Growing Wild in the City

Blog post by Sam Garland on 11 Mar, 2021
Norfolk Wildlife Trust has struck up an exciting partnership with the Bishop's House Garden, in an attempt to create a haven for wildlife in the centre of Norwich. Head Gardener, Sam Garland, explains why he's keen to increase the garden's biodiversity.

The Bishop's House Garden is a hidden gem in Norwich's crown, situated in the very heart of the city. Lying behind Norwich Cathedral, under the shadow of the second tallest cathedral spire in England, the garden has an impressive history. It's been a garden - and the residence of the Bishop of Norwich - for almost 900 years. Initially containing a large feasting hall and a fruit orchard, the garden is now home to iconic formal borders, shrub borders, formal lawns, a thriving vegetable garden and woodland.

As of 2019, following the appointment of The Rt Revd. Bishop Graham Usher, and myself as Head Gardener, the main focus of the garden has become the preservation and enhancement of the garden's ecology. Due to our shared awareness of the importance of conservation, Bishop Graham and myself are passionate about making the garden more environmentally friendly and biodiverse, whilst still retaining many of the formal elements.
Bishop's Garden, photo by Luke Bryant

Bishop's Garden, photo by Luke Bryant

Why are we doing this? Right now, wildlife needs all the help it can get. Due to human intervention, native species are declining at an unprecedented rate. We need to reverse this downward spiral and create space for nature to thrive, not just in the countryside, but in our towns and cities, too.

We've already taken steps towards this goal. The garden is now run organically and we've changed horticultural practices around mowing, leaving longer areas of grass for wildlife. We've improved habitats by putting up bird and bat nesting boxes, adding to our log piles and creating bug-hotels. In addition, we've planted new wildflower strips in areas that are difficult to mow. Our team of hard-working volunteers have helped to plant new borders with species that are particularly beneficial for invertebrates and, together, we've re-established a fruit orchard. Lots of progress has been made. However, this is only the beginning.

In order to improve the garden's biodiversity further, we need to understand what we already have in the garden. Using their expertise in specific areas of plant and animal life, the Norfolk Wildlife Trust will be conducting a baseline survey of the garden's plant and animal species over the course of this year. Using the data collected, we'll be able to see what we're doing well in terms of habitat creation and horticultural techniques, and it should become clearer which areas we can improve upon. This species monitoring is vital and will help us plan ways to benefit existing species further, as well as attracting and protecting other species that need our help.

Bishop's Garden, photo by Luke Bryant

Bishop's Garden, photo by Luke Bryant

Given the uniqueness of the site, it will be fascinating to see if we can provide a space for nature to thrive right in the heart of a major city. The steps that we take in response to the survey will offer a blueprint for what might be achieved, albeit on a smaller scale, in other inner city green spaces.

Throughout the year NWT and myself will be using this blog to update you on what's being spotted in the garden and what changes we're making to enhance wildlife. We might even have some tips to share on how you can invite wildlife into your own garden. Watch this space!

You can find out more about the project here and watch an introductory film about the Wildlife Audit here.

Sam Garland is the Head Gardener at the Bishop's House Garden.

Header image: Bishop's Garden by Luke Bryant.
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