Hilltop Gardening Club, Composting, organics and caring for the place we live in – Speaker Lesley Greene

OUR new chairman must have thought she had somehow offended the gods.

The start of her first meeting at Eastcombe Village Hall was more than challenging.

However, in spite of having to find a replacement speaker at short notice and then being faced with uncooperative technology in the hall, Jenny Exley remained calm, determined and cheerful.

What could have been a chaotic disaster became a very informative, interesting and enjoyable evening.

While Lesley struggled with IT incompatibility problems, Jenny mastered the recalcitrant microphone and gave us an impromptu talk about her work at Kew’s Wakehurst and at Westonbirt.

She is the co- founder, with Liz Howlett, of the Bisley Composting Scheme, which aims to encourage responsibility for our environment at a local level, by improving the quality of our soils, growing healthy food, recycling and reducing waste.

Members deliver their brown and green waste to the site, where it is layered, composted and sieved.

For a small donation, they can then collect high quality compost for mulching their gardens and allotments.

Membership is open to all who live within the Bisley Parish boundary.

Non-members attending this evening were invited to collect non-sieved compost for free.

In association with “Teaching Trees” (the education branch of the Royal Forestry Society), Lesley is working with children at Thomas Keble School on an exciting project called “Trees, Hedgerows and Wildlife Corridors”.

This aims to show the children how healthy soil encourages more wildlife into the area.

She also volunteers on the Steering Group of the “Growing on Prescription” project at the Vale Community Hospital, Dursley.

This is illustrating how gardening and growing vegetables organically can improve the mental and physical health of patients.

This excellent meeting ended with a plea from the chairman on behalf of our fast declining hedgehog population.

There are four simple things we can do for them:

Hedgehogs mostly feed on beetles, slugs and earwigs, but their diet can be supplemented by cat, dog or formulated hedgehog food.

Provide access to a safe water supply with an exit ramp.

Set aside nesting areas such as log piles, open compost heaps, bramble patches and piles of deciduous leaves supported by some sort of wooden structure.

Make hedgehog sized holes (130mm square) in garden walls and fences.

This will enable them to range widely in order to find food, mates and nesting areas.

The following are sadly all contributing to hedgehog decline: tidy gardening, the use of slug pellets (try egg shells, coffee grounds or wool pellets instead), careless strimming, preparing the bonfire but not lighting it the same day, ponds with no way out, plastic refuse, traffic and climate change.

Jenny suggested checking bighedgehogmap.orgfor records of local hedgehog sightings.

The Eastcombe area is looking very hedgehog friendly.

Let’s keep it that way.

Thank you to Jenny and Lesley for a very thought provoking meeting.