Whilst it might sometimes sound as if I never venture further than outside my own backdoor (other than for work), I’d like to reassure you that this isn’t the case. Being interested in both gardening and wildlife, and ideally combining the two, I have recently become enamoured with somewhere that may be familiar to some of you but which I am ashamed to admit took me 20 years to get round to visiting – the London Wetland Centre at Barnes. Back in March, I finally made my first trip here and, having decided to take the plunge and join the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust, who run the site, I am now trying to make sure that my membership is well used. Something to note for those of you who read this blog and are local to me, residents of the Borough of Richmond get a discounted deal on membership and discount vouchers for taking along other visitors. So do check this out as it’s a great place to take friends and relatives staying with you.
My first visit was back in March when wildlife was abundant but the surrounding landscape was still relatively bare. Trees were only just beginning to show signs of leaf, the ponds had little but green surrounding them, and the occasional borders were relatively colourless. The contrast on my second visit could not have been greater. On a swelteringly hot day in May, when others were cooking nicely in the surroundings of the Chelsea flower show, I found myself absorbing the colourful delights of the planting at the centre.
Appropriately, some of the richest colour came from Nigel Dunnett’s garden, originally created for the Royal Bank of Canada. Its poppies glowed and its iris zinged. Given that Prof Dunnett was exhibiting further down the road with his ‘Greening Grey Britain‘ garden, here was a nice Chelsea link. This garden at the Wetland Centre demonstrates much of what Prof Dunnett is trying to communicate ie. the importance of greening up our urban spaces to add colour and texture that is good for the soul alongside a rich and diverse habitat that can sustain wildlife in an otherwise intimidating environment. I’m guessing that I’m preaching to the converted if you’re reading this blog, but I’m particularly delighted that us urban gardeners are now being given recognition for the environmental contribution we are all making.
Away from the planting and with the BBC’s SpringWatch only days away, we were treated to drama in the bird world worthy of television as lapwings fiercely defended their territory from the predatory herons and crows. I have never previously seen a heron slink so low in the water in order to keep itself hidden from potential prey.
If you’ve not visited the WWT at Barnes, then I urge you to go further than just outside the back door and experience this extraordinary oasis in the heart of London. And if neither birds or wild planting are your thing, then there are always the irresistibly cute otters there to provide entertainment!