Winter has arrived! and some of our forest friends will be getting prepared for the cold months ahead.
Winter can be a testing time for nature, so as autumn draws and winter arrives, many animals are busy readying themselves for the cold months ahead.
You and your family can also take some simple steps to help protect and enjoy your very own slice of nature on your doorstep during the winter months:
Let the leaves fall
Though it’s quite natural to rake away fallen leaves, they help provide much needed mulch and hiding places for smaller creatures. If you rake leaves to the outskirts of your garden, your children should still have space to play but the patches of leaves will become great spots for foraging birds and your family can enjoy watching the thrush and blackbird as they rummage for worms.
Keep pots for frogs
Kids love to watch frogs, newts and toads hopping about but they enjoy quiet, dark hideouts during the cold months. By leaving your summer plant pots in the corners of your garden, you can provide a perfect home for them for the winter. They’ll take refuge underneath the pots and some frogs will also make use of any leaf litter in your garden.
Try planting some traditional British trees such as Hazel, Hawthorn and Rowan, the planting process is very simple and the trees require little maintenance. Once their fruit grows, you’ll notice an exciting array of wildlife visiting your garden. You and your children can keep a log of all the animals they see to help teach them about different species.
Treat the birds
Harsh winter weather may mean that birds have difficulty finding food, so it’s a great time to provide easy treats. Making fat balls and monkey nut strings are great family activities and allow your children to get creative – just remember to freeze your fat balls otherwise they’ll be too sticky for the birds to peck at. Your little ones will love checking to see what’s been eaten, and once birds associate your garden with food you might find they become regular visitors! Our charity partners, The Wildlife Trusts provide an excellent step by step video tutorial to help get you and your family get started:
Nick Baker shows us how to make bird cake. It’s great fun and the birds in your garden will love it.
Have a go yourself – your garden birds will thank you for it!
Make shelters for animals
Many animals are losing their roost sites, so making and putting out habitat boxes in your own garden to give shelter from sleet, snow and heavy rain can really help – plus it’s the perfect time to teach kids all about hibernation. Animals generally hibernate from the end of October until the end of March but if temperatures are mild it wouldn’t be unusual to see them emerge for food which would be an added bonus.
Wrap up your flowers
As the frost starts to appear in winter, many flowers will lay dormant as a survival technique and vulnerable plants need to be protected. Autumn is the time to prepare these flowers, before temperatures drop. Buy some lightweight, frost-proof material from your local garden centre and cover or wrap delicate flower and plants so they can keep their moisture without risk of freezing.
Plant a winter wonderland
Nothing says Christmas to kids than the feeling of looking out of the window and seeing a blanket of snow. While you cannot control the weather, you can plant flowers to create a beautiful ‘white Christmas’ look in your garden. Creamy white crocuses and dahlias are excellent autumn bulbs to plant at this time of year, and will look stunning when paired with snowdrops in your flowerbed.
Tips shared by Emma Tapp, Center Parcs Whinfell Forest’s resident forest expert and Conservation Ranger.