When visiting Fairburn Ings, you may have noticed our Wildlife Garden, just next to the Visitor Centre - or perhaps you’ve enjoyed the splash of colour the new planters at St Aidan’s have brought? Have you ever wondered who looks after these?

Well, it’s us! The Aire Valley Wildlife Gardening Team. We are a small team of volunteers who work across both sites - at Fairburn Ings we're expanding and developing the already established garden, while at St Aidan’s we're are aiming to create small, cultivated areas to give visitors a bright welcome, that still compliments the vast wildness of St Aidan’s.

The volunteers in the Wildlife Garden at Fairburn Ings (photo: Janine Brown-Jones)

Our garden at Fairburn Ings has been a feature of the reserve for many years, always looked after by volunteers. However, by March last year the team had reduced to just one, Elsie, who has been volunteering with the wildlife gardening team for over 5 years. She said “I love every minute of it. I enjoy helping to provide a haven for wildlife that also inspires our visitors, and hope to continue for many more years. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to enrich their lives.” Amazing though she is, Elsie couldn’t manage it all on her own, so happily last year we recruited more volunteers - we expanded the team and we expanded the areas that we look after, including with the new planters at St Aidan’s.

The volunteers filling the planters at the entrance to St Aidan's (photo: Janine Brown-Jones)

The team now has 9 volunteers, working hard together to support wildlife, brighten your visits and hopefully give you ideas that you can take home to your own patch. As Jane our wildflower expert says “Chatting 'over the garden wall' comes so naturally, it's easy to talk with visitors and we have lots of conversations about what we're doing and why." Many people think that a garden must be left to go wild and untidy to benefit wildlife. That’s very far from the case, as any garden can be wildlife friendly with a few important features. You can find out more by clicking here - or pop down to one of our sites, have a chat with us while we work, and see what a difference so easily can be made!

It's great to get away from our own gardens one day a week. We can all contribute something different to the team, plus we get a lot out of it - friendship, a sense of achievement, swapping seeds and plants, handy tips and advice...and often cake!

Jackie, who joined us this year said “I love working across both sites. I’m no gardening expert, far from it, but every session I learn something new and it’s lovely to be able to chat with the visitors whilst you work. This last week at Fairburn, I was greeted by an oystercatcher flying over and spent all morning working in the garden being serenaded by a song thrush. It is certainly the best office I’ve worked in!”

The Wildlife Garden at Fairburn Ings (photo: Jackie Pilcher)

Last word to Ian: "Volunteering as a member of the gardening team with like-minded people, people who care enough about nature to want to put something back, is fun and enriches the lives of those involved. The RSPB ethos is palpable in the focus and enthusiasm displayed by the whole Aire Valley team; it’s a delight to be able to contribute to such a wonderful organisation, committed to protecting and enhancing our wonderful and threatened natural world."