My Wild Life
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.