Yards of de­light in small gar­dens

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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

ALAN WRIGHT The Wildlife Trust of Lan­cashire, Manch­ester and North Mersey­side

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