Wild Wanstead part III


In the third of a series of articles charting the Wild Wanstead project – which aims to transform Wanstead into a multi-garden nature reserve – Susie Knox explains how making a log pile is quick and easy, and will create a whole new habitat in your garden.

Dead trees and fallen wood provide a fantastic habitat for wildlife, including mosses, fungi, lichens, numerous insects and the creatures that feed on them like hedgehogs and toads. In fact, nearly half of woodland species are dependent on this part of the forest ecosystem.

Over recent years, Britain's wildlife has suffered enormously from the removal of dead wood as our forests have been developed and 'tidied up'. Luckily, understanding and attitudes are changing. In Epping Forest, dead wood is mainly left where it has fallen (or been chopped) and closer to home, in areas like Tarzy Wood and St Mary's churchyard, woodpiles have been created by volunteers.

Having a log pile in your garden is one of the quickest and simplest things you can do to help biodiversity in your outdoor space, and with London a hotspot for the endangered stag beetle, you might get some pretty impressive visitors.

Even the smallest plot has room for a log pile – you can tuck it out of sight or turn it into a rustic feature. Many of the creatures that log piles attract have snails, slugs and their eggs on their menu, which is good for gardeners too.

Stag BeetleBags of logs are available from Heads N Tails on the High Street and Lancaster's Home and Garden in Walthamstow, or use old wood from gardens. Never take logs from forests or parkland (there is little enough decaying wood in the wild as it is).

Here are five simple steps to make your own log pile:

  1. Pick a quiet spot that doesn't get disturbed – different species prefer sunny or shady locations, so aim for both if you can.
  2. Half-bury a few logs – whatever suits the space you've got. Regular firewood is fine or use wood from gardens. Try to get lots of nooks and crannies in your stack. Logs of about 10cm in diameter are perfect.
  3. You can plant the logs vertically to create a 'stumpery' (great for stag beetles) or in a more traditional horizontal construction.
  4. If you've got more space, logs from bigger trees can be cut into discs (10cm to 20cm thick) and stacked like overlapping cheeses.
  5. Whatever your design, add twigs, leaves or wood chippings in the gaps, then let plants scramble over the pile to keep it damp.

With your log pile complete, your garden may appeal to a range of new visitors, such as:

  • Invertebrates: according to Buglife, nearly 2,000 British invertebrates require dead wood and use it in many different ways. Stag beetle grubs need damp wood below ground. Leafcutter and mason bees like to nest in pre-existing holes in sunny locations. Spiders may live under bark and woodlice, centipedes, beetles and worms can be found on the underside of logs.
  • Frogs, toads and newts: garden toads are in decline, but they'll love the damp conditions created by your log pile. Frogs and newts need somewhere to spend the winter and a log pile is just the ticket.
  • Lizards and slow-worms: reptiles like to sunbath on logs.
  • Hedgehogs: log piles provide a year-round supply of invertebrates to eat and a safe place for hibernating (if big enough).

For more information on the Wild Wanstead project, including 10 'wild ways' to make your garden more welcoming to wildlife, visit wildwanstead.org

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