There was only one scyther, wielding a very sharp scythe. She was Beth, a professional scyther who also teaches her skills for the National Trust. She told me that she had once scythed at Highgrove, the home of the Prince of Wales, and she had never seen a better equipped garden. She was a very friendly professional and made me wonder what other old skills could generate new employment if wildlife gardening became even more commonplace than it is beginning to be. Following Beth came the volunteers, who picked up the grasses and stacked them, ready to be taken away by the City of London for composting. Taking the grass away is just as important as cutting it, as a good wildlife meadow thrives on poor soil. No mulching required for this garden meadow: that's reserved for the hedges. One volunteer had gathered a bunch of grasses to take home, and laid it on a bench.
The bees and the butterflies really enjoy the space, so much so that a wild bees' nest had been discovered in the middle of the meadow - its spot marked by a wayward traffic cone. But such is the attraction of the meadow that there are often more frogs there than in the pond, built three years ago. Maybe this is because they can hide from marauding mallards in the grass more effectively than in the pond. Although the main problem with visiting mallard ducks is that they are very partial to a mouthful of frogspawn.
Introducing water has really increased the biodiversity of the garden. Tall plants, such as Meadowsweet, Hemp Agrimony and Fleabane, give height and structure to the planting around the pond. Some plants from the original planting, such as Ragged Robin and Lady's Smock, have been smothered by others, but many marginals survived, including Marsh Marigold, Bugle,Brookline, Flowering Rush, Marsh Woundwort, Lesser Spearwort, Yellow Loosestrife and the irrepressible Forget-me-not.
There is more to the garden than just the meadow and the pond. There is a cottage garden, a long sunny, pollinator friendly bed, and a wonderfully maintained hedgerow, cultivated as a sanctuary for the birds. Bird feeding is taken really seriously and you can follow the activities of the birds on Twitter via Barbican Birds (@barbicanbirds). Each distinct area has a 'champion' and these volunteers are the real garden stars, who love and nurture their areas and oversee their successful development. The volunteers come from the Barbican Wildlife Group (the BWG), under the direction of the Barbican Estate Office and Working with City Gardens.
Some trees and plants started life on a balcony of a Barbican flat, others have been donated by the Woodland Trust, such as the Spindle tree shown above with its distinctive pink berries, and Islington Gardeners, to name but two donors.
This is definitely a garden to put on your wish list for June 13-14 2015, when it will welcome visitors again for the Open Garden Squares Weekend.
Further information on visiting Fann Street Wildlife Garden on Open Garden Squares Weekend