A car park doesn’t have to be just for cars - you can have nature as well! Phase 2 of our operation to create great wildlife habitat from what was a mundane car park involved replanting.

Replanting is always a nice stage to be at. The aim was to create a diverse mix of habitats, from broadleaf and conifer woodland, through shrubby woodland, to scrub and open grassland. All of these can support the widest possible range of native wild plants, insects, birds, fungi, amphibians, reptiles, and small mammals.

In order to do this we primarily used native tree and shrub species. Many of the young plants we used were obtained on site. Once the system was up and running we had jays and squirrels harvesting, burying and then forgetting acorns, hazel nuts and field maple seeds from the first sites we planted up, doing some of the work for us. With care, we can grow on and transplant the resulting young plants into our newly cleared areas, and so expand the overall area of native woodland very easily and cheaply.

We under planted with woodland wildflowers, too. These we carefully transplanted from the very precious relict ancient woodlands that surround the Zoo. At first, these plants were thinly spread and none too obvious, but as time went on the primroses, bluebells, woodruff, wild garlic, wood spurge, dog violet and red campion, and many others, seeded and spread and started to stand out.

At this stage we had to intervene, doing a bit of ‘wildlife gardening’, as in the early stages there is a tendency for things to get very weedy and rough, but this stage passes in a year or so, and the system becomes self-regulating. What was very obvious at an early stage, though, was how much more insect life there was in these areas compared to before. Things were looking up...

Martin Holt, former Paignton Zoo Senior Gardener

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