Aysgarth Falls National Park Centre Wildlife Garden

Why create a wildlife garden?

In spring 2013, staff at Aysgarth Falls National Park Centre decided to plant a garden. We had just a bat survey done around the buildings with encouraging results and wanted to enhance their environment by encouraging more insects into the area. We also knew that wild bees are struggling through loss of habitat so we wanted to grow nectar-rich flowers to help our local population. As an organization, we participate in the Green Business Tourism Scheme and we felt that creating a wildlife garden would fit in well with the aims of the scheme.

Aims of the project

To encourage more wildlife particularly bees and bats.

Achievements of the project

The garden comprises of eight wooden tubs, two hanging baskets and two square pieces of ground at the front of the centre. One square was already used as a flower bed and one had to be newly made. The new section was previously concrete and gravel; it was created with the assistance of our rangers and Dales Volunteers.

To minimize the amounts of compost needed in the tubs, flattened plastic milk bottles from our café were used as space fillers in the tubs, covered with scrap landscaping membrane from a ranger service project. The compost we used was organic and peat-free, purchased from a local business. Well-rotted farm manure from a Raydaleside farm was added for extra fertility.

We discovered that simple flower shapes worked best for bees and other insects and that varied flower shapes suit different bee species for example some prefer tube-like flowers others prefer an open shape. Block planting enables bees to move easily between blooms.  Pale flowers with night scent attract the moths that bats feed off. We are also trying to plant for a long season from early spring flowers, followed by summer and autumn flowering plants. Finally of course, we don’t use sprays in case we harm the visiting insects and the bats that feed off them.

So far we are very pleased with the results. We have certainly seen an increase in bees in the garden with a number of species being present. There are also lots of moths out at night. In addition, the project has created an attractive new section of garden out of an unused and unattractive gravel area and given us the opportunity to share our simple techniques for creating a wildlife friendly garden with our visitors.

Who is involved?

Aysgarth Falls National Park Centre staff and Dales Volunteers. All the plants are locally sourced. Many were from Braithwaites, a family nursery with a long history in our area (details opposite). Additional plants came from a small local growers, such as, the Orchard Garden at Hudson House in Reeth, Leyburn WI,  the Aysgarth Rock Garden and donations from staff.

The unfolding of Grass Wood throughout the year is a story of rich fulfilment. From 'Wharfedale' by Ella Pontefract & Marie Hartley

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