Tales from Gazen Salts

Refugia l have known …

Season 3
A Dead Wall in Gazen Salts and a haven for insects and small mammals alike. This particular refugua style was very deliberately constructed in the winter of 2021.
[Opposed to logs simply thrown into a pile]

See Here for Seasons One and Two of Tales from Gazen Salts Nature Reserve Directory

One of the more recent projects l have been involved with, and not just with Gazen Salts but also down at Plot 17 on the allotment, has been creating more naturally inviting environmental habitats and ecosystems for flora and fauna alike, which encourages much broader biodiversifications.

Some of you may recall when Suze and l were living in our last house, and we had a pallet-styled bug hotel which you can see below.
It never really became inhabited by a wide range of beasties. However, a hedgehog was at the bottom alongside toads and various frogs on migration. Underneath the surrounding pots was a large colony of woodlice [pillbugs].

But nothing lived in any of the top tiers – as it turns out, it was too prim and proper, too clinical. This is one of the significant reasons why local wildlife does not take up in shop-bought insect and bug, and bee hotels. They don’t feel right.

So the task for creating an environment on a micro level is to ensure that it is not so sterile and has a more lived-in homeliness feel to it.

Had our original 2017 bug hotel been more weathered, the local bees and bugs may have felt more inclined to rent free of charge, but that could take a few years. Kind of ironic that it had to be dismantled when it was [2020], l think by now it may well have had a thriving community present.

The bug hotel you can see below, constructed by two volunteers on our Open Day last September, is more of an environment encouraging wildlife to move in. It is spacious and wilder, left to its own devices, and not disturbed by gardeners walking past every day and attending to vegetation nearby. These are critical elements.

Whilst a few insects and lizards live in the ‘active and educational’ environment – many others live in neighbouring dead piles of cut grass.

Four hotels, or refugia as they are more commonly referred to at Gazen Salts, were built last year in the early part of spring but were soon taken over by the meadow grasses and, whilst still present, are very much hidden from the eyes of visitors and that is marvelously beneficial to the residents.

The refugia below, on the other hand, is the one that was deliberately designed to be seen by visitors who walk into Gallow’s Field. It is a designated area manually tended to by the volunteers and is kept distanced from the main bulk of the environment. Its purpose is one of education over that of full-time residencies.

Bug hotels, as many people tend to know them as more, are fun to build and construct, and whilst there isn’t a rocket science construction method, they tend to follow a simple guideline which l shall write about separately in due course at another time.

Inside Gazen Salts, we have what we refer to as Dead Wall environments which are also referred to on occasion as layered habitats and, pending on who you speak to, open-aired hugelkulturs.

I am a fan of this particular method because, in truth, hugelkultur is mostly a German composting practice and not specifically an environment for flora and fauna, and yet having said that, more often than not, huge biodiversities are found within. The difference is that the composting method is less open-aired than a layered mound.

In one of the composting series, I will write about hugelkultur in due course.

Now the new Wildlife Garden feature in Gazen Salts that is being worked on by myself and a handful of others does have a composting system, but that is being oriented towards a more traditional method of composting, and what was originally going to be a hugelkultur behind the compost area is now going to become more of a layered dead wall fortification behind the garden.

I am in charge of the construction of the ‘wall’, and I plan to have it between four to five feet in height and sixty feet in length with a width or breadth of around three feet.

It will comprise aged logs and branches ranging from twig thickness to girths of six to eight inches. It will be a solid wall. The layers on top will be of mixed vegetation and foliage as well as bracken, brackish scutter, leaves both old and new, old cut grasses and meadow hays and wood chips and dirt. It will become home to many species of flora and fauna and a photographer’s paradise of life!

It will attract a wide variety of birds, small mammals and pollinating insects into the garden environment, which will prove highly beneficial. Additionally, it serves like the rest of the garden and the composting as a training and educational feature for schools and adults looking for information about rewilding their gardens.

The other feature of the sixty feet of wall is that of security to the houses behind the garden, which now have their back gardens more visible to visitors to the Wildlife Garden. The Guestling Stream lies within our gardens and those behind us, and whilst relatively wide at six feet, determined thieves have tried to bridge the gap using materials belonging to Gazen Salts.

As a form of community security for our neighbours, l said that l could build more of a natural fortification mound that would discourage would-be burglars. Once completed, the natural wall will be formidable and awkward to pass through or over easily. Attempts l feel could well end in tears or breaks!

In the gallery below, you can see the starting stages of the new back garden wall. We have sufficient materials and green waste to complete this by the end of the winter, which will be hugely rewarding to fauna looking to move in.

Only last week, several enthusiastic pairs of red-breasted robins, blackbirds, thrushes and bluetits were looking with eager eyes at the bounty that was taking shape.

I shall document the wall’s creation and the garden’s development over the coming months.

Designs – Earthly Comforts – Inspired by Nature – see collection here

Tales from Gazen Salts Nature Reserve is about my time and stories of my voluntary work with this project.

I’ll see you next episode. Thanks for reading.

Gazen Salts Nature Reserve
Sandwich, Kent, England, UK

Published by The Autistic Composter

Earthly Comforts is a wildlife journaling scrapbook focusing on the countryside, wildlife biodiversity and environmental conservation, flora and fauna volunteering projects, gardening, composting and vermiculture, inspiration, poetry and photography.

15 thoughts on “Tales from Gazen Salts

  1. We have left all the dead trees on the ground and I hope they will be well inhabited. Right now, it ought to be hibernation time for many small creatures. It has been so warm, I wonder if they are hibernating or not, but it’s supposed to get very cold over the weekend, but be warm again by monday. Pretty strange weather.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Sadly Marilyn l think those seasons we grew up with are long gone. I was born in the UK, but at the age of five l had emigrated to Australia and was an ‘ex pat’ until my teenager years. I lived in Malaysia in the early sixties. When l returned to England in the later seventies the seasons l knew then were distinct.

        We had spring, summer, autumn and winter. I had never seen snow up close and personal till l lived in the Uk and it was there for most winters. By 2000 where l had grown up in the south was already no longer seeing snow and now twenty years later and any snow that part of the south do see is only classed as critical snow.

        The seasons we knew as kids and young adults have left the planet.


      2. When we moved to this Valley in 2000, the snow was so heavy we had flooding every spring when the rain hit the heaps of snow. It was so heavy, we had to have someone come and shovel off our roof. We have one real snow last year and none this year and we are having ONE really cold day this winter. Tomorrow it will be very cold, but will be back into springlike by Sunday night. The bugs don’t even die in the winter, so we have tons more insects.

        It’s a different world. I don’t like it nearly as much as the old one.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I just want to see people TODAY trying to fix the things they broke yesterday! We didn’t get this bad overnight. From the 1700s on, we’ve been methodically and enthusiastically destroying all the things we claim to love.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I know, but sadly l am afraid l am probably too cynical in the eyes of many, or a realist as l see it. People in high places don’t seem to care Marily. They will continue to break the planet and in general society and apathy seem to walk hand in hand these days.

        The best we can do is we do what we can do.


      5. I try to keep some hope alive, but I’m not very optimistic either. By now you’d think the reality would have hit our so-called governments, but apparently not. Apparently they figure it won’t be their problem because they’ll be dead and who CARES what happens in the future? This conversation we are having … we should put it together as a post. What do you think?


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