Great Dixter Biodiversity Audit 2017-2019

The garden at Great Dixter is known for the way in which it merges the natural and the cultivated world. Its long grass, scattered ponds, old walls and changing flower borders provide a rich environment for all manner of fauna and flora.

Christopher Lloyd had a deep knowledge and understanding of the wildlife around him and his gardening was influenced by their needs. When the meadows were cut he would leave a buffer zone for insects and coppicing the woods was arranged around the nesting habits of woodpeckers. Care and respect for the natural world has been embedded in the way that Great Dixter operates since the Lloyd family bought the property in 1910.

Honeybee and Helenium Sahin's Early Flowerer

Nowadays meadow cutting is delayed until insect activity has slowed down and the seeds are set. Dense colonies of common spotted orchids have come to populate grass in both garden and fields. Chain harrowing and strewing has brought sheep pasture back to a predominantly floral landscape. Woodland rides are scalloped at the edges to allow heat and light for insects. In the garden seedheads are left for the birds to feed on in winter. Through practices such as these Great Dixter has set a trend in the horticultural world.

In August 2017 a £30,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and support from two private donors provided the funds to run a biodiversity audit of the garden and estate that would add weight to this message. Over the last 18 months surveys and assessments have been made by specialists who have looked at the grassland and hedgerows, lichens, mosses, ancient woodland, birds, mammals, reptiles, spiders, butterflies and other insect life as well as examining the historic landscape and how this has affected the fauna and flora that exists today.  Local and national biological recording groups and volunteers have also taken part and staff have received training in ongoing monitoring.

Wasp Spider

The findings are now being evaluated for what they show about habitat diversity and connectivity and the further opportunities that are presented. These results will influence the way the site is managed in future, balancing the needs of wildlife, access, gardening and forestry.

98% of species rich meadows have been lost since the last war. Fergus Garrett and the Great Dixter Charitable Trust want gardens and horticulture to play a part in addressing this loss by enhancing the environment in which wildlife can flourish and by promoting the essential co-operation between man and nature. The survey is the first stage in making this happen at Great Dixter and will hopefully set an example for gardens elsewhere.

For more information about the Great Dixter biodiversity audit please contact Victoria Williams or telephone 01797 254048.