Simple actions with gold-star rewards

Outdoor Living

SPLISH SPLASH  A bird tit enjoying a wash in a garden bird bath

Nature and rewilding
Pat Fahy

If you’re looking for inspiration on how to turn your garden into a stepping stone for nature, look no further than ‘Gardening for Biodiversity’, by Juanita Browne, a booklet that is available free from Mayo County Council. It comes with illustrations by Barry Reynolds, detailed and sometimes humorous – each worth a second glance to see what other subtle intricacies he has added. I counted 17 blue tits in one illustration and drawings of frogs that made me laugh, because frogs have funny bones anyways no matter what they do.
The book is full of advice on how to make your garden unique in its own right, with easy to follow step by step guides. You’ll not only find out how to go about all sorts of projects, but why these seemingly small actions are so important for our little critters, which are the building blocks of all life.
Flicking through the pages I thought that a lot of these miniature projects, like the log-pile project for example, would make interesting conversation pieces in the garden. If everybody goes the same garden centres and does the same things as nearly everyone else, our gardens would be awful samey.
Who doesn’t want something different for their garden, something that’s not only of interest to our wildlife but that also reveals an interesting aspect of you as an individual. No matter which part of ‘Garden for Biodiversity’ takes your interest for your own little refuge or haven, you can with this booklet, easily turn your patch into a miniature nature refuge, with positive changes that benefit our local wildlife.
“There’s another interesting conversation piece,” said I to myself as I turned more pages. But, far from that expression I was raised. If I’d said it aloud, it’s soon be followed by a “Where are you going with them notions?”
Still, talking points give our day character, something to ponder. And ponder I did after  visiting a friend’s house many moons ago to see if the famous ‘Fawlty fireplace’ was still there. My friend, strapped for cash, gladly accepted an offer by a young acquaintance to build said fireplace. Did he know what he was doing? No. Did he ask someone in the know? Most definitely, but instructions can get lost in translation.
She headed away for the weekend with the young acquaintance’s famous last words ringing in her ears. “How difficult could it be? It’ll be grand.” She returned to this DIY comedy of errors. Lintel at a definite angle, some bricks boast, others in recess; lumps of mortar sticking out in lots of places or decidedly thin in others. A unique fireplace like no other.
“Would you not consider changing it now after all these years?” I asked. “I wouldn’t change that fireplace for any money,” she replied. “It’s a talking point. Whenever a conversation gets quiet, it gets the banter going again. That fireplace is only priceless.”
Maybe our friend The Fireplace Builder has moved on from the built environment and now realises his latent talents in his garden. A copy of ‘Gardening for Biodiversity’ in hand,  appreciating all the step-by-step instructions, a legend now to the local wildlife, getting a gold star from nature.
We could also do worse than taking a tip or two from the booklet, and starting a new nature-rewarding project ourselves. It doesn’t have to turn out perfect. A wonky insect hotel won’t get any complaints from the guests. And isn’t it something interesting to do, to get through these strange times. Now that is priceless indeed!

Gardening for Biodiversity’ is available to download as a pdf from, or hard copies may be ordered free of charge by contacting Heritage Officer Deirdre Cunningham at or 094 9064092.

Pat Fahy is Biodiversity Officer with Westport Tidy Towns.