Peter Hutchings from the Hampshire & IoW Wildlife Trust, brings you the latest news and initiatives from the group

GARDENERS across Hampshire are proving that anyone can create a haven for wildlife. Gardens are extremely important for wildlife. Not only can they provide food and shelter for a huge range of plants and animals, but they can form a natural bridge' between built-up and open areas.

Gardens can also provide particular habitats that may be missing in your local area such as ponds, suitable shelter for hibernation, and nesting sites.

As development has caused natural habitat in the wider countryside to be lost, gardens have become a much-needed resource for wildlife.

In some cases, where natural habitats have been lost altogether, wildlife is being forced into gardens as a secondary habitat - in some cases encouraged by wildlife-friendly gardeners. It is already happening, as these examples show:

* In south Hampshire, recorded sightings of stag beetles are often more numerous in gardens than in wooded areas

* There are increasing numbers of dormice found hibernating in bird boxes throughout the winter due to loss of natural habitats and the destruction of wildlife corridors'

* Gardens are an excellent source of nectar and pollen for insects. The fact that many gardens now have lots of winter-flowering plants has most likely contributed to the successes of the red admiral butterfly this year

* Gardening and green living' are becoming much more popular in the region. Southampton alone has 28 allotment sites with 1,600 plots around the city, which are invaluable for wildlife.

* Due to a loss of natural nesting sites, more and more garden birds are using nest boxes put up by wildlife-friendly gardeners. More than two million chicks were reared in nest boxes last year.

* Roe deer have become a more common visitor to gardens in the region.

Getting Started

THE kind of wildlife garden you can create will depend on the size and aspect of your plot and on the soil - and of course on your own tastes and interests.

It's worth considering what uses your garden will serve. You may want space for growing your own fruit and vegetables; children will need room to play.

Many people grade their garden from a patio and bird table close to the house, through play space to a pond and a wilderness' at the back.

You don't need to be in too much of a hurry! Working with nature takes a little time and you can always get more ambitious later on, as your expertise and enthusiasm grow.

If space is short, there are still ways to attract wildlife. A window box or hanging baskets could be an answer.

You can find out more about how you can help wildlife in your garden, by contacting WildLine for free advice and information leaflets on 01489 774 446, or you can e-mail: Alternatively, write to: WildLine, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, Beechcroft House, Vicarage Lane, Curdridge, Hampshire SO32 2DP.

If you have frogs in your pond, slow worms in your compost heap or hedgehogs in your shed please let the Trust know so that it can build an accurate picture of which species are found throughout Hampshire.

The Wildlife Trust has produced some easy to use survey sheets, which give hints and tips of how to make your garden more wildlife friendly, along with encouraging you to report what animals you have in your gardens.

Survey forms are available to download from the Trust website or again by contacting WildLine on 01489 774 446 or