The habitat Peter and Ann Wilson have created for wildlife and nature on their allotment plot at Three Mile in Gosforth saw them win Most Wildlife Friendly plot in the Newcastle Allotment and Garden Show 2022. They spoke to us about their love for wildlife, and the joy they get from tending to an allotment.
Has supporting wildlife habitats through your allotment plot always been a priority, or has it happened organically over time
Peter: When we first moved onto the plot at Three Mile some fifteen years ago, it actually backed onto the rubbish tip for the site. Over time, Ann did an amazing job of clearing it out, and when we removed the big Willow Tree it made a huge difference to what we could do on the plot.
Because we’d struggle to grow any vegetables at the rear of the plot, Ann started to take more of an interest in how we could support wildlife – planting shrubs and flowers to suit nature.
What animal species regularly visit your allotment at Three Mile?
Ann: We used to see a lot of deer at the allotment site, but they weren’t very popular as they ate people’s flowers and plants. We didn’t have a problem with them visiting; in fact we encouraged it. We did find spraying some of the plants and flowers with garlic helped stop the deer eating them.
A badger comes in to visit quite a bit. Many years ago we had a fox and three cubs that would come onto the plot too. A fox that’s obviously injured its leg in the past is a regular visitor at the moment; it pops in almost every night.
Peter: We’ve also seen Tawny owls, a pair of Jays, a Buzzard, and lots of grey squirrels.
Having lots of wildlife on our plot has actually been really helpful in keeping vermin down across the wider allotment site.
How can other allotment holders support wildlife habitats on their plots?
Peter: We’ve provided other people at Three Mile allotments with plants and flowers they can use to create areas for pollinators on their plots.
Ann: There was a time when most people were just interested in growing vegetables, but now so many more people are interested in flowers and planting, which really helps support nature thrive.
When the other allotment holders found out what we were doing with our site, we all agreed to let the shared areas of the site re-wild, which has been so much better for pollinators.
We’ve planted different shrubs, as well as ivy, hawthorns, hornbeam to support nesting blackbirds too.
Are there any negatives to having a wildlife-friendly allotment plot?
Ann: I don’t think there are. Apart from getting stung by the odd wasp!
How does a thriving wildlife population benefit the wider Three Mile allotment site?
Ann: There are more bees, which help to pollinate all the plots, and because we have foxes visiting the site there are less rats too, which can be a problem when you’re next to water. We’ve actually captured the foxes on camera before, pouncing for the rats.
Peter: We also attract a lot of birds to the site as well, including robins, black birds and pigeons. One of the robins has got so used to Ann that it will sit near her feet. As soon as Ann goes to fill the feeders the birds all show up.
What does it mean to be named Most Wildlife Friendly plot in the Newcastle Allotment and Garden Show 2022?
Peter: From our point of view it’s an added bonus to looking after our plot. We get such joy and pleasure from tending to our allotment.
What are your ambitions for the future? Do you plans to make further improvements to your plot?
Ann: We’re always looking to continue and maintain what we do, but we’re also trying to think about what we could do to improve it; making things better for wildlife and nature.
What do you enjoy most about tending to an allotment?
Ann: It’s in my blood really. My dad and granddad both had allotments so I spent a lot of my childhood on the plots. I love seeing the plants grow and flourish, and I like to go down to our plot everyday. I can’t put it into words really; I just love our allotment.
Peter: I didn’t have any interest in gardening initially. I’m an ex-boxer who liked to watch Newcastle United. Ann got me into gardening and my interest just grew and grew. In fact we both recently achieved our National Certificate in Horticulture after studying part time for two years.
The social side is also really important. Having an allotment is 75% social and 25% gardening. It’s a really safe environment to be in.
Urban Green Newcastle manages more than 60 allotment sites across Newcastle upon Tyne. Find out more here.