Review of Wild about Gardens Awards 2018

Wild About Gardens

A review of 2018

Thanks to everyone who took part in Wild About Gardens 2018

Our volunteer advisors visited almost all 209 entries. 

 40 ‘Gold’ plaques were presented plus certificates for 33 Silver Gilt, 54 Silver, 48 Bronze and 13 Commended Awards.

There is no automatic award merely for entering, but those who didn't achieve Commended were provided with advice on how they could make their garden more wildlife friendly. We look forward to welcoming them as part of the 2019 scheme and seeing the changes they have made.

Thanks to those of you who sent donations. This money will be put to good use in training new Wild About Gardens volunteers for future years.

Thanks to the generous support of our lead sponsor Optivo we were able to run a Celebration Event for the whole of Kent . Over 300 people joined us including many from community groups who brought colourful displays.

There is no overall winner, apart of course from Kent's Wildlife, but we would like to highlight the following "special" awards which were chosen by our sponsors:

Thanks to our volunteer photographers and some of the gardeners who provided images of the gardens.

Headline image courtesy of David Jenner

The Garden with the Best Buzz - sponsored by Bumblebee Conservation Trust

Annie Begley, near Canterbury

BBCT comments:

"This garden was chosen because it had something in flower all year round, plenty of long grass for over wintering queens to nest, water and no pesticides or herbicides used".

Photos by Annie Begley

The Best Water wise Wildlife Garden 

Melonie Pentecost, Ashford

Volunteer Advisor's comments:

"A long thin urban garden packed full of plants providing year round colour, many of which had been chosen because they are drought tolerant. All rainwater is recycled into storage containers (also recycled) and even in the dry summer of 2018, no tap water was needed. Melonie has a pond which is very important for all wildlife. She also grows vegetables and never resorts to chemical pest control. A delightful oasis in a busy town."

Photos by Teresa Clark

The Best Garden for Wild Birds 2018 sponsored by Unipet

Roger and Rosemarie Crampton, Strood

Volunteer advisor's comments:

" A happy garden for people as well as wildlife. Layering of trees and shrubs provides good cover. All garden waste is composted and added to the soil to encourage invertebrates for ground feeding birds to eat. A substantial mini beast hotel provides shelter for insects. Water, a vital part of any wildlife friendly garden is plentiful and all bird baths as well as feeders are kept scrupulously clean"

Photos by Richard and Sandra Pilborough

The Jewel in the Town (best urban wildlife garden) 

Donna Buckingham

Volunteer advisor's comments:

"The front garden is planted with a mixture of shrubs and herbaceous perennials providing an important corridor for wildlife in a busy street. There is a nice big rear garden with mixed planting and allowing space for Donna's young son to play. The pond is protected by means of an ingenious safety grid and the whole family take pleasure in watching the various creatures who visit. Donna is a firm believer in reduce, reuse, recycle. All plants are grown from seeds or cuttings some of which she keeps in containers instead of expensive bedding plants. There is a home made hedgehog feeding station. Donna is keen to learn more about all of the wildlife she sees in her garden and enjoys sharing her knowledge with the family."

Photos by Richard & Sandra Pilborough

Top of the Plots (Best wildlife friendly allotment)

Sandown Road Allotments, Sandwich

Sandown rd allots

Over the past few years there has been an increase in entries from allotments. We are relieved to find more and more vegetable gardeners moving away from using harmful chemicals and instead trying out different "organic" methods of controlling pests and diseases.

Site representative Susan Harvey said:

"It has been a team effort. We have worked hard to improve our site for wildlife.

Some of the main features we've created are a pond, bug hotel and wood piles. We've also left some areas wild to allow grasses to grow. The creates a home for beneficial insects which keep the aphids in check and off our brassicas!

We have six bee hives and grow flowers for different seasons, providing vital food for pollinators all year.

We've also taken in two rescued hedgehogs which we've named Fortnum and Mason!

The secret of our success is using organic practices. We don't use any chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilisers

Photo: members of the Allotment group receiving their award from Optivo's Jane Porter.

Best Young Wildlife Gardeners

Penenden Heath Pre School, Maidstone



Young wildlife gardeners plaque

Volunteer advisor's comments:

"The work done by the staff with these 3 to 4 year olds in truly inspirational. The garden is used daily. Children are able to name wildlife visitors. Its an excellent example of how a small space can be developed for use by children and wildlife like."

Owing to current Data protection regulations, we regret that we are unable to show images of the garden

Best dragon garden (For reptiles and amphibians) sponsored by Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group.

Maria Harle, near Marden

KRAG comments:

The owners are very interested in nature and readily experiment to find the best ways to look after their land for wildlife. The garden is not heavily managed, but instead has evolved over the years and has been encouraged to ‘go a bit wild’. This is a garden which invites wild creatures to visit and because it is not overly managed they stay !

Dragon friendly  Habitat(s)  in the garden

  • Quite well shaded with orchard trees, native hedgerows and overgrown shrub s.
  • Three ponds, plus ditches and a small brook.
  • Lots of log piles, a naturalised damp rockery, vegetation piles, large compost  area and edge undergrowth areas.
  • Sunnier clearings and animal grazed short grassland.

Suitability for Amphibians

Because of the high number of ponds, general dampness, shaded hidden undisturbed areas, log piles, damp ditch and adjacent brook, this garden is great for amphibians.

  • Large numbers of common toads are regularly seen, along with common frogs, smooth and palmate newts.

Photos by Maria Harle

The Best New or Renovated Pond sponsored by Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group

Lorenden Preparatory School, near Faversham

KRAG comments:

"This pond was renovated in 2017.  It is a relatively large, rectangular pond that is butyl lined, with a variety of plants, situated in a partially shaded wildlife garden within the school.

A raised decking platform allows pupils access around the perimeter of the pond for observations and pond dipping. We were impressed that the raised platform has been used to its greatest potential, with the space underneath filled with large logs, providing immediate shelter and excellent foraging habitat for frogs, toads and newts.

The water quality within the pond was good, with an abundance of invertebrate life. Pond plants, relatively shallow edges and crevices in the liner provide great habitat for amphibians to emerge and bask in sheltered safety.  

Safety of the children and practicality has been carefully considered, with a wildlife friendly netting attached to the decking suing metal clips, meaning that it can be rolled back easily for pond dipping sessions. This is a great example of how to create a beautiful wildlife pond for children to enjoy and engage with safely.

The area surrounding the pond provides ideal terrestrial habitat for amphibians year-round, including shaded long grassland and brash piles. The children and staff have created an area of ‘Logs for Frogs’ which is a great way of encouraging them to create and look after this wildlife area, whilst also providing functional amphibian micro-habitats. There is also a ‘Reptile Rockery’ which provides shelter and basking opportunities for grass snakes that may occasionally use the pond for foraging.

Overall, a great learning resource for the children and a brilliant example of habitat creation for our common native amphibians.




Kent Bat Group Best for Bats 

Jackie and Stephen Day, Maidstone


Best for bats

Kent Bat Group's comments:

"The garden was designed completely with wildlife in mind, but not forgetting space for the garden owners to enjoy their beautiful garden in all seasons."

Jackie and Stephen receiving their award from Shirley Thompson of Kent Bat Group. Photo by Weng Lim

Kent Mammal Group Best Garden for Hedgehogs

Ian and Lynda Boorman, Tonbridge

hedgehog plaque

Volunteer advisors comments:

"This is a new entry.  Lynda first said she didn’t think her garden would be good enough! And then she proceeded to tell me about the hedgehogs…

Lynda has an elderly neighbour and they agreed to leave a gateway in their back fences so they can garden together. Lynda helps manage her garden and they regularly chat.

The garden is on a quiet housing estate near an area of woodland and surrounded by other gardens. The householders are a real community of wildlife gardeners who often meet for coffee and chat. Each sharing details of visiting hedgehogs specifically, and many birds.

It's great to see neighbours all pulling together to help the hedgehogs."


The Optivo Nature's Champion

Deborah Neeves



Deborah Neeves and Jane Porter

This was a new award for 2018. Our Volunteers came across lots of community gardens, road verges, schools, etc where the work was being driven by ONE PERSON, sometimes single handed.

Deborah is a Teaching Assistant at a school on the Isle of Sheppey who has been developing and running a gardening club with very little support or resources, yet she remains totally committed and enthusiastic. An inspiration to the children in her care.

Deborah Neeves receiving her award from Jane Porter of Optivo. Photo by Weng Lim