Nature with Nik Mitchell: Living in an urban oasis

An urban oasis at Westcliff Park Photo Nik Mitchell

Thanet nature expert Nik Mitchell, from Minster, runs the Wildlife Conservation in Thanet page on facebook:

Westcliff Park is a residential estate facing the sea in Ramsgate. The park is home to 46 residential households. I’m always saying how gardens should be a place of love, joy, excitement and discovery because it’s not just good for nature it’s good for us!

Recently the residents of Westcliff Park and good friend of mine Keith Ross (@ramsgatebirds on twitter) have come together to create an ‘Urban Oasis’ with the aim to protect and promote wildlife and their habitats.

It’s an exciting and well organised project. The basic aims are to:

  • Protect the wildlife and birds of Westcliff Park
  • Enhance the provision for wildlife and birds by ensuring a sympathetic habitat
  • Encourage more species to make their homes at Westcliff Park
  • Take a wider view of environmental issues which affect the estate
  • Actively engage in projects such as providing drinking stations; bird boxes; wildflower and bluebell planting and a developing a wildlife pond.

I visited the site this year to check it out and help install bird and bat boxes. It’s great to see how the project will enhance the environment for all of Westcliff Park’s residents. It must be a very exciting place to live.

The basic needs of wildlife are food, water, space and cover. So far around the five-acre site they have;

  • Created habitats piles for smaller insects and animals with lots of twigs and logs from the gardens being left to rot down naturally. Dead wood habitats, such as log piles and wood stacks, can support a surprisingly wide range of garden wildlife.

  • Created 5 drinking stations. Water is essential for wildlife to thrive, but it isn’t just for drinking. Amphibians like newts, frogs and toads use water as shelter and breeding grounds. Butterflies get valuable minerals and salts from slightly muddy water, and birds use water to bathe and remove parasites.

  • Built an incredible natural wildlife pond in a disused area of the estate. A wildlife pond is one of the single best features for attracting new wildlife to the garden.
  • Allowed areas to grow wild. The mini jungle created by long grass gives wildlife a safe haven to hide in, and if there are wildflowers in there, it’s good for bees too.

  • Put up various bird feeders. Feeding birds makes a world of difference for the future of wild birds. Birds’ stress levels are lower where bird feeders are present, and their body condition is also better.

Westcliff Park is not only becoming an exciting place to live but it’s setting a great example of collaboration and better management for our communal spaces like parks, schools and places of work.

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