St Mary’s churchyard has become one of the first green spaces to join Wild Wanstead, a new initiative to aiming to create a multi-garden nature reserve in the heart of Wanstead.

London’s gardens play a vital role as a home for wildlife, but in Wanstead they’re getting squeezed as room is needed for parking, patios and extensions. Actively using the space that’s left to help wildlife can make a big difference. Wild Wanstead is asking members of the community to add their gardens, balconies or other outdoor space to the jigsaw of the nature reserve by including a few nature-friendly features – and St Mary’s is leading the way.

The graveyard is already a haven for wildlife and recent work by Phil Ryan and the Gardening Club team to cut back undergrowth and open up the vistas will encourage even more wildflowers, adding to the current array of snowdrops, primroses, daffodils and bluebells. To re-establish some of the native plants loved by insects that used to be found in the churchyard, honeysuckle has been planted along two of the boundaries, and drifts of common yarrow, greater knapweed and red campion will be added later this spring.

​Cleared wood is being used to make log piles, with branches half buried in shady spots. Bird boxes designed for different species, including nuthatches – which appear to be making a bit of a comeback locally, having been spotted in Wanstead Park –  are also being put up, but they’ll need a helping hand if their population is to get established.

Tony installing a bird box

Tony McCarty, one of the locals behind Wild Wanstead and St Mary’s gardening team member, said : “As far as we know, this will be the first time a London community has worked together to try to create a multi-garden nature reserve. Much of the UK’s wildlife is in decline, but this is a simple way anyone who has a bit of space can actually make a difference.”

You can follow the project on https://www.facebook.com/groups/WildWanstead/. If you’d like to add your own outdoor space to the garden nature reserve, visit www.wildwanstead.org, pick up a leaflet in church, or come along to St Mary’s gardening club (alternate Saturday mornings, check our calendar for dates), where Tony and Phil will be happy to answer your questions.

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