A Pollinator border

Marc Carlton’s 2010 cottage garden pollinator border, designed to attract wild bees & hoverflies.

This website by naturalist & gardener Marc Carlton is based on careful observation of plants and pollinators in the gardens he created in S London and Chepstow near the Bristol Channel.

* How insects feed from flowers
* A planting list for pollinators
* The basics of nature-friendly gardening
* Garden meadows
* Recommended reading lists
* Links to helpful sites
* Dutch and German nature gardens, and a N American page for readers in the USA/Canada

“The UK is nothing more than a peninsula of Europe, and has only been separated for some 8,000 years… Our flora is a shared subset of that of western Europe, as is our insect fauna. I choose western Europe as the main region of origin of plants for my pollinator border.”

“My second principle is to concentrate on flower forms which are close to nature, so no double flowers, complex hybrids or horticultural novelties.”

“I also include a wide variety of flower shapes and sizes, to help cater for the diversity of insect mouthparts and specialisations evolved to tackle different forms of flower.”

Marc advises:  Choose a sunny site; Create shelter from prevailing cold wind; Group flowers of the same kind in large drifts; Plan for a succession of flowers through the growing season; Minimise or avoid the use of pesticides. Marc can be reached via the Contact page of the website.

Follow him on Twitter: @foxleas_marc

Some website content is available as pdfs, but only for personal, non-commercial use.



Wild About Gardens, a joint initiative between The Royal Horticultural Society( & The WildlifeTrusts (, offers information, project ideas and a monthly newsletter aimed at helping us attract more wildlife to our gardens. It has profiles on more than 200 birds, mammals, reptiles and plants. The current website highlights ponds, & features a map of UK ponds created from details sent in by subscribers.  


In these youtube video blogs from the West of Ireland, writer & environmentalist Colette O’Neill walks with Border Collie Jack over land once derelict, now a small forest sanctuary for wildlife & pollinators. Each vid, taken by camera or handheld phone, is downloaded via a hotspot. Livestream chat comes from far beyond Ireland & the UK.

We hear of Colette‘s ongoing work on the site (Goddess Permaculture), the chop & drop technique, flowers in bloom, the latest storm to hit the country, the Celtic calendar. This is a therapeutic site, positive & hopeful.

It may persuade you, & others who happen upon it, to think differently about gardening.


 Books, calendars, bumper stickers & a double-sided map on card (right, by Irish artist David Gascoigne) are printed in Ireland – rather than by, say, corporate giant Amazon. Colette addresses & stamps all orders at Bealtaine Cottage, mailing them from the local post office. Her first book, A Cottage and Three Acres, takes the reader

‘…from a desolate cottage set in 3 acres of monoculture sadness, to a vibrant, thriving food forest of life…the journey back to Eden over 13 years… Bealtaine Books and Maps are printed in Ireland and posted from Ireland to support the people of Ireland.’

As a subscriber you find that, after the most recent posting, youtube will serve up other vids ( all ad-free) from past years, all seasons. Here are a few of them to get you started. Please share with friends.


knapGardener, botanist and writer Sarah Raven, known for her work at Sissinghurst and appearances on BBC2’s Gardener’s World, is based at Perch Hill Farm, Sussex, where she has her cutting garden. With a visit to Sarah’s website you can order books, plants and seeds, sign up for a course or arrange to receive her newsletter.

Sarah Raven’s Garden and Cookery School, Perch Hill Farm, Willingford Lane, Brightling, Robertsbridge East Sussex TN32 5HP



Sarah is on youtube, (22.3K subscribers) with vids from her oast garden, veg garden & rose garden,  looking at individual plants & making tea & ice cream. In Sarah’s BBC2 series, Bees, Butterflies and Blooms, she  attempts to halt the decline in the country’s pollinators.



Every Saturday Alexandra Campbell uploads this website and blog ‘with ideas, tips and inspiration so you can enjoy your garden more.’ Her own garden in Faversham, Kent, may be more grand of scale than many of our urban plots, but this website is always worth a look. The Middle-Sized Garden youtube channel has 8.22K subscribers..

There is a monthly Middle-sized Garden of the Month; watch the vid below as Alexandra visits The Abbey Physic Garden in March 2018.


This wildlife-friendly garden, the Abbey Physic Community Garden in Faversham, was part of Faversham Abbey before King Henry VIII abolished the monasteries. The garden occupies half an acre in the middle of town and backs onto one of Britain’s most ancient medieval streets.


Through traditional tales, legends, local plant names, sayings, riddles & herbal remedies, this archive tells us about plants. The Compiler is author & lecturer Roy Vickery, a botanist born in rural Dorset who now lives in South London.

The Compiler is available for walks and talks. Upcoming events on his extensive website include a talk on Wonderful Weeds in South Croydon on 5 November, a Woodland Walk fundraiser for the Green Party (East Finchley tube station to Highgate, both on the Northern Line) on Sunday 24 November, & a New Year’s Day Wildflower Hunt in Brockwell Park, London Borough of Lambeth.

“Roy is an experienced lecturer on plant folklore, and is also available to lead walks on the uses and folklore of plants – you provide the weed patch or the hedgerow, he will do the rest. As such events are considered to be important opportunities for collecting new material they are usually given free of charge in the Greater London area, and with only a charge to cover transport elsewhere.”

Roy welcomes information on plants from all parts of the British Isles, ethnic groups settled there, & comparative material from overseas, no matter how widespread and well-known you consider it to be. A copy of all material received will eventually be in the care of the Library of The Natural History Museum. See website for details.

PLANT-LORE . Collecting the folklore and uses of plants .


VICKERY’S FOLK FLORA  An A-Z of the Folklore and Uses of British and Irish Plants, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2019.  A greatly expanded version of the 1995 Dictionary of Plant-lore, with illustrations, increased information on local names, & an attempt to try and record when and where beliefs & practices occurred.

Vickery’s Folk Flora was short-listed for the 2019 Katharine Briggs Folklore Award.

 Roy Vickery, 9 Terrapin Court, Terrapin Road, London SW17 8QW.


In 2009 gardener, writer and photographer Naomi Schillinger helped set up a community gardening scheme at the other end of our North London street, involving over 100 households. The front gardens, window boxes and flower-filled tree pits of these Blackstock Triangle Gardeners have been an inspiration for the rest of us.

On this website Naomi keeps details of the scheme and photos of the gardeners celebrating what they have grown on ‘Cake Sunday’ get-togethers. She lists other recommended websites on her gardening blog, and looks at gardens farther afield that are worth a visit.




bbct logo

The BBCT is a small independent charity that works to help native Bumblebees, who are in decline. Creative fundraising ideas from its membership help the Trust raise public awareness, evolving plans to help Bumblebees. We look more closely at The BBCT on our What You Can Do – For Bees page on the drop-down menu. For details about their work, how to become a member or sign up for their free e-newsletter, see their website.

Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Beta Centre, Stirling University Innovation Park, FK9 4NF


Dave Goulson, scientist, author & founder of The Bumblebee Trust, has downloaded a number of his videos onto youtube. Gardeners will enjoy vids of ‘The Bumblebee Professor’ in his own UK garden, with his choice of pollinator-friendly flowers and various bee hotels, & his wildflower meadow in France.



BUGLIFE LOGOSaving the small things that run the planet

   The Invertebrate Trust

Buglife is a small charity that campaigns to protect bugs and the environment. It involves people in conservation action, learning about and enjoying bugs. Its website includes an e-newsletter, a UK bug map, events, activities, info for schools and young insect lovers, & a bug identifier (What’s that bug?)


This is an online identification guide to True Bugs, of which there are nearly 2,000 species in the UK. The website has a gallery of bugs & information on recording, identifying & going further in bug investigation. Illustrations of the UK Shieldbugs & their instars by Ashley Wood accompany their pages.


butterfly-conservation-logoThis UK-based charity works to save native butterflies & moths from extinction. Through surveys, monitoring & research it promotes gardening that is moth & butterfly-friendly, with advice on conserving & restoring natural habitats vital to butterfly & moth life-cycles.

The free monthly newsletter All-Aflutter has the latest butterfly & moth news, species to look out for, gardening tips & special offers. Photo galleries & A-Z listings on their website can help you identify butterflies & moths :

Butterfly Conservation, Manor Yard, East Lulworth, Wareham, Dorset EH20 5QP.


plume-moth-amblyptilia-acanthadactyla-on-teasel-stalkjuly-2014These tiny T-shaped moths have been plentiful in our garden. They have multiple wings that fit over each other when at rest, and fly in a quirky way – describing corkscrews or zigzags in the air before landing on the underside of a leaf. We have had the occasional Plume Moth whose wingtips look like swirly sand sculptures; there have been a few white Plume Moths, but our most seen species is Amblyptilia acanthadactyla, with what appears to be a stencil design all over wings and thorax. Wikipedia says it is also seen in Iran and Georgia.




bto_logoThis independent charity does research into biodiversity, especially where it concerns birds. Its members, with over 40,000 volunteers & partner organisations, work with scientists to record details of everything from badgers to butterflies, but this is a ‘birds-first’ organisation. The charity publishes journals, including BTO News for members and Bird Table for participants in their Garden Birdwatch Project (in which volunteers keep a weekly record of how many birds they see in their garden).

 BTO free resources projects include The Birdbox Project, which works with teachers to link live footage from video cameras in birdboxes around the UK and Europe. You do not need to register to watch the videos, but if you want to put out a live video from a birdbox in your school, this webpage will help you organise and set it up:

For birdhouse building, siting & cleaning, & how to deter predators, go to


RSPB logo

A major UK charitable organisation working to improve the welfare of birds in this country & abroad. Some familiar British birds are migrants who spend part of each year in other countries. Hunting & changes to the climate & their living places abroad have left many birds facing danger and death once they leave the UK. The RSPB campaigns abroad with partner organisations to improve the welfare of all migratory birds.

For more on the RSPB, see the What You Can Do – For Birds page on the drop-down menu.

Go to

RSPB, The Lodge, Potton Road, Sandy, Bedfordshire SG19 2DL



Founded in 1994 in the small country town of Wem in Shropshire, this specialist supplier of wild bird-related products by mail order delivers birdfood, birdhouses, feeders & other accessories to your door. These items are included in their free feeding guide, along with season-related articles on birds, competitions & more.

Orders can be placed online from The Garden Bird website :

Garden Bird & Wildlife Co, Unit 9 Enterprise Court, Lancashire Enterprise Business Park, Leyland, PR26 6TZ



wildlife-trusts-icon There are 47 individual Wildlife Trusts in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Their goal is to help nature to recover from years of decline, “to inspire people about the natural world so that they value it, understand their relationship with it and take action to protect and restore it.”

A link on their website lets you ‘Raise money for your Wildlife Trust – buy your birdfood from Vine House Farm.’  Every sale of birdfood, bird houses, feeders & accessories from wildlife-friendly Vine House Farm in Lincolnshire supports the Wildlife Trusts. Delivery is free, & the Trusts receive an additional £5 from your first purchase.


FOE work with local groups, experts, business leaders, politicians – campaigning to protect the world we live in.

Those taking part in FOE‘s Great British Bee Count for 2017 spotted 320,337 bees around the UK. 17 May to 30 June 2018 will be the dates for this year’s Great British Bee Count.



The Open University is the largest academic institution in the UK & a world leader in flexible distance learning. Its website, aimed at identifying anything in nature, is called iSpot. It encourages learning via social networking.

ISPOT is free to join. Share wildlife photos from your camera or phonecam along with the location where you took them & contribute to the picture of nature across the UK. If you use a digital camera, your photo’s date will automatically be recorded along with other photo data.


The concept behind this project is deeply critical of Western thinking & practice over the last 2500 years & its separation of human beings from the rest of the natural world. It proposes instead that the universe is a potentially integral whole… Does an urban environment have to be ‘de-natured?’



wt-logoThis charity plants native trees and works to regenerate and protect our woodlands. The campaigns it runs teach the importance of trees to us all, &  its planting plans seek to link remnants of ancient woodland. One of its goals is to get more of us out into the countryside, enjoying a visit to our woodlands.

The Trust’s nature detectives club for children has activities that will get them closer to nature and wildlife:


jorvik-viking-festival-logoJORVIK VIKING CENTRE

Because of our neighbourhood’s Viking connections (See our page Vikings at the Bottom of our Gardens?) we follow events in the North of England, where this Centre was built in York on the site of a 1,000 year-old Viking town.

Each year at February Half Term, Jorvik & the York Archaelogical Trust host Jolablot, the ancient Viking festival heldto herald the coming of spring and the survival of winter hardships’. Over 40,000 visitors come to this, the largest Viking Festival in Europe, attracted by its atmosphere & family-friendly events.  Volunteers come to York from all over the globe to take part in combat reenactment.


Jolablot 2016 with The Vagabrothers on YouTube:



Jolablot 2018

Jorvik Festival 2018: March Down Stonegate – YouTube ~
Events included Have-a-Go Archery & Sword Combat, Viking Age Crafting, & Little Diggers with Ivar the Boneless & his Viking Army. Brew York launched Ragnar’s Revenge – a beer based on Sahti, a historic Finnish ale brewed with traditional ingredients including juniper, fennel & rosemary. The Watlington Hoard of Viking era silver, saved for the nation by the Ashmolean Museum, was brought to York for the festival & remained at Jorvik until 21st May.


Jolablot 2019 

The 35th Jolablot Festival had as its theme ‘The Untold Story of Women in the Viking Age’.


Jolablot 2020 

 Voyages of the Vikings was the theme of Jolablot 36. It was held during a week of wild weather as Storm Dennis battered the country with rain & high winds. See the Highbury’s Past/Vikings at the Bottom of our Gardens? page for more details, including a vid clip from ‘Kodalen Party of 2’ as a young couple chronicles their visit to the Festival.



Coffeehouse print, Pepys era, from Dr Matthew Green, The Lost World of the London Coffeehouse

Once a month Dr Matthew Green conducts walking tours through historical London. We mention his Lost World of the London Coffeehouse tour on our Highbury Barn (tea) page: it includes actors, musicians and free shots of 17thC coffee!    The two-hour tour can also be downloaded as an audio file with Dr Green’s narration, performances by 13 actors and broadside ballads woven into the performance. There is a book, The Lost World of the London Coffeehouse, published by Idler Books.

 For other historical tours – medieval wine, chocolate, & History of London, a six week course taught by Dr Green, go to



gillespie-park-wild-carrot-and-knapweed-front-gates-on-drayton-park-rdThis is a group of volunteers dedicated to protecting and enhancing Gillespie Park, a natural wildllife park and Local Nature Reserve in Islington, North London. They were involved in saving the reserve’s land from development, and work to maintain its special nature for the community. Visit their website to read more about them and possibly consider becoming a Friend yourself.


parkland-walk-the-sprigganThe Parkland Walk is a Local Nature Reserve between Haringey & Islington in North London. Now a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation, it follows the course of a railway line which ran between Finsbury Park & Alexandra Palace. Since the line’s final closure in 1970, many trees & wildflowers have colonised the Parkland Walk, & wildlife is plentiful here. For more, see our Worth A Visit tab on the drop-down menu.

For Wikipedia‘s extensive entry for this Nature Reserve,  go here.

Other websites :  Londonist‘s text and pictures include the highs & the lows of this, London’s longest nature reserve.  And the Friends of the Parkland Walk site shows how many people care about the reserve & what is involved in keeping it up.


This family-friendly Islington charity offers the chance to experience a working farm in the heart of London. At the animal village, where rabbits, chickens & a goat live in painted Wendy houses, children have the opportunity to not only stroke the animals but feed and groom many of them too. The farm has a range of rare animals & many fun things to see and do. School visits are welcomed.


 Nicola Baird interviewed some of those working at the farm for her Islington Faces Blog, which includes photos:


Visit the farm’s own website to see what’s happening there now. You can find out about volunteering or sponsoring an animal, and check on opening times :

Freightliners Farm, Sheringham Road, Islington, North London, Greater London N7 8PF


Released for Christmas 2018, this CD by Richard Rhys O’brien, local resident, singer/songwriter & economist, remembers & celebrates the Highbury Barn Pleasure Gardens. Drawing on over 150 years of its existence, Richard has written 18 songs – performed with friends from Highbury’s Eclectic Voices & musicians from the Harmony Orchestra. The CD comes with a full-colour 38-page booklet of illustrations, maps & lyrics to the songs.

Available from the Highbury Barn Public House & Freightliners Farm, proceeds from sales go to the Mayor’s Charities,  Freightlliners Farm & CARIS Islington.


In London’s Lost Rivers, book and website, Paul Talling investigates waterways that once flowed freely through London but have been overwhelmed by its growth.The author conducts guided walks of London’s lost rivers, streams, canals, docks and wharves, much enjoyed by those who have gone on one. Tickets, limited to 20 per walk, usually sell out months in advance. See website for the guided walks mailing list.

“The time estimate of walks is very rough as I’m in no hurry and these usually result in a social in the pub afterwards. These walks go ahead regardless of the weather – rain or shine, heatwave or arctic conditions! Please note that they are wholly above ground and there will be no subterranean trips down to the sewers! … I have public liability insurance. Well behaved dogs and children are welcome on all tours.”   Paul Talling


London’s Lost Rivers by Paul Talling, 2006 (ISBN: 9781847945976) 




TREE LORE : Elder/Order of Bards and Druids