Winners of Wild About Gardens Week competition announced
Three ‘grand designs’ will today be awarded ultimate ‘des-res’ status when ‘Bugingham Palace’, a ‘mini-beast mansion’ and ‘seven story stack’ are announced as the winning entries in a national wildlife gardening competition.
More than 100 schools, groups and gardeners up and down the UK entered the competition as part of this year’s Wild about Gardens Week, throughout which The Wildlife Trusts and the Royal Horticultural Society asked people to provide much-needed places in which pollinators can spend the winter.
The organisations teamed up to encourage gardeners, schools and community groups to plan garden patches for the year ahead, in an effort to offer insects vital pollen and nectar-rich food and ensure pollinators awaken to a patch which provides the food and shelter they need to survive.
Entrants designed and created ‘budget B&Bs’ and luxury hibernaculum-style ‘five star hotels’ in a bid to boost bugs’ chances. All three winning designs include a variety of features which will help attract wildlife – from living roofs to bee nest holes and all the nook and crannies minibeasts find irresistible – and their respective creators demonstrated outstanding enthusiasm and knowledge, which the judges found inspiring.
The Wildlife Trusts’ judge Amy Lewis, said: “We are thrilled with the entries received. There was fierce competition but everyone who entered into the spirit of this competition clearly considered the needs of our pollinators and got pleasure from executing the challenge, providing somewhere secure for our garden friends to survive and thrive.
“Our winners are particularly exceptional examples of what can be done with a little planning and plenty of creativity and will truly reap the rewards of their efforts in the spring as the bugs emerge to pollinate plants.”
The categories and winners are:
Group The Holly Lodge Centre, an education charity in Richmond Park, wins a personalised expert-led guided tour for up to 20 people of RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey (in May 2015), including a behind-the-scenes introduction to the work of RHS entomologists and the chance to explore the world-famous gardens at their leisure.
“The judges were highly impressed with the appearance of this fantastic structure, especially noting the roof, functionality, creativity and it’s positioning.”
School Pupils from Whitchurch Primary School in Bristol will receive a wildlife gardening bundle from Vine House Farm, worth £300. It will include hedgehog houses, bird feeders, bat boxes and much more, for their school grounds.
“The judges were impressed by the standard of this entry and the clear involvement of the children. Their use of recycled materials, the living roof and sign really made this mansion stand out from the crowd.”
Individual Wendy Field from Worcester wins one year’s membership to the RHS and Worcestershire Wildlife Trust plus a goody-bag from The Wildlife Trusts which includes wildlife books, t-shirts and a baseball cap.
“The judges really liked the creative design of this entry. ‘Bugingham Palace’ was modelled on Her Majesty’s famous residence – complete with a flying flag to show that the Queen Bee is at home.”
Stewart Perkes, trustee for The Holly Lodge Centre, winner of the group category, said: “I cannot tell you how pleased we all are. We are delighted with our bug hotel, which has already attracted much interest from children. It gives us the chance to explain why such refuges are so important to invertebrates, reptiles, mammals and amphibians. The visit to RHS Garden Wisley will allow us to take many of our volunteers who work so hard and, as we are planning a butterfly garden and other planting programmes, a session with the RHS entomologists will be fantastic.
“Our aim is to educate young people, especially those with special needs, in the many elements of Richmond Park, so that they learn to appreciate the ecology and the unique environment of this beautiful place.”
Maria Fox, gardening coordinator for Whitchurch Primary School, which won the school category, said: “The children are thrilled to have won the Wild About Gardens Week bug hotel building competition. It was a fantastic opportunity to involve as many children as possible – from Reception to year six – in building the mini bug houses which were then added to our ‘Mini Beast Mansion’. We were able to build it from completely recycled materials – so it didn’t cost us anything! The pallets were donated to us, and the plants kindly given to us by our local garden centre, Whitehall.
“The children had great fun making the mini houses from anything they could get their hands on; paper, cardboard hay and bark. We even collected sticks, conkers and pine cones as well as cutting up sunflower stalks left over from our sunflower growing competition so nothing went to waste!
“Although they found making some trickier than others (rolling strips of newspaper into small, neat tubes was not as easy as it looked!), practice made perfect, and all their efforts were rewarded when, on Year 4’s Outdoor Day, they were able to observe a solitary bee making its home in the tubes. We now have a brilliant learning resource and a cosy home for our local wildlife as well!”
Pupil Olivia (Year 5) added: “The mini beast mansion is amazing! What I liked most was making the houses, but it was challenging to get the newspaper inside the plant pot!”
Dairy farmer Wendy Field, winner of the individual category, said: “Building a bug hotel has been on my mind for a while and this competition came at exactly the right time. As part of our farm diversification we have applied to run a luxury glampsite in one of the fields which we want to be wildlife and eco-friendly – a bug hotel is the perfect addition!
“I took my children to see the real Buckingham Palace over the summer which provided enough inspiration to get them away from the television over half-term and actively involved in its creation. Linking it to the real Buckingham Palace made our design more interesting for the children and so ‘Bugingham Palace’ was born. As we’re on a farm, we have all sorts of bits and bobs lying around to construct it so all we needed was our imagination! We’re looking forward to welcoming our guests’ arrival!”
Andrew Salisbury, RHS Senior Entomologist, said: “The amazing standard of entries means there will be many more insects with a good quality home this winter. I very much enjoyed viewing all the entries and it was difficult for myself and fellow judge, RHS Senior Horticultural Advisor Helen Bostock, to choose the top hotels for a prize – all entrants deserve a commendation.”
Paul Wilkinson, The Wildlife Trusts’ Head of Living Landscape, said: “If all of us took one small action for wildlife at home – whether it’s providing shelter for overwintering insects, letting the lawn grow long and lush at the back of the garden, or putting the chemicals away for good – it would make a remarkable difference. Our gardens provide homes, food and shelter for a variety of wildlife and as part of a network which extends well beyond the garden fence, criss-crossing our urban landscapes. We hope many more people are inspired to make their patch more inviting and provide a haven for the insects, birds and other animals which share the open spaces around us.”
More than 1,500 insect species are known to pollinate plants in the UK – including bumble bees, the honey bee, solitary bees, hoverflies, wasps, flies, beetles, butterflies and moths – and almost any insect that visits flowers can aid pollination. As a result of the way the landscape has changed over recent decades, not all insect pollinators can readily find the food and shelter they need. A recently published IUCN study highlighted that approximately 46% of European bumblebee species are in decline, with 24% at risk of extinction; and we have already lost about23 bee and flower-visiting wasp species in Britain.