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No Mow May – Where will it end?

By Cllr Sue Cooper

I was sitting at my desk upstairs late one October evening when there was a scurrying rustle behind me. My first thought was that everyone who walks on the Tram past Waters Edge and sees the unkempt garden will think I am well rewarded if the rustle turned out to be – as seemed likely – a rat!

Having this thought I froze and stared fixedly at my laptop screen with scenarios racing through my head. Most of them involving standing on a chair. But when you live alone, the buck doesn’t have far to travel before it stops and I knew that one way or another, rat or no, I had to deal with it. So, persuading myself that if it was a rat the dogs would have made a tiny bit of fuss, surely, I forced myself to look down to the source of the rustle and saw… a young hedgehog.

A young hedgehog that bold as brass was just looking at me only three feet away. Immediately my thoughts turned from rat panic to hedgehog welfare. (How species-ist!)

Online advice was all about putting rescued hogs in boxes with appropriate food and warmth. But this little one seemed totally fine. It was just upstairs in my house, sitting next to me. This seemed to be the only thing that was wrong and it seemed as though putting it in a box was going to make the situation worse rather than better. Also, I reasoned, it must live in my garden to have made the decision that the house was part of its territory. So I simply put it outside and it immediately started turning over small stones, presumably searching for a snack or two – didn’t even bother strolling off a bit. Just stayed by my feet doing hedgehoggy things.

A few days later, as I wandered around my garden seeing who was flying or chirping I met a dunnock sitting atop a few brambles. Only a couple of feet away from me it glanced at me and chirped a bit, pecked at a twig or two, looking back at me occasionally with no sign of alarm. It carried on doing its dunnocky things for a bit and then popped deeper into the brambly growth on my bank.

It has taken a couple of years and I might be reading more into it than is real, but I like to think that because I use very few power tools in my garden and never a strimmer or a leafblower, that the wildlife feels safe there. I don’t feed birds or hedgehogs but I try to leave the kind of growth that will give them all year round food and shelter. I figure that I would go miles to immerse myself in a nature reserve and that I am tremendously privileged to be able to try to allow one to form itself around my home.

I guess most gardeners like to know where things are all the time: that’s the roses; the cabbages grow there and that bit over there is for the birds and the bees (that bit definitely needs to be a bit overgrown)… But letting go a bit can bring massive and unexpected rewards (maybe not always a hedgehog taking over the living room …) and I would like to encourage everyone who can to consider letting No Mow May inspire them a little. As you can see from the infographic this is not actually confined to May: It is something we can all do to some extent or another all year round to give small havens to our garden wildlife.

As well as helping nature, it also gives us all a chance to be part of carbon capture because the more nature rich a place is, the more carbon is captured in the soil. This is not rocket science, but simply how the carbon cycle works.

So next year, live a little and let nature do her thing and you never know, you too might have a hedgehog decide your living room is just another part of its territory. And funnily enough, it is actually far more likely to be a hedgehog than a rat.


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