Wild Jam

This is an exciting collaboration between Wilderhood Watch and six St Albans allotment sites, funded by a grant from the RHS.

Our intention is to run Wilderhood Watch projects on all participating allotments, encouraging and supporting plot holders to grow produce in a more wildlife friendly way.

Before choosing which project or projects would be best suited for our allotments, we carried out habitat surveys to assess what already exists on our sites. We sent these out to all our plot holders, asking them what aspects of gardening for wildlife they’d particularly like us to focus on. Also, our recent wildflower, invertebrate, small mammal, bird and reptile bioblitzes provided valuable information.

As evidenced by the surveys we carried out at the beginning of the project, most allotment sites showed interest in creating Pollinator Highways. Growing meadows in communal areas and advising on pollinator friendly planting will help to achieve this, as well as swapping organically grown plants and seeds. Plot holders were also keen to provide more water for wildlife, so we are drawing inspiration from our Toad Road project to dig ponds.

By March 2024 Camp 1 and Folly Lane allotments had dug and lined their ponds. The RHS grant was used to fund the pond liner and materials, and will also be useful for purchasing any wildflower plants, marginals or signs needed for in or around the ponds. Bradshaw Direct https://bradshawsdirect.co.uk/ was especially helpful and gave us all the materials at a discount.

We are also involving the key streets which run between our allotments by finding residents who would be willing to coordinate a Wilderhood Watch project. They will be well supported by all of the organisations involved, and have already been invited to a Pond Talk which took place on April 17 2024. We are now advertising a Swift Talk with Clive from Hertford Swifts on May 29th. As many local residents are currently installing swift boxes on their houses in collaboration with Clive, Meg from Fleetville Swifts and Wilderhood Watch, this should be very well attended. Plans are also afoot to hold a Bat Talk, which we hope will encourage people to run Bat Corridor projects along their streets.

All allotment holders plus residents on surrounding streets were invited to a fascinating talk by Dave Willis from the Herts Amphibian and Reptile Group.

We hope involving both allotment plot holders and residents of nearby streets will ultimately not only create more space for wildlife within our allotments, but enable animals to travel safely between allotments via these newly linked gardens.

Mini projects

While deciding on our main project, we allocated funds for smaller projects on each site. Sandridge rd allotments will be giving away pollinator friendly plug plants such as borage and nasturtiums, as well as planting native perennials and hedging plants. Cottonmill allotments has bought a battery powered heavy duty strimmer to help with habitat management and Folly Lane allotments has put up 17 small flat packed bird boxes. These were constructed by a small team on the weekend of February 25th and were then installed around the allotment. Camp 1 and Nunnery allotments have purchased 10 bird boxes each and will also be creating other useful habitats.

Folly Lane’s sparrow boxes have been installed close to each other as sparrows like to live in colonies. The hole size is 32mm.

Folly Lane, Nunnery and Sandridge allotments will also soon be installing bat boxes provided by The Wildlife Community , who generously sold us both these and the bird boxes at cost price.

Camp allotment has planted 6 packs of native hedging saplings along one of its boundaries.

Training

Margaret Harris from Cottonmill allotments very kindly offered her expertise to help allotment holders create habitat maps of their allotment sites. This helped members to identify where the need is greatest in terms of habitat creation and enhancement.

Margaret is also encouraging allotment holders to carry out their own bioblitzes, and has created a document which explains the process. If this is something you would be interested in doing, please download the word document here:

Margaret is now currently arranging to carry out flower surveys at both Folly Lane and Camp allotments with the help of some willing HMWT volunteer surveyors. She is also surveying some new Wilderhood Watch Buzz Stops, three of which are located on Beech rd, which is on the route between Sandridge and Folly Lane allotments.

We are very excited to be training 9 allotment plot holders to become Wildlife Allotment Champions. These will join our Wildlife Gardening Champions in encouraging plot holders and residents to garden in a wildlife friendly way. Once they have completed the HMWT training in May 2024 they will be qualified to visit garden and plot holders to give advice on how to grow vegetables while creating essential food and habitat for wildlife.

Allotment network

  1. Sandridge Rd Allotments including Beech Rd and Bernard’s Heath Junior School (via Marshall Ave, Sandridge Rd, Grange St, Church St and Folly Lane to the Folly Lane Allotments)
  2. Folly Lane Allotments including Goldsmith Way and Artisan Cresc (via the Victoria playing fields, Verulam Rd, London Rd, Watson’s Walk and Cottonmill Lane to the Cottonmill, Sopwell and Nunnery Allotments).
  3. Cottonmill, Sopwell and Nunnery Allotments including Old Sopwell Gardens, Prospect Rd and St Peter’s School (via the Alban Way, Orient Close and Camp Rd to the Camp Allotments)
  4. Camp Allotments including Springfield Rd (via Camp Rd, Lemsford Rd, Lancaster Rd, Sandridge Rd and Marshall Ave back to the Sandridge Rd Allotments).

If you are a plot holder on any of the participating allotments or live on any of the above streets we would love to hear from you! Please contact Nadia (nadia@wilderhoodwatch.org) or Tricia (triciagibbonsuk@yahoo.co.uk) for further details.