Since the glaciers of the last Ice Age melted, Britain has been colonised by many thousands of plants and animals. Some have since become extinct here as the weather has changed and warmed up, while others continue to migrate here, usually from continental Europe. They may be carried across the Channel on a warm wind, but may not be able to survive our winters, while others succeed, breed the following year, and are eventually accepted as native species.
In Wymeswold it is not difficult to find hundreds of species of wildlife which are either here all year, hibernate during winter, or migrate here each year. We have a number of mammals, including the Badger, Muntjac, Roe Deer, Hedgehogs and numerous rodents – the rats, mice, voles and shrews. We have over sixty species of birds visiting the village, some are recent sightings, like the Red Kite over the last few years, and the Little Egret, (like a small white Heron). We have a species of reptile, the Grass Snake; several amphibians, the frogs, toads and newts; about twenty different butterflies, some of which hibernate, some of which migrate here during warm summers, and may even then fly hundreds of miles back home in the autumn. We have probably hundreds of species of moth, but most fly at night, so unless we have a humane moth trap we will not be aware of them, but amongst the day flyers are the Hummingbird Hawkmoth (only here on warm summers), the Mint Moth and the Six-spot Burnet Moth. Our dragonflies and damselflies, together called the Odonata, total twenty different species so far, with some living many generations here, and some flying in to check us out, then flying elsewhere where conditions are better for that species. There are others, just outside Leicestershire, which will almost certainly be with us soon. Other insects are here in huge numbers, and ones like bees, we cannot do without as they fertilise our food crops. There are also the invertebrates like worms, centipedes, millipedes, slugs and snails.
Our wild flowers are wonderful, where the verges haven’t been weedkilled or mown too low. Again we have probably hundreds of species. Wild violets grow on the churchyard bank next to our village shop, and in front of the wall opposite The Nook. Along the brook there is Meadowsweet – tall, white and fluffy. Checking out the Leicestershire and Rutland Reserve along Narrow Lane and you will see wonderful displays of Cowslips, Bugle, Spiny Rest Harrow as well as so many others in the Spring. Our trees and shrubs are wonderful, some flowering in spring, like the Hawthorn and Blackthorn, some producing fruit like the Crab Apple, but all being host to many birds and invertebrates which make the trees their home. All green plants are essential to taking in carbon dioxide which is partly the cause of Climate Change, but they also produce the oxygen we breathe. Amazing evolution!
We can help wildlife to survive. Don’t use weedkiller, slug pellets or insecticide as they get into other wildlife. Leave your lawn to flower. Don’t mow them so often. Try to grow plants, shrubs and trees with flowers which the insects can get nectar from, so they need open flowers, not lots of tight petals. Try to ensure that hedgehogs can get through fences as they roam around at night. Put out water and food for birds and hedgehogs if you think you have them coming to your garden. Let windfalls from your fruit trees stay on the ground to feed the birds and animals. Enjoy our wildlife.
Lorraine Ellison (August 2022)