“If you build it, they will come” is the strapline for the new RSPB adverts. Initially I thought it was just ripped off from “Field Of Dreams“, (another) odd but entertaining Kevin Costner movie from the eighties, “If you build it, he will come”. My second thought was how brilliant it was. I’m constantly trying to get across the attraction of playing God and creating your own little patch of biodiversity by bringing animals into your garden.
Then I had a chance to think about it again. I was at Hampton Court helping promote the bumblebee app in the bee tent next to the RSPB, so I could ponder on what was bothering me. Their display had all sorts of stuff you could buy (from the RSPB’s online store) or build – bird boxes and feeders, a shed, hedgehog house, bee boxes, hibernaculums (hibernacula?). What it didn’t have – and nor does the TV ad – is much by way of plants. In fact the garden in the ad and at Hampton Court look ghastly – drab and uninteresting – presumably in case attractive plants detract from the cute signs and the cute animals.
Isn’t this a bit odd? Fantastic wildlife gardens aren’t generally filled with paraphenalia. They are designed and managed sensitively and planted well. If we do feel compelled to “build it” can’t we build it to look good too, using landscaping features like dry stone walls, rather than a range of reasonably priced wildlife shelters or mini Eeyore homes? I’m building a dry stone wall at home as a retaining wall, which won’t win gold medals but will look great, as well as providing a home for all sorts of wildlife.
More fundamentally, as a final thought, shouldn’t we “plant it” rather than “build it”? I thought plants were where gardens and ecosystems started. And can’t we “plant it” to look nice too?