Creating a new Wildflower Garden

Rachel Purchase writes about how BCA and BFC members, led by Sheila Stubbs and herself, are creating a new wildflower garden at Pooles Cavern, next to the Go Ape facility.

Sometimes bright ideas emerge that are so compelling that they just have to be put into action. And sometimes it’s possible to get carried away with the vision, while not fully appreciating the sheer amount of work that will be entailed! And so it has been with the idea to create a wildflower garden at Poole’s Cavern. Sheila Stubbs’ original vision seduced us all as it was clearly a wonderful idea to create a wildflower garden, but I’m not sure any of us really appreciated the huge amount of work we were taking on!

Delighted at getting approval to transform the large grassy area in front of Go Ape, we quickly realised that it was not just going to be a quick weekend job! Work started in 4 inches of snow in mid-January with soil sampling, followed by a marathon of cutting and dragging down huge quantities of brash – mainly ash affected by dieback, from the top of Grin Low woods. This has been used to create a metre high natural deadwood fence, housed between stakes cut and driven into the ground, around the whole of the roughly triangular site. This has secured it from rampaging dogs and created a clearly-defined area. Once secure we lifted all of the turf, wheel-barrowing it out and placing it along the perimeter dry stone walls, where we have created additional wildflower borders. This back-breaking task complete, we turned all of the soil over, removing residual grass, docks and a lot of plastic waste, and raked ready for the planting of native plug plants and both annual and perennial wildflower and grass seed. Unbelievably, we had to hold off on this as it was too dry (!) and too cold but we had a busy session once we saw the first rains forecast at the end of April.

No-one has put more time and effort in than Sheila, who has led the whole project magnificently. But we have also had over 20 people, aged from 7 to 70+, who have turned our repeatedly and regularly to saw, fell, brash-drag, hammer, fence-make, turf-lift, turf-shift, dig, fork, rake and sign-design. It has been a wonderful joint effort, hard work, but joyful and, in many ways, a real life-saver throughout lockdown as, while working apart, we have, nevertheless, had a great sense of camaraderie and an awful lot of fun.

And now we wait! We have cowslips and red campion already flowering and seedlings starting to spring up across the whole garden. We are hoping, in time, for swathes of foxgloves, teasels, meadow rue, ox-eye daisies, Welsh poppies, purple loosestrife, musk mallow, ragged robin, wild carrot and much more, but the beauty of it is that we shall just have to wait and see!

If you’d like to be part of maintaining and developing the garden, please get in touch with Sheila or me via our Contact page.