To visit the Gardens, Gallery and House, you no longer need to pre-book a timed admission slot online (simply purchase gardens admission on arrival). Summer Late openings take place every Wednesday evening.
We urgently need to raise £70,000 in donations by September 2021 in order to purchase and convert 28 acres of land adjacent to Hestercombe to wildflower meadow. This will reverse years of human destruction of the habitat, and protect it from development for housing or intensive farming.
Increasing the size of this habitat and strengthening biodiversity will create more feeding sources for our 10 species of bat, especially our rare Lesser Horseshoe Bats, for which Hestercombe has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Wildflower meadows are one of the rarest habitats in the UK. The eradication of wildflower meadows, botanically richer than any other habitat, has been staggering; 97% have been lost since the 1930s ~ a startling 7.5 million acres (3 million hectares); and 75% of remaining meadows occur in small fragments and remain vulnerable to destruction. Species-rich grassland now only covers a mere 1% of the UK’s land area, and losing our wildflowers has a real impact on the food we eat.
'British wildflowers are under threat and therefore so are the pollinators they feed. Not only is it heartbreaking to lose the beauty and colour these native flowers give the UK landscape, but the plight of pollinators has a very real impact on the food we eat ourselves.' Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Director, Richard Deverell
Wildflower meadows provide shelter and food for important wildlife including bats, and pollinators including bees. Both play a vital part in supporting the ecosystem.
Bats play an important role in many environments around the world. Some plants depend partly or wholly on bats to pollinate their flowers or spread their seeds, while other bats also help control pests by eating insects. In the UK, some bats are ‘indicator species’, because changes to these bat populations can indicate changes in aspects of biodiversity. Bats might suffer when there are problems with insect populations (because our bats feed on insects) or when habitats are destroyed or poorly managed (for example, some bats only live in large woodlands).
While some people think bats are pests, some bats are actually pest controllers eating thousands of insects every night. UK bats won’t bite you or suck your blood – but they will help clear the air of bloodsucking mosquitoes!
All bats in the UK are insectivores – they only eat insects. Insect-eating bats are great for keeping bugs away from crops, as well as the places where the bats roost. The Brazilian free-tailed bat has been recognised as an important “pest management service” in cotton farming. Because bats eat so many insects in some regions, they can also reduce the need for pesticide sprays.
When wildflower meadows vanish, so do pollinators, as well as other insects, and animals that eat insects, such as birds, hedgehogs and bats.
Bees are in particular decline in the UK. Wildflower meadows are extremely diverse habitats, with a huge variety of flowers; ideal for bees. But since their decline, some species of bee have evolved to only eat a limited number of pollens and too much competition for food sources inevitably causes bee populations to reduce.
The more diversity we have in our natural habitats, then the more bats, bees, birds, animals and other insects there will be.
Development of land for property and changes to farming methods have both contributed to this decline in wildflower meadows.
But responsibility lies a little closer to home too. Our gardens used to be pollinator friendly, full of food, herbs and medicinal plants. Now we are more likely to have decorative plants in our gardens and are less likely to leave long grasses and hedgerows.
Without your help, this land could be sold to another bidder, and be lost forever. This could lead to destruction of habitats for our bats and bees by housing developments, aggressive farming practices, or even total abandonment, which can produce a ‘succession paradox’, whereby plant diversity actually declines as scrub and woodland develop.
We feel it is our responsibility to play our part in ensuring that the remaining 1% of species-rich UK grassland and meadows are better protected and that an additional 120,000 hectares are restored and created by 2043 (PlantLife’s ‘Grassland Action Plan’, part of ‘Save our Magnificent Meadows’)
If the land was sold to housing developers, it would ruin the peaceful and tranquil atmosphere at Hestercombe. The views and serenity that have taken centuries to create, could be lost in an instant. Hestercombe strives to create a green space for the local community and visitors from all over the world.
You can help make a huge difference to the bats, bees, butterflies and other wildlife at Hestercombe and beyond. By helping us raise £70,000 to enable us to purchase this pocket of land, together we can protect it from future development, and manage it instead as native wildflower meadow.
If all Hestercombe members donated just £20, we’d have the exact amount we need to help our little friends thrive forever, all within the grounds of Hestercombe Gardens.
By donating the following amounts, you’ll receive:
£20 ~ your name will appear on the supporter’s webpage
£50 ~ as above, plus a personalised donor certificate
£100 ~ as above, plus special access with an exclusive tour of the land, if we are successful with the purchase
£500 ~ as above, and your name carved onto a bat sculpture, which will be displayed as an artwork near the new wildflower meadow.
Gift Aid: if you're a UK taxpayer and you select ‘Please Gift Aid this donation’, the government will give Hestercombe Gardens Trust a free additional contribution of 25% at no extra cost to you.