As we head towards December the weather is changing and so is the landscape around us. The tree branches are bare, there’s a mightily chilly wind and over the valley lies a blanket of grey sky. One thing is certain: winter is definitely on its way!

Last week we caught up with Matt, Jason and Tony, three of our Garden Work Party volunteers who joined us earlier in the year. Since the summer they’ve been out in all weathers managing the meadows and flower beds, attending to the flowers and plants surrounding the visitor centre, and making sure our reserve not only looks great, but provides for our local wildlife too.

In the past few months they’ve tidied the rockery, cut back the herb garden and cut off the remaining dead heads from the buddleia bushes to encourage new ones to grow. Recently they’ve cut back the pyracantha, dead-headed more plants in the borders and also planted some rosemary in the herb bed. Despite temperatures of 5 degrees and below, Matt, Jason and Tony have been out with wheelbarrows and rakes clearing the public paths and de-clogging the solitary bee houses. Wet leaves can make the ground quite slippery, so it really is an important job!

This week the team is busy creating a new border ready to plant some lovely lavender bushes. By planting lavender in the autumn we can hope that they will be ready to bloom in the spring.

Next year the garden work party will be developing the area that stretches from the herb garden all the way down to the reflection garden. We’re hoping to plant more herbs such as thyme and chive, and also plant more wildlife-friendly flowers that will attract bees and butterflies. There might also be a few more bug houses popping up once the weather is warm again. We’re looking forward to seeing what they get up to!

Matt joined the gardening team after seeing a poster in his local garden centre. He’s always been interested in nature and wildlife and has his own allotment. He’s enjoyed his time at the reserve so far and is looking forward to making plans for the new year and keeping things neat and tidy until the spring arrives.

Jason found out about the garden work party online. After looking for something practical to do in the daytime he decided to join the team at RSPB Sandwell. He’s loved spending time out of doors and says his Thursday mornings are well spent doing lots of exercise whilst helping to give nature a home at the same time.

Tony has been an RSPB member since 1989. He first came to RSPB Sandwell a few years ago and has since learned to bird-watch. Tony has a keen interest in nature and wildlife and has enjoyed learning more about gardening with our team.

If you’re interested in joining our garden work party or would like to find out more about our volunteering opportunities email sandwellvalley@rspb.org.uk or head over to our website. You can also pop into the visitor centre any time we’re open (Tues – Sun, 10am – 4pm) and have a chat with our team. If you’re looking to spend more time out of doors, want to develop or learn new skills and are happy to work as part of a team, then our Garden Work Party might just be the place for you!

Photography by Emily White

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