used to have between 25,000 and 30,000 peo­ple com­ing to see the gar­den dur­ing the year and still get a lot, but it seems that vis­its are more spread out rather than by the coach load, which helps to main­tain the gar­den’s tran­quil at­mos­phere.

I feel very lucky to work here and, while I’m proud of my north­ern roots, it’s a good feel­ing to know that I’ve spent around 40% of my life in this quintessen­tial English gar­den and sur­round­ing coun­try­side. One of my favourite walks is from here to the Fosse, and I like the val­ley here, which makes me think of Thomas Hardy’s Wes­sex.

I love this gar­den and try my best in it. It’s a place in which I’ve made friends, met in­ter­est­ing peo­ple and en­joyed see­ing lots of wildlife.

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