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The Hayes’ biodiversity

July 2023


At The Hayes, we are proud of our attention to wildlife and care for our environment. It is home to a variety of animals such as snakes, owls, various birds, rabbits and much more! We spoke with Louis Adlington, one of our dedicated gardeners, about The Hayes’ biodiversity.

Louis Adlington gardening on a slope behind the Main Conference Hall.

Louis Adlington gardening behind the Main Conference Hall at The Hayes.

‘I think it is really important that anyone managing a large area of land takes a mindful approach to how they affect the natural ecosystem.’

‘Each year a number of insects, amphibians, reptiles and mammals make The Hayes their home, and I am conscious of this in each decision I make while maintaining the gardens. The way I approach this is by correct timing of tasks, leaving enough space undisturbed, as well as creating additional habitats in quieter areas. I also don’t use insecticide and use a very limited amount of herbicide.’

‘This kind of approach may sound complex but all it means is that during the nesting season, no intrusive hedge-cutting is done, and any hedge-cutting that is required is only done after a thorough inspection of the hedge for any active nests.’

‘In regards to creating habitats, this is as simple as leaving piles of brash (branches and other prunings) out of sight, rather than dragging it all off to be burned. I make compost piles from leaves and grass clippings that not only provide me with useful organic matter to feed the life in our soil but are also used by mammals, snakes and birds for cover and foraging.’

An up-close image of a planted hedgerow at The Hayes with a plastic support

A closer look at our planted hedgerow at The Hayes.

‘I used to find it difficult to avoid insecticides until I learnt that most of a chick's diet is made up of invertebrates. It isn't a coincidence that you notice a large increase of aphids and other sapsucking insects on your plants just as the nesting season begins. It can be hard to watch your plants being eaten but given a couple of weeks, numbers soon drop right down as they are taken by parent birds and other insect predators. The plants can then recover.’

‘If you kill off all the aphids and caterpillars, you’ll have fewer birds. You'll also have no pollinating moths or butterflies. The best approach to healthy plants is to maintain good soil management and feeding, allowing them to fight off pest damage.’

‘At The Hayes, there are a number of wilder areas that are mostly unmanaged or managed very lightly to remove unwanted plant species. I try to allow for a variety of grassland habitats so that we can maximise the types of wild grasses and flowers. If you let it all grow out, the grass will eventually outcompete most other plants which certain insects depend on.’

A sign placed amongst wild grass and flowers that says, 'I may look a mess but I am full of wildlife!'

Our dedicated wildflower area near the Chapel is an initiative by A Rocha UK, our environmental partner.

Wild grass and flowers in front of the walkway up to the Chapel at The Hayes

‘So, I feel it is best to have some lawns that are cut regularly, areas around the large lake that I cut every one or two months, spaces like the wildflower area by the Chapel which I cut once a year, and wild spots on the very edge of the site which are never cut (a great habitat for ground nesting birds as long as the brambles are cut back).’

‘It's worth noting the work the maintenance team carried out last year planting out new areas of hedgerow. Once established the new hedges will be a safe haven for all kinds of insects and animals. Several nesting boxes have also been put up around the site.’

A bird box with a green roof attached to an evergreen tree at The Hayes centre.

‘I have plans in the future to continue improving the biodiversity of the centre. It’s a tricky balance to create a beautiful garden aesthetic whilst maintaining the habitats of our wild creatures, but certainly doable.’

We’re always seeking to improve our ecological footprint and help nature to thrive. In 2022, The Hayes became a Partner-In-Action, and has introduced several environmentally friendly projects since. Learn more about our sustainability.


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