Bishop’s Garden Wild project – how did it go?

Blog post by Susannah Armstrong on 05 May, 2022

September 2020 saw Norfolk Wildlife Trust team up with the Bishop’s House Garden in Norwich to conduct a year-long wildlife survey, with the aim of finding out which species of wildlife could be found in this four acre, 900-year-old city centre garden.

Bishop's Garden

Bishop's Garden

The survey results gathered will have a lasting impact on the garden’s maintenance, as the garden team now has a better idea of which areas of the garden have strong species diversity, and which areas are weaker. Having this knowledge will enable them to manage their techniques and the garden habitat accordingly, as well as keep track of whether changes they make have the desired impact. The audit has also been a great way for us to improve our understanding of the ecology of green spaces in city centres.

The year-long survey, conducted by expert volunteer surveyors, unearthed some very exciting results – here are just a few of the fascinating findings: 

  • 26 different bird species were recorded in the garden, including sparrowhawk, greenfinch, goldcrest and blackcap, with 16 of these species believed to be breeding in the garden. Norwich Cathedral’s peregrine falcons were also seen using the garden for hunting! 

  • The garden has some unusual and relatively rare invertebrate species, such as the beetle Olibrus millefolii, which has only a few recent recordings, the sawfly Cladius grandis, which received its 2nd recording for Norfolk and the pirate bug Anthocoris butleri, which is rarely recorded. Other invertebrate species found include the hawthorn shieldbug, the 7-spot ladybird and the common pondskater.

  • The garden is home to a fairly low number of butterflies and moths (possibly due to the garden’s location in the heart of Norwich). However, our surveyors still recorded 15 different butterfly species, including the London midget, and 22 different moth species, including the white ermine moth. 

  • 14 species of fungi were recorded, which is considered to be a normal number in a garden environment. 

  • 175 different native plant species were found, including meadow saxifrage, bee orchid and greater bird’s foot trefoil, which is a key nectar source for bumblebees. The team found that leaving plants perceived as weeds to grow, and allowing areas of the garden to go wild, was a great way to increase floral diversity. 

  • There were five different mammal species recorded in the garden, including a red fox, hedgehogs and a common stoat. 

  • The garden had a strong showing of solitary bees and bumblebees. 

The garden team will now be continuing their work to develop wild areas of the garden and to encourage a greater variety of wildlife to the space. This will involve actions like letting sections of grass grow long, creating deadhedges, planting of new fruit trees and building more bee hotels.

The audit culminated in an exciting BioBlitz day in September 2021, which saw the garden gates opened up to visitors, who had the opportunity to enjoy tours of the garden and to conduct their very own wildlife surveys.

Over 150 different species were recorded over just six hours at the BioBlitz, including 70 species of plants, 18 species of birds and 12 different types of hoverfly. Here are just a few examples of what was found: 

  • Dunnock 

  • Carrion crow 

  • Grey squirrel 

  • Small white butterfly 

  • Field grasshopper 

  • Harlequin ladybird 

  • Great spotted woodpecker 

  • Buff tail bumblebee 

  • Buzzard 

All of these records have been shared with the Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service and will be used to help inform the garden team’s ongoing work.

The BioBlitz also raised £1,500 for NWT’s Children and Nature Fund, which will help enable NWT projects connecting children of all ages and backgrounds with nature, such as our Sure Start with Nature flagship project.

Here is what volunteer surveyor Barry Madden had to say about his experience surveying the garden:

"The whole experience has been a pleasure. Having access to this hidden gem, and discovering first-hand the positive results that can be achieved through environmentally-focused gardening has been an education. What it has really proven to us is that taking a few simple steps to incorporate the needs of wild creatures into your garden management can have almost instantaneous positive results.

"Although the Bishop’s House Garden is large by everyday standards, it is a working environment and not a nature reserve. It is also subject to the limitation of being surrounded by a busy urban environment. In this respect it demonstrates how a sympathetic approach to management, that includes nature at its core, works for the benefit of both people and wildlife."

Take Action

Bishop's Garden

Bishop's Garden Bioblitz

If you’re feeling inspired to make some changes to your own outdoor space, head to our Bishop’s Garden page or The Wildlife Trusts’ Wild About Gardens site to find some useful tips on what you can do to make your outdoor area – no matter the size – better for wildlife. Here are a few examples to get you started: 

  • Create a bee hotel from a tin can: Fix an empty, clean tin can to a fence or wall and pack it with dried, hollow plant stems from 1mm – 12mm in diameter to attract a range of solitary bees and wasps. 

  • Grow plants in saucepans: Drill holes in some old saucepans and other unwanted kitchen containers to make plant pots, which you could use to grow salad crops and herbs. 

  • Make a bird bath from a plant tray: Fill an old plant pot tray with water to make a simple bird bath. You may want to add a stone or log to help any wildlife that might get stuck to escape. 

  • Avoid using artificial lawn fertilisers and harmful chemicals on your lawn, in order to attract invertebrates, fungi, mosses and wildflowers. 

With thanks to the following for their contributions to the Bishop’s House Garden project:

  • Sam Garland – Head Gardener at Bishop’s House Garden
  • Bishop Graham Usher – Bishop of Norwich
  • Gemma Walker – Acting Head of Engagement at NWT
  • Ginny Seppings - Individual Giving & Community Officer at NWT
  • Barry Madden, Allan Archer, Roger Jones, Jenny Jones, Tim Strudwick, Tim Hodge, Stephen Pinninton, Yvonne Mynett, Tony Erwin, Andy Musgrove, Martin Collier and S A Lane – Volunteer garden surveyors

Header Image: Susannah Armstrong

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