Wildlife thriving at new community garden

A community garden created with help from Swansea University bioscientists has blossomed into a magnet for wildlife.

Three Crosses Butterfly Project saw volunteers working together last year to help reverse nature’s decline by creating a garden at the village’s community centre.

Led by associate professor Hazel Nichols, from the Faculty of Science and Engineering, the project has been hailed as a great success and the team is now looking forward to developing the area even further.

Dr Nichols said: “In terms of wildflowers, we have had cuckoo flowers, scarlet pimpernel, clover, bugles, cornflower, scabious, daffodil, bluebell, snake’s head fritillary and yarrow.

“We are planning on adding improvements in the future. I would love to create some extra features, including a path through the meadow and some more wildlife habitats such as bird and bat boxes.”

The project began with the aim of creating a wildlife refuge and community garden on unused land in the heart of the village.

Three Crosses Community Council successfully applied for a butterfly package from Keep Wales Tidy’s Local Places for Nature programme which included 10 bags of soil/compost, a selection of native plants, tools, a long, raised bed, and a trellis. This was enhanced by a package of native trees provided by the Woodland Trust.

Senior lecturer in biosciences Kevin Arbuckle described the diversity of wildlife attracted to the garden now as incredible.

He said: “From the self-seeded wildflowers to the insects and other animal life, the uptake by the local biodiversity has been a joy to see.

“We have the foundation of the garden in place now, so we are keen to monitor the biodiversity more formally to get a good idea of what is actually using it.

“The Community Council has been very supportive and has granted permission to add reptile survey mats to inconspicuous parts of the garden. These are already being used by slow worms which require areas of long grass to thrive - the creation of this new meadow has provided them with just the habitat they need.”

Ian Donaldson, clerk of Three Crosses Community Council, said: “We have had lots of native wildflowers in the garden since we took the decision not to cut back the lawned areas as in previous summers. The native plants and trees have flourished and are looking strong. The raised bed area has been a success with some lovely flowers. We as a council are determined to carry on looking after this asset to the community! “

The abundance of wildflowers in the garden has attracted pollinators such as moths which in turn provide a food source for bats.

Dr Arbuckle added: “Ad hoc bat walks there have revealed at least three species of bat already, showing that mammals are also using the area.

“As time goes on, we hope to extend this monitoring, for instance with moth trapping, and it will be interesting to get a good handle on just how much local wildlife is benefitting from the garden.

“Hopefully we'll also be able to use the site for wildlife-related outreach projects too now Covid restrictions have eased.”

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