Armchair conservation

There’s a certain smugness involved when you can say that you’ve actively contributed to the recovery of a threatened species. Most conservation measures involve plain hard work – laying hedges, trimming encroaching bushes, digging out invasive plants. Mine involved finding a chair and a good book. It’s the easiest contribution to nature conservation I’ve ever made.

 There’s nothing like being stuck indoors much of the time to help you see the jobs you’ve been putting off for years. I’ve been busily focussed on removing 25-year-old wallpaper, and in consequence I’ve rather let my small garden go. I had always intended to do this, as a nod to the honeybee and the other animals and insects which welcome a touch of un-manicured wilderness, but it’s gone further than planned. Bindweed and brambles have taken hold beneath unpruned roses, and I appear to be growing dandelion as a cash crop. The wee mad Victorian in me wants to pull it all up and restore order, but there’s a growing beauty in its wildness, as the seed heads of unmown grasses start to resemble a field of barley in the breeze.

 Last night, I was woken by a sound like someone repeatedly whispering “work”.  I thought it was a cat, but wobbly torchlight revealed instead two hedgehogs circling each other. It’s the start of a mating dance that can (and did)  last several hours. The Germans have a delightful word for it:  an ‘igelkarussel’.  Hedgehog populations are in steep decline, and in July last year it was officially classed as vulnerable to extinction. It seems that my laziness has inadvertently given this pair exactly what they need: plentiful slugs and snails (we haven’t used slug pellets for years) and mounds of rotting vegetation to hibernate in over winter. Now somewhere in my garden, in just over a month, a desperately-needed batch of hoglets will be born.

 All of which means, of course, that I can’t start mowing now. Can anyone recommend a good book?


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