Outside the Backdoor

Observing what can happen in your own garden even in suburbia!


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Doing our bit

“Responding to climate change is an essential part of our responsibility to safeguard God’s creation.”   Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

On New Year’s Eve I posted on Facebook that I could hardly believe it was twenty years since we’d all sat around waiting for the Millennium Bug apocalypse to happen.  Looking back we can laugh but, as some friends reminded me, lots of people worked hard to prevent that crisis from happening.

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Remember this?!

As we enter the new ‘roaring twenties’ a different and very real crisis is looming, one which needs all of us to tackle, not just a selection of experts or people with the right skills – the climate crisis.  Unlike the Millennium Bug it doesn’t have a set date by which we need to act which means that it’s very easy for anyone from government and heads of state down to individuals to think that they don’t need to do anything just yet, that they can put off change until tomorrow or next year.  The appalling fires in Australia last month were a stark reminder that we cannot do this.

Outside the Back Door began as a monthly article for my church magazine and this year I’ve therefore decided to focus each Outside the Back Door in the ten issues of the magazine on a different aspect of the environment to highlight what we as individuals can do in our own spaces.  Online I may post some other stuff in between but in the blog that ties in with the magazine, I’m targeting ten articles that will each highlight an environmental concern and try to think about ways we can act as individuals to do our bit.

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Azalea in flower in our Vicarage garden Christmas 2019 (c) Elizabeth Malone

As it happens, gardens and churchyards have a lot in common. It is becoming increasingly clear that our local green spaces have a very important role to play in reducing pollution and maintaining a diverse habitat for wildlife but if we’re not careful, our actions as gardeners in wanting to improve these spaces can also have a negative impact on the planet – think of all those plastic plant pots, trays and labels we use or the amount of peat still being used in the horticultural industry.

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Focusing on gardens, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has been running its Greening Grey Britain campaign for a couple of years now, encouraging members and non-members alike to get planting in whatever small way.  During its research for this campaign, the RHS discovered that between its own gardens and its members’ gardens, over 22 million plants were added to gardens each year!  That’s an astonishing number of trips to the garden centre!  They also discovered that 77% of its members were actively seeking to establish plants that were good for encouraging bee populations and other pollinators.  There are lots of bergenia (Elephant’s Ears) around our church which are great for attracting over-wintering bees.

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Bergenia coming into flower (c) Elizabeth Malone

Gardens are good for our planet but so are our churchyards and church grounds.  We often worry about the state of our church grounds and there’s no denying that litter is a problem.  That in itself can provoke another whole climate debate – if there were less packaging on things, there would be less litter about the place!  Between the church grounds and vicarage, we currently have a great deal of open space to maintain and, as a small congregation, we are grateful to those who are finding time to keep things cut back and under control.  However, we should also remind ourselves that gardens and grounds can be too tidy!  It’s often surprising on a Sunday morning just how much birdsong can be heard around the church (above the noise of the aircraft coming into land at Heathrow!) and those birds need food.  Our trees, grass, borders and slightly untidy spaces to the rear of the church will all be providing abundant insects to feed on.  Walk along the side of our church to this door and look at the ivy creeping up it.  Ivy is an incredibly valuable plant for birds and insects.  So we can trim, but with care!

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St Stephen’s, Hounslow (c) Elizabeth Malone

In 2020, perhaps we should take a new look at what our church grounds can provide?  An easy, wildlife friendly thing we could add would be a small ‘pond’.  I’ve deliberately put that in inverted commas as it could be something as simple as an old washing up bowl sunk into the ground which would provide a valuable source of water for birds, foxes and any small amphibians that may be in the locality.

Next time I’m going to focus on what we can be planting to encourage wildlife.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”  Margaret Mead, Anthropologist