Nesting woodpeckers make Ham their home

A pair of Greater Spotted Woodpeckers have made their nest at Ham House Garden in Richmond, London

For the first time, a pair of nesting Greater Spotted Woodpeckers have made Ham House Garden their home this summer. The chicks are doing well and have started to spread their wings and fledge!

While the Ham House Garden team has heard them in the trees of the 17th century walled garden before, this is the first time there have been signs that the woodpeckers are breeding.

Black and white, and about the size of a blackbird, Greater Spotted Woodpeckers tend to nest in holes they excavate in trees. The nest at Ham appeared in an ageing Lane’s Prince Albert Apple Tree in the historic Kitchen Garden area of the 12 acre formal gardens.

Nurturing nature's habitats

With Ham just 30 minutes from central London, the garden team does all they can to encourage birds and wildlife to thrive.

Rosie Fyles, Head Gardener, explains: ‘We have found that gardening for nature doesn’t have to be complicated. We are planting more trees because we know that this is the single most important thing we can do in a garden for wildlife.

'If a tree has to be taken down, we will leave a stump to provide homes for insects, and food and shelter for birds. In the case of ageing trees like the one that the woodpeckers are nesting in, so long as it doesn’t present any danger to people using the garden our goal is to let them grow old gracefully.’

It’s exactly this kind of tree, with lots of holes in, that birds and other wildlife like to use to make their home. The trees at Ham aren’t treated with any pesticides either, ‘We find encouraging insect-eating birds like the woodpeckers helps keep pests down naturally,’ adds Rosie.

Vast new wildflower meadows are also being encouraged to grow at Ham this year, to give shelter and food to a range of birds and insects, with the first show of flax and other wildflowers expected anytime now.

Ham House and Garden is open 7 days a week, with the garden open from 10am-5pm. Adult entry for the house and garden is £12.50 (National Trust Members go free).  Free thirty minute Garden History tours are also available at 11.30am and 1:30pm on weekdays and 11.30, 1.30 and 2.30 at weekends. (Booking not necessary, admission applies).