Lord Somerset's residence - a wildlife-friendly woodland

Lord Somerset's residence at Melford Hall in Suffolk

Caroline Stephens, one of our volunteer garden team, was tasked with turning Lord Somerset’s Residence from a drab and non-descript area into a wildlife-friendly woodland area for children and adults to explore. Here she describes some of the improvements that you will find.

The woodland paths take you around beds filled with dry shade planting including hellebores, ferns, hostas, Geranium macrorrhizom, Ajuga reptans and Pulmonaria. The hazel fences, constructed from material coppiced in our parkland, define the borders as they are planted up while providing a feeling of enclosure. The taller structures support bee-friendly honeysuckles and clematis.
Children can hunt for bugs in the stumpery, hide away in the ivy wigwam or tell a story in the woodland circle.

As you explore, look out for the following features that encourage a variety of wildlife to the gardens:

Butterfly and bee border – the sunniest spot in Lord Somerset’s Residence, this bed is full of a mixture of plants to attract both butterflies and bees including buddleja, honey suckle, clematis, ivy, sedum, geraniums and lamium.

Butterfly puddle – a butterfly puddle is a large shallow saucer filled with sand, a handful of compost, a pinch of salt and water. Compost has salt, proteins and minerals that butterflies find attractive – they can’t get these from flowers and nectar.
As the butterflies discover the dish, they’ll cluster around the edge during the day and walk across the sand to drink from the puddle in the middle.
Water needs to be renewed every couple of days (when it dries out) and the sand/compost/salt mixture replaced every 1-2 months.

Bee drinking station - a bee drinking station can be as simple as saucer kept topped up with water with a rock in the centre for the bees to perch on while they drink. It can take a couple of weeks for the worker bees to find it, but if you keep it in the same location, you’ll find the bees will come to fill up on fresh water.

Rock pile - Our rock pile is in part shade and part sun and will encourage many species of insects and invertebrates including earwigs, common newts and slow worms. Birds, insect predators and small mammals will hunt for prey in the pile. The rock pile is left undisturbed.

Stumpery and twig pile - dead and decaying wood supports insects, fungi, mosses and lichens. The ideal conditions to maintain humidity and access are large wood cuttings, in dappled shade, with contact to the ground. Logs are partially buried. A pile of twigs and pruning cuttings makes an insect-friendly hideaway.

As you walk around you will also see bird boxes, a bird bath, deluxe insect hotels, and a nettle patch (butterfly larvae food).

Lord Somerset’s residence has now become an area of discovery ideal for completing some of those 50 things adventures.