Urban Wildlife by Neil, a Friend of Prebend Gardens
Urban wildlife is not just about foxes rummaging through plastic bags, spiders in the bath or snails sliding up front doors. A memory I hold fondly is of growing up in the early 1960s in a relatively small townhouse which had an absurdly long and narrow garden, with an apple and plum tree, soft fruit bushes and a tatty lawn that was actually pretty green, thanks to its abundance of moss. Virtually the whole area was sealed in by an anti-socially high hawthorn hedge. Nothing was particularly productive, but the early morning birdsong was deafening. House sparrows lined virtually every inch of guttering, house martins swooped into the eaves, starlings massed on the lawns to grub up leatherjackets before they turned into ‘daddy longlegs’, and bullfinches stole the raspberries, while blackbirds, robins and wrens nested in the hedge. Nature seemed to thrive in the garden’s benign neglect. I’m glad I paid attention at the time because this wealth of birdlife, as well as the creeping things on the ground, rapidly dwindled as the garden was spruced up.
I moved from the West Midlands to Leicester 25 years ago, living in Highfields for most of that time, and South Highfields for the past 20 years. I have always been delighted at how much wildlife was around for an area so close to the city centre. The windows of my third-floor flat were one evening smothered in green lacewings when I left the light on, swifts would seem to be just a few feet away and the uplifting song of a blackbird and occasional thrush would see the day in and wish it goodnight.
I moved into a house close to Prebend Gardens 10 years ago, and was delighted to see dunnocks, goldfinches, wrens, robins, long-tailed tits and a great spotted woodpecker pay a visit to my tiny backyard. This was on top of the blackbirds, great tits and blue tits. Note the past tense, however, because since so many trees were cut down by noisy chainsaws in April, they are no longer visiting. The blackbirds, blue tits and great tits still come, I’m very happy to say, but it feels a huge loss that the others have gone. There’s no longer the background chatter of crows planning their day ahead (and folk song fans will know they really do convene, even if for solely practical matters, from songs such as Twa Corbies). Not just birds, but the largest of bumble-type bees used to come, too, in more varieties than I ever knew existed. And an equally large variety of moths, a couple of bats and even a frog and toad. They all added a welcome background thrum, adding to the noise of the wind in the trees themselves.
I’ve been told that there were no birds nesting in the trees. Nevertheless, the trees would have been a good source of materials as well as food. The number of stones I found in my yard from the cherry tree alone would endorse this fact. If I miss the birds, I’m sure others do too. There is no chance of putting the trees back, but I hope whatever takes their place can add to the vibrancy, colour and interest to this lovely little corner of the city. Nature often needs a helping hand, but it can so easily be driven away.
The Gardens Gallery 01
Click images to enlarge
Leicester City Council is keen to have us form a ‘Friends of Prebend Gardens’ group and we at South Highfields Neighbours are currently looking for volunteers to join us.
‘Friends of’ groups are independent community groups who work with the council to improve or promote their local parks, woodlands, nature areas and other public places.
The groups care about their environment and want to have a say in how it’s looked after. They are independent of the council, which gives them the freedom to carry out projects in their parks. Most of the parks within the city have very effective ‘Friends’ groups.
If you are interested in in joining our new ‘Friends of Prebend Gardens’ group please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will then give you more details.