A conventional gardener would throw up his hands in horror at the lack of cultivation around Roland and Frances Bee’s home, but that is what makes it special.
The Bees have done a great deal of planting in the 16 years they have lived at Thorpe Morieux, but forget neat shrubberies, flowerbeds and lawns shaved to an inch of the soil. Their whole reason for moving there from Welwyn was to create a wildlife haven of their own, a private nature reserve.
Today, the Suffolk Wildlife Trust recognises the value of sites established by people like the Bees, whose home is part of the trust’s Suffolk Nature Network. The trust says: “They are scattered throughout the county and are enormously beneficial for wildlife, both creating and linking habitats.”
Frances explained: “There is no point having an isolated wildlife oasis. We’ve got to have this network of smaller places, the stepping stones.”
They are about halfway
between the ancient woodland reserves at Bradfield and Bulls Woods and believe fallow and roe deer that visit are moving between the two.
As the range of habitats they created increased, so did the variety of flora and fauna. Sometimes all they needed to do was give it light.
About eight years ago they added an scrubby piece of land to bring their plot up to 12 acres. Roland explained: “We simply cut rides through it and when we cut the blackthorn and bramble back here a carpet of yellow cowslips appeared. There had been no sign of them before.”
Most of the land had been commercially farmed. But they planted 15,000 trees, added a pond and seeded a wild flower meadow and nature started lending a hand.
Frances recalled: “Our first orchids were bee orchids, appropriately. Now we have early purple, common spotted and pyramid.”
Those were not introductions, but dormant seeds that have grown when the soil conditions became right.
After only five years, a British Trust for Ornithology survey suggested a 400 per cent increase in bird numbers.
But they also showed that creating the right conditions can help animals with far less mobility than birds.
A pond was created for rare great crested newts. Roland said: ”We were really chuffed when the great crested newts appeared.
“Smooth newts came first, then the great crested newts a couple of years later.
The Bees also pay attention to little things like the log piles dotted about. Pruned wood is stacked to create hiding places for insects, reptiles, amphibians and small mammals. Even on a cloudy day, common lizards were out on the logs.
Originally, a few lizards were seen around the margins of the site but the Bees have done such a good job that their land was found to be ideal for relocating lizards and sloworms from building land.
Roland said: “Though they were translocated, it was good to see the lizards the following year in larger numbers and know they were doing well.”
The couple, who used to run an HR consultancy, are proud of what they have done. But they admit they might have done it differently if they had known more in the early days. Roland’s advice to anyone thinking of doing the same is: “Get really good advice. The Wildlife Trust have been so good to us.
“Get a flora and fauna survey of the whole site and take advice on where to put your habitats.”
For advice, contact Suffolk Wildlife Trust on 01473 890089 or at firstname.lastname@example.org