We were asked to plant a Butterfly garden in the car park of this nature reserve. The area given over to us is reasonably large with a young conker sapling growing in the middle which will eventually destroy our planting but for the next few years we should be able to offer nectar and flowering plants for an extended season and for a range of butterflies.
First we had to dig over the space and mark it using gifted stones to stop cars parking on it. Then, using leaf mold from the uncleared streets of Otley, plants from our gardens, some re-cycled plants from Leeds Parks (by agreement) and some bought in plants we managed to plant this up. We decided to use the weed surpressing medium to cut down on maintenance and that should stay covered up with the leaf mold. Only time will tell. Let’s hope for a bit of rain as this is an impossible site to keep watered.
And a final touch, a sign.
We came back to tidy up the bed today and to deal with what turned out to be the results of a four week drought. We added some new plants (thanks Phil Knight) plus some others from the allotment and member’s gardens have filled in the holes.
We have also put up a rudimentary fence using local dead tree branches to offer targets for visiting dogs. Hopefully if they use these twigs they will stop marking the plantings.
With YiB unable to attend Otley to carry out a full review of the place this year, under Covid, things have been a little different. However, thanks to the work of our excellent treasurer, we managed to win two awards.
These were for our litter clearing projects back at the start of the year and our on going work to support pollinators, wildplants and animals.
The year started well for our wildflower project at BT’s telephone exchange on Charles Street. The area that OiB and Wildlife Friendly Otley seeded last September showed some interesting plants developing. We marked out the zone that we wanted left alone and placed a sign at the entrance to the land in February. The plan, agreed with BT, was for just one mowing this first year in September.
Flowers started to appear not only in the seeded area but also in the rest of the site. By May, with bluebells and other wildflowers in abundance, the un-mowed garden was starting to look like the meadow-in-the-middle-of-the-town we hoped it would become.
By June some of the plants were over 4 feet tall and the place was buzzing with insects. Someone kicked over the sign that explained what we were trying to do, but given the stress of Covid we sort of understood that.
Then on 4th June the mowers came and cut the whole area.
Obviously this was a blow, particularly for the volunteers who had done the work. We discussed the situation with BT and learnt that their mowing contractor had tried to cut as high as possible. Looking forward, they will try to limit the mowing to March and late August. We have yet to see what survives into the autumn, when it will be time to decide what needs to be done to recover this.
BT Garden Autumn 21
After the mid season cut in 21, BT didn’t cut the garden at all in the Autumn. OiB stepped in and mowed just the large rectangular area. Wildlife friendly Otley came in and added further wildflower seedings after we had mowed. Let’s see what happens in 2022.
BT Garden Spring 22
Up until May 22 BT has not come back to mow this garden and OiB has done nothing to change the garden so let’s see what the results are.
At the start of 2020 OiB, Wildlife Friendly Otley and Otley 2030 were working together to provide Leeds Parks department with a guide on how to introduce more trees and wildflowers to Otley. We were especially interested in changing road verges from barren green grasses to more interesting wildflower areas which would offer friendly places for wildlife and reduce the carbon footprint of maintaining verges.
Leeds Parks found other areas of Leeds to plant up before Otley and then…. Covid struck. Despite this, the Otley organisations kept talking and looking for alternative groups to work with. It was with great excitement that we found that the BT telephone exchange on Charles Street was happy to let us intiate a wildflower meadow in their garden. We considered planting up the garden in the Spring but the weather had been beautiful and dry so we were concerned we would not be able to keep it watered, hence we let the Spring pass.
Autumn looked a better bet and so, in September, six socially-distanced members of OIB and WFO started with this roughly mown area.
Focusing on the front rectangle of grass we mowed the grass again, and again, and again. This allowed us to get down to the turf of the garden. Then we used a turf cutter to slice strips out which we flipped over. The addition of 0.5 kg of wildflower seed and about the same of dry sand scattered by hand over the newly exposed earth seemed to work well. Over the coming few days the British weather did the right sort of things and watered the seed in. Some of it will require colder weather to trigger germination.
We will sign-post the area to help guide the official mowers to cut the grass/wildflowers correctly. We will also put up a sign explaining what we have done so everyone can see how well or badly this is doing.
Due to heavy rains for the past month and the development of some wonderful plant growth, this secret little wildlife-friendly enclave to the south of Sainsbury’s carpark was flooding and making the footpath from Myers Croft to Gay Lane impassible.
OIB had been very much part of developing this little space so we put on the wellies and dug out the blockage on Remembrance Sunday. Hopefully, this will help drain out the local yards.