Wildlife haven for local couple

Saturday 4th July 2015

My Wild Life is a weekly column running each Saturday throughout 2015 in the East Anglian Daily Times. Each week it features stories of action for local wildlife

Woodlea, Martlesham by Malcolm and Margaret Rittman

Our dream has been to own a small piece of land to keep the chickens and bees. Particularly being able to put the bees in the garden and not have to worry about neighbours. We also wanted a property which we could renovate to decrease our carbon footprint.


Woodlea was the first house we looked at. At first, we thought it was too small, although the house was ideal for our plans. Then the daughter of the owners told us about the 1.75 acre field attached, which belonged to her mum and siblings but which they’d never agreed to sell before. We said, if we could have the field, we’d buy the house – and the rest is history!

We took about a quarter of the field into the curtilage of the garden and planted an orchard, vegetable area within raised beds, and chicken pens. The rest of the field is left to grass at the moment, although one corner houses the bee hives and there are plans to dig a large wildlife pond. Half the grass is mown each year although the rabbits ensure there aren’t too many meadow plants growing amongst the foliage.

We’ve planted about 1000 trees. 350 make up the coppice area, which will eventually feed our two wood burners, and the rest is mainly native hedging. A new hedge was laid separating the field and garden and the hedging round the circumference of the property and field has swallowed up most of the rest, with a dozen trees in the orchard.

The wildlife seems to increase each year. We’ve seen hedgehogs, bats, shrew, dormouse, common newt, toad, bumble bees, numerous butterflies & moths, muntjac, fox, buzzard, sparrow hawk, kestrel, jay, mistle thrush, grasshoppers and crickets. And as for garden birds, we reckon there are at least 20 species including a pair of wrens and a cuckoo which was perched on the roof of the garage when we woke up one morning. A neighbour has even seen a barn owl regularly skimming the field in the early morning.

It’s a privilege to be able to wake up each day and enjoy our smallholding and it’s a delight to be able to preserve a couple of acres from the hands of the developers.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust helps to support a network of privately owned nature reserves across the county. If you’d like to find out more, or would like some advice about your own land please contact michael.strand@suffolkwildlifetrust.org

Tagged with: Species, Heritage Lottery Fund, My Wild Life