Cookstown Wildlife Trust
Founded: November 1960
Talks 2019-2020
8th October ‘’Transforming a Tyrone Desert into a Wildlife Garden’’ Sir Bob Salisbury Our lecture room in Loughry was filled to capacity (35 members) for Sir Bob’s talk to Cookstown Wildlife Trust on Tuesday night 8th October. Sir Bob Salisbury moved to Northern Ireland in 2001 from Sherwood. He was a Professor in the School of Education at the University of Nottingham. Before this, Bob was the Head teacher of The Garibaldi School in Forest Town, Mansfield, Notts. In his career he has received many awards for his work in education. His wife Rosemary, who has a Seskinore background, was the first Woman Principal of Edward VI School in Nottingham. Sir Bob has deservedly received many awards, not just for environmental work but also for his work in education The land they purchased in 2002 was typical boggy Irish land which at times became very wet. It had been over- grazed and misused, and could be quite depressing in winter. His wife described it as a rural desert.They discussed whether they could turn the clock back and create a wildlife area with little knowledge of biodiversity or gardening-it was just a dream. They bought a new camera and started by taking some photographs of the land as it was. They were both aware of the huge reduction in wildflower meadows, lowland woods, heaths and traditional orchards in recent years-largely due to modern agriculture and farming methods. Think about curlews, skylarks, yellowhammers, cowslips and newts and the reduction in their numbers. The first tree bought was a crab apple which fruited after four years. They started by producing a plan, made a study the micro climate, reduced the plan to scale, and produced a design to fit with the house. A list of all the items required in the garden was made and in March 2003 a path requiring 70 loads of stones was created, and drainage carried out as advised. The garden centre in Moy suggested planting hedges first-before building, this turned out to be good advice. Initially, everything looked like a building site but inside the year dormant vegetation grew, a pond was created with a seat and a bird watching hut. A range of trees and shrubs were planted including oak, birch, willow, hawthorn and crab apples, under planted with bluebells. The woodland edge had a path the width of a mower which provided a great habitat and the trees already require coppicing. Meadows were created with wild flowers including poppies and sunflowers, Bob and his wife eventually decided on an Irish wildflower garden. Yellow rattle was suggested as one of the plants-tends to kill coarse grass. Many of the trees were brought as “Throw-outs” from garden centres. Inside a year or so a first barn owl was noted. Wood Pigeons, Buzzards, House Martins, Sparrow- hawks and spotted flycatchers were seen. To date 65 species have been observed, the last one-a Raven. A standing stone was uncovered on the land and has now been moved to the garden. A low maintenance formal garden which can be seen from the kitchen window also attracts many species. A well designed feeder for pheasant, from 1930, was obtained (which rooks cannot get near). An old style shed was built and new land obtained (nine acre field and three acres of woodland). This has now been developed with assistance from the Woodland Trust who provided 4500 trees and pathways. There are two lakes, and signs have been erected to warn children about the lakes. In August 2014 a new lake was created close to three acres of old woodland and this is a fun place for the family. The number of frogs has increased, despite the fact that the buzzards eat them. Herons, otters, newts, Irish hares, pheasants, pine martens, grey squirrels and rabbits have taken residence. The lake has trout, mallards and teal. wood pigeons, jays, cormorants are often seen. In his conclusion Sir Bob pointed out how amateurs can make a difference, wildlife is resilient. Everyone can create their own bee-loud glade. He indicated how good being close to nature is for your mental state. Having a wildlife area like this is really a soap opera-always waiting for the next arrival Sir Bob suggested that the work he had done on Tyrone fields could not have been done in England. This was an inspiring, uplifting talk-interspersed with humorous tales-from a man of vision who was also an excellent speaker. The link below is to a BBC interview with Sir Bob.