Two Grey Partridge coveys, Brown Hares, Linnets, numerous bees, butterflies including the exotic Clouded Yellow. This is not a count from a nature reserve but a building site. Every Friday for a few weeks I have been in Cambridge and have had to take our dog ,who I walk at lunch time, on a next-door building site. Being a spaniel she specializes in finding wildlife.

The Grey partridges are the easiest to find, they fly off into a fenced off corner until we have gone. The dog then focuses on the hares, but being a spaniel relies on her nose investigating the scent where they have been while the hares quietly slip through the fence unnoticed by her. Butterflies, bees and many other insects feed on the flowering thistles and ragwort that have colonised the site.


Cambridge building site

Cambridge building site

The site is about two acres, the raised areas are where the top soil has been scraped off last year. About half appears to have roughly sown with grass and the rest left to be colonised by plants with wind borne seeds, hence the thistles and ragwort. The plants are sparse and slow growing as the ground is sandy and poor in nutrients. It looks like the site has been cut once at the end of July and has been untouched since then. There is open farmland about 500 metres away

This site waiting to be developed on a Cambridge research park shows that wildlife will thrive if given a little space and left alone. Grey Partridges, Brown Hares and many other species have almost disappeared over much of intensively farmed East Anglia. The young partridges need a mix of seeds and insects to grow and be able to survive the winter. Hares need undisturbed areas for their surface-born young leverets many of which are killed in their forms by farm machinery.

25 miles east from the site where I live in Suffolk there are spaces that are not cropped and meant to encourage wildlife. However these spaces are in most cases over managed, fertilisers and sprays drift into them, most of them are mown several times a year to keep them “tidy”. All of this drastically reduces the value of these spaces for wildlife.

The site in Cambridge surely indicates that leaving the few spaces meant for wildlife alone and doing nothing is the best management option. This could include the unused corner in your garden?