About the BLUE campaign
The BLUE campaign was set up in 2014 as a pilot site in Chipping Sodbury by Wildlife filmmaker and nature enthusiast Fergus Beeley. The intention was to promote urban and semi-urban rewilding in gardens, road verges, and parks. Essentially, the aim was to get people to move away from intensive lawn management and embrace ecologically-minded gardening through passive rewilding. BLUE now acts as a platform for people to share ideas, success stories and images of their rewilded sites, as well as to provide scientific evidence as to why rewilding is a benefit to nature as well as people. We’re all unified under the blue heart symbol (blue simply because it stands out against green grass!) which shows people that a piece of land is being used for nature, not just being neglected. Having now almost reached 6000 followers with over 150 sites across the UK we have the potential to make a real difference to wildlife.
What does rewilding mean to you?
Rewilding can be interpreted in so many different ways and is often pretty context or socio-economic dependent. For me, it’s about reinstating ecological processes that remove the need for constant human intervention. Rewilding can kick-start all those little interactions which have been lost to food webs and create a shifting, dynamic habitat that can withstand the current climate challenges. This can be done through active or passive rewilding. The active side (reintroducing lost species) may not work in an urban garden, however passive rewilding, which we practice at BLUE, does. I think about rewilding like this; it’s not just about ecology, but about rewilding a mindset. It’s about letting go of control and embracing the unknown and unpredictability of nature, even in urban spaces.
How can rewilding apply to gardens and green spaces?
For rewilding in gardens and green spaces, it’s all about creating variation in habitats. You look at some parks and it’s all standard lawn, not letting grass grow beyond a few cm before the mowers are out again. This creates a pretty monotone environment which isn’t attractive to many species. The trick is to create variation; leave sections of the park or garden to grow wild by just stepping back. Let grass grow and different flowers establish. This will attract animals that require long grass for shelter as well as foraging opportunities. Other sections can be mown less frequently, again creating variation for species that prefer meadows. If every garden does this alongside green spaces, there is the opportunity for a network of connected habitats. What may have been an island oasis in one garden, can become part of a bustling ecological corridor through towns if everyone gets involved.
Rewild your garden and add a blue heart to show you’re part of the BLUE Campaign movement
What are some barriers people and communities face when trying to rewild green spaces?
The biggest barrier is people not realising that what is being done is rewilding, rather than neglect or abandonment. This can sometimes lead to people saying gardens or parks are messy, but that’s really not the case! Those spaces left to wild are so important, not just for animals and plants, but the health of the soil and surrounding area. It gives people the chance to see wildlife up close and really feel a part of nature. We of course recognise that public parks are just that, public, and in urban spaces fulfil many roles. Because of this we recommend integrating rewilding with the community e.g. mowing paths through the rewilded site so people can get close to nature, putting up blue hearts to make it look intentional, and getting people involved in the conversation.
How can people take part in the BLUE campaign?
It’s easy! If you own a garden, just set aside 30-50% of your lawn to go wild, add some habitats like log piles, wildlife ponds etc, and abandon the use of chemical pesticides. Another thing would be thinking like a grazer or rootling pig by turfing up clods of dirt. This’ll aerate the soil and provide habitats for butterflies and emerging plant species. You can then stick in a blue heart which you can buy at our shop (https://bluecampaignshop.co.uk/) or make your own (people get really creative). You can then send us a photo of your site to our busy Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/bluecampaignhub.
If you’re a council and want to join our growing network then you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you.
If space is limited, how might people achieve rewilding in their gardens? And if they don’t have a garden?
If you have limited space, don’t worry, there’s still things you can do to make your garden wildlife friendly. Even setting aside a 1m X 1m patch of your garden will create variation and resources for insects. Creating a hedgehog highway can also be a great way of expanding the effect of your wild space, which you can do by creating a hedgehog sized hole in a garden fence. This will mean that even a smaller garden can become connected to a larger wildlife corridor. If you don’t have a garden, you can still get involved. A window box or balcony can be a great opportunity to plant native flowers which are beneficial to pollinators, rather than ornamental species which, while they look nice don’t provide enough resources for insects.
If you want you can take it further than your front door. Road verges and parks are a brilliant resource for so many plant and animal species, so create a community group and write to your council. Even if you don’t have your own space, you can influence your town to adopt more wildlife friendly practices, which BLUE can support and encourage.
What are your thoughts on ‘weeds’ in the garden?
I’m going to use the old saying that a weed is just a flower growing in the wrong place. We sometimes have the misconception that a dandelion or nettle is a sign of a bad gardener, but these plants play a crucial role in different food webs. Nettles act as larval food points for butterfly species like small tortoishell and peacock butterflies and can attract insect loving wildlife like hedgehogs and shrews. Dandelions are one of the most important food source for emerging queen bumblebees. They may not be as bright or as colourful as some flowers, but these plants are a sign that your garden is on its way to be teeming with wildlife. When I look at my own rewilded garden with all its weeds, I don’t see mess, I see life.
What are some must-have plants for wildlife in the garden?
Often a rewilded garden, when encouraged, will establish plants and wildflowers that are most suited to that environment. Species like birds-foot trefoil, meadow buttercups, wild grasses, red clover, and greater knapweed can be great resources for a variety of insects alongside species like common sorrel and common nettle. These plants, because of their ability to attract and support insects can also help in pollinating any other flowers or vegetables you have growing in your garden.
To read more about the BLUE Campaign and to take part visit https://bluecampaignhub.com/