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Don’t forget to leave out fresh water, vital for all garden wildlife. In fact, I use an upturned dustbin lid! However, if you do start feeding birds and other wildlife, it is important to continue to do so, on a regular basis. In really cold and icy weather, twice a day is ideal.


It is also absolutely vital to clean all feeding areas regularly (with a 10% disinfectant solution) and to clean all water containers thoroughly. If the ground is covered in snow, clear a patch to allow birds and small mammals to hunt for insects in the lawn.


If you want to encourage birds to breed in your garden, try putting up a nest box. My children and I made one last year using recycled, untreated wood which we ‘rescued’


from a


skip. To my delight, it had only been up for a few weeks after Christmas when a pair of Robins occupied it. My children then insisted on cutting out every Robin they could find in our pile of ‘to be recycled’ Christmas


77 | ukhandmade | Autumn 2012


cards and sticking them on to the kitchen windows in a bid to welcome our new neighbours!


Incidentally, Robins first appeared on Christmas cards during the Victorian era when the Royal Mail’s postmen wore bright red tunics and were nicknamed ‘Robin Redbreast’.


Winter is the ideal time to plant trees, shrubs or even a mixed shrub hedgerow to provide natural food in the form of berries and nuts for birds and other animals.


However, if you are out pottering around in the garden at this time of year, take care not to disturb hibernating creatures. Leaves, dried stems and the seed heads of flowers provide shelter for over- wintering lacewings, ladybirds and other insects. Even a pile of fallen branches is likely to have become home to a rich variety of wildlife, such as amphibians - including frogs, toads and newts - and possibly a hedgehog or two.


So, instead of being too tidy or tempted to have a bonfire, do rake rotting branches, grass clippings and fallen leaves into heaps and leave them to rot down naturally. And, as I always suggest, if you are one of those strange folk who worry about always having a tidy garden, just make a sign saying ‘Wildlife Area’ and place it next to these heaps and piles. Your friends and neighbours will marvel at your green credentials!


For designs and advice on bird and bat boxes, please visit the RSPB website: www.rspb.org.uk/advice/ helpingbirds/nestboxes/


Images courtesy of Emma Allnutt of www.etsy.com/shop/sugarcane Bebe Bradley of www.passerine.co.uk


‘Blue Tit’ bird boxes by Dawn Painter of www.londonclaybirds.co.uk


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