Wildlife at the Hospice

One of the joys of working as a gardener, especially in a large garden, is that you get to see a lot of wildlife. In the twelve months that I have been working at the hospice, I have seen frogs, newts, kingfishers and herons (probably why the fish seem to have disappearded), moorhens, buzzards, pheasants and roe deer, to name just a few.

I saw the pheasants today. They are regular visitors to the hospice garden, in the search for food. We have numerous bird feeders outside the patients rooms, which give a huge amount of pleasure to the patients and their families. When you are stuck inside due to ill health it can be very frustrating. Watching the birds feeding outside your bedroom window is very relaxing and therapeutic. We get various tits and finches feeding from the bird stations. They’re messy eaters, leaving seed all over the flower beds. Some of these germinate into various grasses and other plants (yes I know we should probably pay more and get the stuff that won’t germinate), but a lot of the seed on the ground is eaten by the pheasants, or grey squirrels. Earlier in the year, there were only two pheasants. But they had chicks, and now there are five. This afternoon they were all present, hunting for seed for well over an hour. At one point I noticed them chilling out, the male on the ground and two of the now big chicks stood on a picnic table. I had to get my camera from my campervan for a photoshoot, and luckily they were still there on my return.


The hospice is situated next to Amberswood Common , which is 160 hectares of former open cast mines and landfill sites. It is now a nature reserve and is a mix of woodland, grasslands and marshes. There are also ponds of various sizes, known as the Wigan Flashes. Amberswood is home to much wildlife, including the rare Willow Tit. Wigan is home to 10% of the UK’s willow tit population. A patient said that they had seen one in the garden earlier in the year, but I cannot confirm that. Something I can confirm though is the presence of roe deer, because I saw them just before Christmas last year. I like to think that it was Ruddolf and friends checking out the hospice. They were very nervous, but I did manage to get a very poor photo of one of them.


Patients regularly see the deer in the gardens very early in the morning, before I arrive at work. Occassionally the patients come up to me to tell me of their sighting. They are always very excited, and rightly so.

It is important that we encourage wildlife to our gardens. At the hospice we are developing a new area in the garden, which is going to be called The Amberswood Garden. It looks out onto the common and is going to consist of mainly wildflowers. These will hopefully encourage many insects and other wildlife.

In just over two weeks time we are opening our gardens to the public. So if anyone would like to visit, you’d be more than welcome. They are open on Sunday 10th September 10am – 4pm. It would be lovely to see you then. In the meantime, I have a lot of weeding to do!

A Review of July

Another month has passed by so I thought it was time for an update on my gardening at the hospice.

I am back from my holiday in Croatia and a good time was had by all. The weather was excellent, the food was excellent, the sightseeing was excellent and the company was alright too! One of the first things that I noticed as I stepped off the plane, after having been hit by the wall of hot air, was how brown and barren everywhere looked. It is the same in many Mediterranean countries. This is obviously the direct result of a lack of rain. By contrast, as you fly back to Manchester, you can’t help but notice how wonderfully green our lovely country is – obviously a result of too much rain! And boy has it been raining a lot since I got back.

The hospice gardens are looking fab, if I say so myself. The raised beds that we planted up at the end of June are looking glorious. I get so many comments from staff and visitors on how nice they are looking. I really appreciate being appreciated –  it is so rewarding, in a way that money isn’t always (although I do still want to be paid, if my boss is reading this!).

Raised Beds

We have had another large group of volunteers working with us last week. This time they were from Wigan Councils “Green Space’s” team, and  they were very useful to have around! 15 people came for two whole days, so we got masses done. They painted 5 benches, constructed 4 more, they made 3 composting bins out of old pallets, trimmed all the hedges and did some weeding. THANK YOU! It was also good to spend some time with the managers, including an assistant director, who were volunteering too. We were able to build some good links, and they will hopefully be able to support us again in the future.

Composting Bins

Wigan Council Volunteers

I was especially pleased to have the composting bins made. The soil quality isn’t great at the hospice, with lots of clay, so it is good to add compost to improve its structure. This can be quite expensive, so hopefully we can save some money by making our own.

There are so many plants that are flowering at the moment, including the crocosmia, rudbeckia, salvias and lavenders. But I want to make a special mention for two flowers that I have noticed this week. The first is an Aquilegia, I think! (If it isn’t, and you know what it is, please message me). And the second is Inula hookeri, with its wonderfully flamboyant flowers.


Inula hookeri

The Inula, appeared in the garden this year for the first time, without knowingly being plant by me or any of the volunteers. We think that it has hitched a ride with another plant that one of the volunteers brought in earlier in the year. What a bonus!

There is plenty of weeding and tidying to be getting on with at the moment. We are also preparing to open the gardens up for the National Garden Scheme on September 10th, so I am making sure that each area is going to be at its best. If anyone wants to come and visit the gardens you’d be more than welcome.

Until next time, happy gardening!