“ENCOURAGING animals, birds and insects to our gardens brings pleasure on many levels. Watching them make your garden their home nurtures a sense of wellbeing.”

Member of Bradford Urban Wildlife group Val Shepherd, explains how wildlife gardening allows us to enjoy and connect to the natural world.

“The importance of wildlife gardening is gathering pace as we try to protect the environment and the creatures in it,” she says.

Val, who is a committee member of the group and its newsletter editor, has passed on ideas for improving an existing garden and improving it for wildlife.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: A hedgehog visits Val's gardenA hedgehog visits Val's garden

“Many gardens have solid fences around the borders especially back gardens. Suitable shrubs can be planted alongside the fence from cuttings and, in a few years, they will be grown sufficiently for you to take away the fence.”

Suitable species, she says, are hawthorn, blackthorn, beech, hornbeam, euonymus fortunei gold and lonicera nitida.

“Trees which are renowned for blossom and fruit for birds include Amelanchier, small Japanese cherry and crab apple.”

Val suggests leaving part of your lawn to grow long. “Plugs of wild plants inserted such as cowslips, oxeye daisies and red clover.

“This will benefit insects, frogs, toads and small mammals. An area could be set aside and left alone for any 'weed' to grow. Inserting rotting logs to encourage many insects would be an asset.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Leave an area of lawn to grow. Picture: PixabayLeave an area of lawn to grow. Picture: Pixabay

Bird, bat and bug boxes can be fixed to the sides of buildings, offering a home to a variety of creatures, she says. “Climbing plants including iyy can encourage butterflies and for moths to hide.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Bird and bat boxes offer homes. Picture: PixabayBird and bat boxes offer homes. Picture: Pixabay

Garden flowers with open centres for bees to easily access pollen are useful, she says, from crocus in spring to sunflowers in summer and Verbascum in autumn.

Val stresses the importance of garden ponds, which do not have to be large. “Ponds have an all round appeal for wildlife not only for pond-dwelling creatures. They provide drinking water and baths for birds as well as homes for water plants.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: A pond will attract all sorts of wildlife. Picture: PixabayA pond will attract all sorts of wildlife. Picture: Pixabay

“Making a pond is quite an effort, but small waterproof containers can be used to make a mini pond.”

The number of hedgehogs has suffered a marked decline over the past two decades. Val recommends helping them gain access to gardens and leaving out food and water.

“Hedgehogs roam around many gardens to find enough food, so make sure they can get in through an opening or even under a gate.

“Provide special hedgehog food which contains meat and cereals and a dish of water.”

For anyone whose garden is made up of hard paving, Val suggests planters. “These can be planted with a wide variety of species. If possible some of the paving can be taken up to provide access to the ground, with added compost.”

*To contact Bradford Urban Wildlife Group visit buwg.vpweb.co.uk