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Nature enthusiast from Thanet urges people to turn their gardens into wildlife havens


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A nature lover from Thanet is on a mission to convince people of the beauty in an unkempt garden.

Nik Mitchell, from Pegwell, Ramsgate, has been involved in programmes like Countryfile, Springwatch and The One Show, and said letting your outdoor space get a bit 'scruffy' will convert it into a bustling home for all kinds of wildlife.

Nik has appeared on TV programmes like Countryfile to discuss how to support our nature ecosystem.
Nik has appeared on TV programmes like Countryfile to discuss how to support our nature ecosystem.

The 37-year-old said: "It's quite hard to persuade people, because they love having their grass cut and using slug pellets, but I would just encourage people to be connected to nature.

"Give the wildlife a home that was originally where your house is - let a bit of wild into your life."

Nik, who's day job is an electrician, spends much of his spare time giving people DIY wildlife tips via his Wildlife Conservation in Thanet Facebook page.

His commitment to nature has led him to convert his eight-square-metre garden into a space packed with ideas to help stimulate the life of animals and insects.

He said: "I've got two kids, and during this lockdown it's been so nice having wildlife in the garden.

The messier the better, according to the wildlife enthusiast
The messier the better, according to the wildlife enthusiast

"It would be quite boring looking at a green desert and painted wall."

He added: "The wildlife in your garden is just as important as the wildlife in any nature reserve."

With that in mind, Nik has come up with four simple ways you could embrace nature in your own garden.

Pond life

Nik said: "The single most beneficial thing you can put in your garden for wildlife is a pond.

Nik said making a pond is the easiest way to encourage wildlife
Nik said making a pond is the easiest way to encourage wildlife

"You're not only providing a home for amphibians, but invertebrates too.

"A hedgehog or foxes might drink from it, and birds will bathe in it too."

Nick said people often over-think what it takes to install a pond, when in actual fact all you need is a small container or a pre-formed pond liner from a garden centre for around £30.

No flowing water source is needed either, you can just leave it still.

One of the wildlife enthusiast's biggest frustrations is when people fill in their ponds because of a fear their children will fall in.

Nik spends lots of time making his garden critter-friendly
Nik spends lots of time making his garden critter-friendly

He said: "I'm really sad when I hear that, because there are many hazards facing children and a pond is one of the minimal ones.

"It's really fun for kids when you get tadpoles and newts in there, don't be scared of having a pond in your garden."

Hedgehog highways

Next time you spot a small hole in a garden fence, it might be the sign of a wildlife haven on the other side.

Nik said: "All these modern buildings we're living in, our gardens are like high-sided boxes - nothing can get in and out apart from birds.

Nik's 'hedgehog highway'
Nik's 'hedgehog highway'

"Certain things like hedgehogs and frogs and slow worms can't get into your garden.

"It's as simple as making a small hole the size of a CD case in your fence so the wildlife can get in."

Habitat pile

While it might look a bit messy, Nik said all that garden waste could become something much more useful.

He said: "We all tend to use our green garden waste bins, and we chuck all our hedge trimmings and grass trimmings in there.

Garden waste can be used to stimulate the ecosystem, instead of being thrown away
Garden waste can be used to stimulate the ecosystem, instead of being thrown away

"But what you really need is somewhere tucked away in the garden where you can just chuck all your rubbish, which will provide a habitat for wildlife.

"Insects will get in there, toads might hunt in there - stop being so tidy and have what's effectively a compost heap."

Bird boxes

An old classic which has become even more relevant with the modernisation of house-building, bird boxes are a great way of inviting winged critters into your garden.

Nik said: "You're simulating a hole in a house or a hole in a tree when you put up a bird box, because houses and sheds don't have enough holes in them for birds anymore.

"Kids love doing bird boxes, it's something you can make for yourself.

"It's a great activity - you can even hang your old shoes up and robins will nest in them."

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