Yards of delight in small gardens
LET me describe my back yard. It’s small with a stone wall around that is not in the best state. It means nooks and crannies are great for our local wren hopping in and out looking for insects.
I have a lawn surrounded by flower beds, which are mostly native flowers for bees and butterflies and a lot of foliage for insects to hide out.
My back garden is the place where I encounter wildlife every day.
Flocks of sparrows and starlings are regulars at my bird table and feeders, there are toads and frogs under big stones in the corner and we do get a robin popping in to show off its red breast.
Researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University invited city residents to answer an online survey about their gardens, including how much of this is green space – grass, plants and trees.
More than 1,000 people took part in the My Back Yard survey and the academics backed up the answers by studying detailed aerial images, with results covering the whole city. It discovered Manchester City Council’s previous estimate that 58 per cent of Manchester’s land was green space and water had been over-estimated because gardens are not wholly green.
In fact, an average Manchester garden is only 50 per cent green space, because some gardens have been wholly or partly paved over for driveways and patios or lost to new buildings and sheds.
This puts a large dent in the overall green space in the city, which is now estimated as 49pc.
Dr Gina Cavan, senior lecturer in geography at Manchester Met, said: “Green space provides important benefits to the city. If you look at a single back yard then you may think you cannot make a difference because it is such a small area, but if you add up all the outdoor space in a single council ward, it can amount to half the ward’s area.”
In fact, Manchester residents are responsible for 20pc of Manchester’s green space within their private gardens. This is just as valuable for wildlife and health as our public parks.
In Rusholme and Moss Side, alleyways are being ‘greened’ between houses. This is actually connecting gardens and making larger areas for nature.
More than 100 survey respondents took My Back Yard pledges to improve their greenery and wildlife by planting a variety of plants, introducing drought-resistant plants, collecting and reusing rainwater, planting trees to create shade and improve air quality, and replacing hard surfaces in their gardens with green space.
These actions all help to make Manchester more resilient to climate risks and help to boost wildlife.
Interestingly, private rented tenants said gardens were not a key factor in deciding whether to rent a particular property.
Gina said: “We have a large private rented sector in Manchester so if tenants are not particularly bothered about having gardens then landlords are not going to grass them and maintain them.
“People who own their property with a mortgage or own outright, and tenants in social rented homes, really value gardens whereas we found in the private rented sector they don’t.”
If you live in Manchester and are keen to improve your garden, your street and your neighbourhood, then you should have a look at the full My Back Yard report at mmu.ac.uk/ mybackyard
To become a member of the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside go to the website atlancswt.org. uk or call 01772 324129. For more information about Cheshire Wildlife Trust call 01948 820728 or go to cheshirewildlifetrust. org.uk.
An alleyway in Moss Side which has been turned into a garden