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When Thomas met Joel!

Well that was quite some exciting whirlwind of a long weekend! Last week we had an email to say Joel Ashton, the wildlife garden YouTuber, was able to come and see our garden to advise us on our plans to create our own "nature reserve" in Norfolk! Before I go into that though, here is a brief overview of what our big plans are which we are hoping to achieve this year and moving forward.

The idea came about when my parents asked if there was a particular project I wanted to do and I said I wanted to create a "nature reserve"! I have often thought it would be great to be able to create a nature reserve and see it develop over time, slowly attracting more and more species. We have already created a wildflower meadow at the far end of the garden, which has been very successful, with even an orchid appearing now. We have also planted a little apple orchard in amongst the meadow and the whole area is alive with insects in the summer. We then went on to create a stumpery area, with ferns and Hostas, and planted a native wildlife hedge to go along the back fence. The rest of the far end of the garden is a blank canvas after a fire few years back burned down the large Leylandii trees there. This has provided us with a great opportunity, effectively gaining a lot more garden to work with.

What to do with this area? I thought about all the ideas I had. Putting in a large garden pond was definitely at the top of the list, so that was a must and gave us something to work around. Somewhere to watch the wildlife was also essential and it had to be accessible to me. The next thing was to put our plans on paper, and using a roll of wrapping paper we drew a rough but reasonably accurate map of the garden. We then added the main features to the garden plan, cut out of bits of paper, moving them around until they felt right. Next we went outside and marked out the ideas, a plan was beginning to emerge!

As part of our research we discovered Joel Ashton's Wild Your Garden YouTubes and book with the same title. The more we watched and read the more inspired we became to see our project through, and thought how great it would be to have a chance to ask Joel what he thought and how he would go about it. Encouraged again by my parents I messaged him and was delighted when he replied. He offered to come and meet us and offer us advice when he was next available in the area, and this was how last week came about!

It was so good to talk to and spend time with someone else as passionate about wildlife as me. He looked at our plans and walked round the garden with us, as we showed him and discussed all our ideas. The more we talked and showed him, the more it pulled together and cemented our plans as being both achievable and worth doing. I was left excited and thrilled to meet someone we've come to admire. I really hope he is able to stay involved and actually help make my dream a reality.

The rest of the weekend was spent taking down an old shed and moving one of the apple trees that would be in the way of the new wildlife areas. We then measured and marked out the space needed for the large shed we are putting up to create my own "hide/snug" for watching the wildlife in comfort! This shed will overlook the bird feeding station one way and the pond the other way. We added more details to the plans, following suggestions from Joel, including a meadow mound with a hidden hibernaculum! I can't wait to update you all over the coming weeks and months as this project develops.

Apple tree being moved and replanted!

Old shed coming down!

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