Back in October 2014, with help from the Wilden Marshers, I built an insect hotel (basically a square log pile with a waterproof roof) from willow and alder we were coppicing at the time. It is sited on the east bank of North Pond, close to the living otter holt. I intended this part of the North Pasture to be a rough and wild place, and even thought about constructing a hurdle fence around the area to keep the cattle out, but the fence didn’t happen. Fortunately, the cattle have not tried to demolish this insect log pile, but they have roughed up the living otter holt.
Solitary bees moved in quite quickly, and one of them took a particular liking to Mike Averill: it dived into his shirt and stung him. Over the last two years I’ve kept an eye on this insect hostelry, and during late summer of last year I realised that trade was really quite good. Hornets regularly flew in and out, maybe hunting bees, and dragonflies visited frequently. I saw a polecat, masked like a burglar, cautiously entering. There are frogs and toads in there and a heron often perches on the roof – maybe he’s security. Wrens fly in and out. A Robin dances on its outer surfaces, and butterflies enjoy the views whilst sunning themselves on the balconies.
Today I noticed a new pond side ground floor entrance, made by something otter sized. I’m not saying an otter has checked in, but it might have.
I think this project shows that manmade habitats can succeed when they fulfil the requirements of the intended customers; if service is also adequate, guests might be willing to return year after year. I dare say that there are a few residents already overwintering here.
A similar hotel might prove beneficial in the swamp. There is plenty of brash in there from recent coppicing, and it can be constructed close to the Riverside Pasture boundary. I have to say, though, that not all my aspirations and plans see the light of day.