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Focus on Brash April 2021
by Paula Doherty and images by kind courtesy of Martin Curtis


For many years I have collected most of my tree-prunings, hedge cuttings and difficult-to-compost leaves for disposal – either via the green bin or an annual bonfire. However, I realise that I’ve been missing the potential for creating mini-habitats suitable for wildlife. Here are two examples of what we can all do, even in a small garden.

Branches, twigs and leaves

I’ve started to create several 'brash piles' simply by piling up waste branches and prunings. Finding a quiet undisturbed corner is key to this, as my main aim is to attract hedgehogs. Creating piles in this way is so much better than having a bonfire or putting it in the green bins. The best design is to start with the bigger logs and branches making a log-cabin-type structure then cover this with smaller branches igloo-fashion.

Brash piles are a very important habitat for many different kinds of wildlife. They provide cover from predators and places for nests, escape routes, and dens. Many insects will be attracted to this pile of decomposing wood, which will then provide a bounty of food for birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals.

Gras Snake Forked Tongue.jpg
Basking area for snakes.jpg

Autumn leaves and grass cuttings

This year I’m going to pile up leaves and lawn clippings in a heap adjacent to some cover like a shrub, hedge or patch of nettles and then loosely cover the heap with plastic sheeting weighed down with something heavy. The heap will sweat and heat up creating a warm damp environment perfect for egg-laying grass snakes. Now I know this is being optimistic, but I recently read about a garden that had no records of grass snakes in at least 40 years; in just 3 years of creating wildlife ponds and adjacent "snake heaps" several adult grass snakes are now seen every year. So, you never know! The heaps should be left undisturbed until between April and September when they can be topped up again.

There is no Waste in Nature!

grass snake coiled.jpg

Please Note: Martin Curtis is a visual storyteller on the UK Wildlife Photographers Facebook page where you find more of his wonderful photographs.

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