On Sunday 22nd September 2019, the final day of this year’s Wilton History Festival, the theme is ‘Wild Wilton’. The day celebrates Wilton’s natural history, and looks forward to its greener future, and will consist of talks by wildlife experts on aspects of Wilton’s flora and fauna followed by a Wildlife Walk with Maria la Femina, the Founder of the Wilton Wildlife Group. To celebrate this theme, nature writer Jeni Bell has written this post with some tips for local residents on how to encourage a wilder Wilton.

We all know something about Wilton’s impressive history, but this charming market town has some impressive wilder qualities that shouldn’t be overlooked. There are a myriad of habitats enveloping Wilton, all offering their own unique qualities and wildlife.

You’ll find enchanting chalk streams that flow softly around the town, where mallards bob and brown trout are effortlessly swept through crystal-clear waters. It’s along these stretches that may fly emerge to the trill of willow warblers, and dragonflies dart back and forth patrolling their patches against a backdrop of purple loose strife.

The open expanses of the chalk downs quiver with colour in the summer as the breeze whips through the glorious wildflowers. Butterflies flit from ragwort to scabious, and bees buzz amongst the clover and knapweed. From these higher vantage points the views reveal stretches of farmland where hares hide and deer skip along as red kites ride the thermals above.

Let’s not forget the ancient woods, where the thick-trunked trees tower together to create a magical habitat. It’s in the shade and shelter of the woods that the tawny owl nests, and autumn fungi form amidst damp forest floors. Bats roost and skim the wood’s edges in search of insects, and the more elusive, secretive wildlife like badgers and foxes go about their nocturnal ways.

Then there are the gardens – Wilton’s wild heart.

The front gardens, the back gardens, the window boxes; Wilton’s own connection to its wild surroundings. These patches, whether big or small, join Wilton to the woods, streams, downs, and beyond. They offer surrounding wildlife the chance to move freely between habitats; to forage, nest, mate, and hide. These are the places where birds flock to feeders, slow worms slither under compost piles, hedgehogs snuffle through veg patches in search of slugs, and frogs make use of garden ponds. These gardens are an open invitation to the local wildlife, a sign that it is welcome, and in return nature allows us an insight into its wonderful world.

It’s this closeness to nature that inspires care, and here Wilton’s strong sense of community extends to its wild neighbours. Residents are passionate about the nature on their doorstep and groups like the Wilton Wildlife Group offer a chance for locals to share wild encounters and record sightings.

With the nation’s wildlife suffering we certainly need to nurture nature together, creating more space for it and offering it a place within our communities. It’s not as hard as it sounds, it doesn’t require huge, expensive acts – small humble ones will work just as well, so here are a few tips for Wilton residents:

Wildlife-friendly gardening

  • It could be as simple as leaving a patch of lawn to grow wild instead of mowing – perfect for encouraging insects and providing small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians with a place to hide.
  • Try creating a small gap in your garden fences to allow visitors, like hedgehogs, to come and go as they please.
  • You could commit to no longer using slug pellets or pesticides in your garden which can be harmful to animals such as hedgehogs.
  • Build a compost heap!
  • Bird feeders are a great help and good mix of foods will encourage a variety of songbirds into your gardens.
  • You might want to grow plants that encourage pollinating insects such as bees: borage, lavender, and foxgloves are popular with pollinators. If you don’t have a garden, then a window box is a great way to encourage these visitors.

For more ideas on wildlife friendly gardening then head to the wildlifegardenproject.com

Reduce your Waste

This is a tough one with the amount of single use plastics out there, so start small! Ditch plastic shopping bags for reusable ones. The same goes for water bottles and coffee cups – there are so many fantastic eco-friendly alternatives out there that it’s becoming increasingly easy to do this. 

Share your sightings

Nature is exciting, it gives us moments that take our breath away and make our skin tingle – so share them! Tell people about the hedgehog that visits your garden, or the buzzard you see whilst out walking your dog.

Give others the opportunity to get excited. The more people that are excited about nature then the more chance we have of saving it.

If you’re local to Wilton, then think about recording your sightings with the Wilton Wildlife Group.

With its various habitats, wild connections, and passionate residents Wilton deserves to be recognised for its wild heritage. With support and encouragement from Wilton’s wild heart – YOU! – there are high hopes for an even wilder Wilton in the future.  

About the Author:

Jeni is a nature writer based in the Chalke Valley. Inspired by British wildlife and with a passion for her local patch, she’s keen to share her stories with others in the hope they will seek out their own wild sights.

You can find more of her work at: https://www.seekingwildsights.co.uk/jeni-bell-portfolio-writing

Featured image: Grovely Wood, August 2019, taken by Rebecca Lyons