New ‘Sisters’ Garden’ opens at RSPB Flatford Wildlife Garden in East Bergholt

Head gardener Shirley Sampson opening Sisters' Garden

Head gardener Shirley Sampson opening Sisters' Garden - Credit: Archant

A new area of the RSPB Flatford Wildlife Garden at East Bergholt, called Sisters’ Garden, was officially opened on Tuesday complete with wildlife pond and freshly-created invertebrate habitats.

The pond and boardwalk at Sisters' Garden Picture: Clare Westley

The pond and boardwalk at Sisters' Garden Picture: Clare Westley - Credit: Archant

The new garden, jointly funded by Essex & Suffolk Water, and Dedham Vale AONB Sustainable Development Fund, has been designed with nature and wildlife in mind, and uses sustainable design principles including the inclusion of drought tolerant plants and a rainwater harvesting system.

Named after sisters Sylvia and Margaret Richardson, who bequeathed the garden to the RSPB in their wills nearly 20 years ago, the Sisters’ Garden is both a memorial to their love of nature and a living legacy for wildlife and the people who visit the garden to experience and enjoy it.

Since being filled with water this spring, the new pond has already been colonised by wildlife including newts, greater diving beetles, and water boatmen, which visitors are able to see from the boardwalk built around it.

Head gardener at Flatford Wildlife Garden, Shirley Sampson, who designed the garden, said she hoped visitors to the new space would take a few ideas away with them for their garden.

A view across Sisters' Garden

A view across Sisters' Garden - Credit: Archant


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She said: “I was delighted to be entrusted with the design of this garden. In my vision, it is a tranquil space where people can relax and be surrounded by a beautiful garden, which is also alive - bees and butterflies amongst the flower borders, and dragonflies flitting overhead and swooping over the pond.

“As with the rest of Flatford Wildlife Garden, I hope that people will be inspired to adopt one or two simple ideas in their own gardens to help our struggling garden creatures.”

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East Anglia is one of the driest areas of the country, with an annual rainfall in 2017 half that of the UK average. With water conservation in mind, the garden’s design incorporates a 7,500 litre underground water tank, which collects and stores rainwater from the adjacent barn for use in the garden in periods of low rainfall.

Plants in the borders have been chosen because they can provide a long season of nectar and pollen to help bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

Members of Cobnuts Co-operative who created the People's Wall for Wildlife Picture: Susie Jenkins

Members of Cobnuts Co-operative who created the People's Wall for Wildlife Picture: Susie Jenkins - Credit: Archant

Another stand out feature of the garden is the new People’s Wall for Wildlife, built by Cobnuts Co-operative with the help of local community groups. Using traditional building materials of flint, cob and thatch, combined with pottery sculptures made by local groups, the wall provides living spaces for insects and invertebrates.

Site manager for RSPB Stour Estuary Reserves, Rick Vonk, added: “We are grateful to Essex and Suffolk Water, and the Dedham Vale AONB Sustainable Development Fund, for supporting the project; to Cobnuts, who created the wonderful People’s Wall for Wildlife; and also our amazing volunteers who have dug in to help us create this fantastic space for wildlife and people.

“And not forgetting Sylvia and Margaret Richardson, without whose generous legacy this wonderful garden would not exist. We hope it continues to inspire people with ideas that they can take home and re-create in their own garden, as well as being a space for everyone to enjoy the wonders of the natural world around them.”

The garden is open every day from 10.30 am to 4.30 pm throughout the autumn. Special events planned for the coming weeks include Apple Day - an apple-themed wildlife day on Sunday September 23 and half-term activities from Monday October 22 to Friday October 26.

A period photograph of the Richardson Sisters who bequesthed the space for the Sisters' Garden

A period photograph of the Richardson Sisters who bequesthed the space for the Sisters' Garden - Credit: Archant

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