Wildlife in the Apprentice House garden

A view across the garden to the Apprentice House at Quarry Bank

The Apprentice House garden at Quarry Bank is bustling with wildlife. It's the perfect place to bring your camera and get closer to nature, with a wide variety of birds, insects, reptiles and amphibians.

Many birds, including robins, song thrushes, magpies, jays and house sparrows nest within the confines of this small working garden and its orchard. In particular, several noteable species have been found in and around the Apprentice House pond, which is a real haven for all things wild.

Damselflies and dragonflies galore 

The pond holds a number of damselfly and dragonfly (Odonates) species. One of the most significant amongst the dragonfly species is the imposing and visually striking emperor dragonfly.

Britain’s largest dragonfly was only found in southern England until recently, so emperors wouldn’t have been a sight seen by the mill apprentices in the early nineteenth century.  They were first spotted by our garden team in 2012, laying eggs in the dipping pond near the glasshouses.  However the chances of survival were limited there, so we transferred the plants and eggs to the Apprentice House pond.  Two years later, we have a healthy population of this species on site.

The stunning emperor dragonfly
Emperor dragonfly

The pond also supports a good population of damselflies and other dragonflies, including large red, azure, common blue, blue-tailed and banded demoiselle damselflies, as well as common darter, southern hawker, brown hawker, broad-bodied chaser and four-spotted chaser dragonflies. With the exception of the emperor, all of these species may have been observed by the apprentices in a few briefly snatched moments away from work.

Reptiles and amphibians

The pond is home to a wide variety of amphibians, including smooth and common newts, great crested newts, common toad and common frog.  It’s also regularly visited by grass snakes, which are easily identified by the yellow ‘V’ at the base of their head. Grass snakes are big fans of water, and also of warm places to curl up and bask. We find grass snakes and other reptiles in all sorts of warm and cosy places across the site, including compost heaps, the boiler room and even the shop stock room!

A grass snake making the most of the Apprentice House pond
A grass snake in Quarry Bank's Apprentice House garden