Your questions answered

I'm really busy. How much time will it take to be part of Wild Wanstead?

One of the great things about wildlife gardening is that it can be very low maintenance if you want it to be. A few wildlife-friendly plants and shrubs in a flowerbed take almost no effort, look great and can make a big difference in providing food and homes for creatures like bees, butterflies, other insects and birds. So if you're short of time, why not start by adding a few Star Plants? Buying plants online for delivery to your door makes things really easy. Other options that take almost no time include having a wild lawn, sowing wildflower seed mix onto patches of bare earth (or even gravel) and growing ivy up fences.

Will it cost a lot of money to get involved?

It depends on what you want to do, but you don't need to spend much, if anything. Small plants and seeds are cheap to buy or you could swap and share with friends. You could let a corner of your garden grow a bit wild, add a compost heap or create a log pile for next to nothing.

What can I do if my garden is hard surfaced?

There's plenty you can do to green up areas of hard surfacing that aren't in use... add pots or containers, put plants in gaps in paving, or bring gravel / slate areas back to life. See 10 Wild Ways guide and Star Plants for ideas.

My outdoor area is so small - is it really worth it?

In a word, yes. Your area might be small, but wildlife is struggling to find a home in London and even a single container of plants for bees and pollinating insects is a valuable habitat. Wild Wanstead will have the biggest impact if as many people as possible add their space to the jigsaw of the nature reserve, however big or small.

Do wildlife gardens have to look messy?

Not at all! You can invite nature into any garden design. To help wildlife, certain plants and / or features need to be included, but the look and style is up to you. If you want something low maintenance, wild gardens are an excuse to let go a little. But neat gardens are just as good - neat pots of wildflowers, neat log piles, neat borders, neat leaf piles. In fact, a clipped hedge is often denser and hence a better nesting site than one left to grow wild.

There are lots of parks in Wanstead - why are gardens needed to help wildlife?

We're lucky that Wanstead is enclosed by areas of forest and parkland. But these green spaces are increasingly disconnected and fragmented as the land in between them becomes more developed and hard surfaced. Improving the habitat offered by gardens in built-up areas of Wanstead will help create a vital green corridor linking the Flats, Wanstead Park, Epping Forest and the River Roding, so that birds, insects and other creatures can more easily find a home and move around - essential to sustain and regenerate their populations.

How will Wild Wanstead benefit the community?

Increasing nature in cities is associated with loads of benefits for people as well as wildlife. For example, hedges can reduce pollution by blocking dirty air from roads. Air pollution is a leading cause of cancer and increases the risk of respiratory and heart diseases. It causes an estimated 40,000 early deaths every year and is worse in London than anywhere else in the UK. The link between contact with nature and improved health and wellbeing is well established. Urban green spaces have been shown to be beneficial for mental health and sleep, as well as reducing heart disease, obesity and the risk of type 2 diabetes. Green spaces improve schoolchildren's mental development and greener surroundings at home and school increase children's working memory and reduce inattentiveness (partly because of the effect on air pollution). Research in America found that living somewhere with trees in the street or in front gardens made properties worth much more.

There's already wildlife in Wanstead isn't there? Does it really need my help?

We're lucky because there still is wildlife in Wanstead and some London birds are even on the increase (like goldfinches), but the overall trend is of serious decline for many species (see Why wildlife needs you). But you can make a difference. Take hedgehogs. Latest data suggests the decline in their numbers from around an estimated 30 million in the 1950s to one million today may have levelled off amoung urban populations. Public efforts to improve garden habitats and connectivity might be giving them a chance. Overall, almost two thirds of the UK's wildlife species have declined in the last 50 years and more than one in 10 species is threatened with extinction. Britain is considered one of the most nature-depleted countries in the entire world. As David Attenborough said in the 2016 State of Nature report, "Our wonderful nature is in serious trouble and it needs our help as never before."

I'm planning to use my garden to build an extension - can I still be part of Wild Wanstead?

We reckon you should be part of Wild Wanstead because you're planning an extension! Building extensions, driveways and patios doesn't have to be bad news for wildlife. One of the principles of the Government's 25-Year Environment Plan is the idea of achieving 'net environmental gain' whenever land is developed. You may need room to extend your house or park your car, but incorporating wildlife-friendly planting, hedges or trees etc in the space that's left can mean that, overall, your outdoor space is a better wildlife habitat than ever before.