My garden isn’t big, but I love it. It’s a bit overgrown, and the right flowers don’t always grow in the right places, or at all. The grass is too long, and slugs have munched my strawberry plants. But to me, especially in summer – when the evening light colours the lawn golden-green and swifts soar and circle high overhead – it’s my own miniature Eden.
Thing is, for half the time, it isn’t really mine at all.
Come nightfall, once we’ve turned out the lights and climbed the stairs to bed, our gardens become the stages of a hundred hidden stories as the night-time tenants move in. Hedgehogs creep in search of slugs, tawny owls awaken and hunt in the trees while the afternoon’s soaring swifts turn into silent, flitting bats against an indigo sky. The night shift begins.
Every year, the RSPB encourages people all over the country to experience this hidden side to nature as part of Big Wild Sleepout. I decided to camp out to get the full experience, but you could just do a bug hunt at dusk or go on a torchlit safari before going to sleep in your own beds. Find more Sleepout ideas here - and don't forget to sign up and download your Sleepout Passport!
Camping in the garden felt like quite the adventure. Despite threatening to rain, the sky was clear for a time, so I was able to spot some of the wildlife in the sky – Ursa Major, the great bear, always the brightest and easiest to find – before cosying up in my outdoor den. Lying in the dark, it was noticeable how much the other senses come into play. My eyes adjusted and my ears sharpened. As well as the odd solitary car, I heard a stand-off between two cats and, pleasantly, the gentle rustling of wind through the trees.
Then, at about 11pm, I had my first true wildlife encounter. Have a watch of my short video, then why not take part this weekend yourself? As with all adventures, you never know what you might discover...
Big Wild Sleepout runs this weekend, until 31 July.
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