In the film ‘Field of Dreams‘ Kevin Costner, responding to some bidding voice — ‘If you build it, they will come’ — builds a baseball diamond out of a section of his corn field, and the iconic baseball players of the past, including and most especially his deceased father, appear to play an enchanted game. In the fifth part of the BBC series ‘The Green Planet‘ aired this past Sunday, David Attenborough describes the re-wilding of a tropical forest from an over-farmed and otherwise barren landscape. After only ten years on from extensive tree planting, wildlife has appeared in the new forest, and biodiversity is thriving. Humans having planted the trees, the animals returned by themselves.
Here in our smallholding in Sparty Lea, on a much smaller scale, and with the prompting of beloved gardening friends, about seven years ago we planted some fifty metres of traditional North Pennines hedgerows. It didn’t seem to take long before the garden birds arrived to gladden our days, where before there had been only starlings, jackdaws, the occasional inquisitive pheasants, and a few darting, but beloved, swallows living in their nests under the eaves.
No wild birds seem to have been displaced in this tree-planting exercise, but rather new ones have emigrated in to take up their residence in the hedgerow. Numerous sparrows have thrived, as well as dunnocks, while the finches (chaffinch, gold finch, and the tiny chiff-chaff) are also busy at the feeders. The cheeky cock robin and the lively blue tits take their turn as well, and still the jackdaws and starlings manage to find their morsels too. We’ve got a coal tit, and a mistle thrush, a few collared doves, a thriving family of blackbirds, sometimes a woodpecker, all of whom are now denizens of the garden. Next door a jenny wren has taken up lodging in the stone wall.
As David Attenborough described, we didn’t do anything to invite the birds in, just planted several hundred hedge trees. And then they arrived.
It’s a happy feeling to appreciate these tiny creatures of the garden and the air, but possibly especially because without the effort on the hedgerows, they wouldn’t have come. So it’s like a little legacy, that planting, and a joy to have been part of a garden renewal.