Where the wild things grow in Manley

PUBLISHED: 13:37 07 September 2011 | UPDATED: 21:37 20 February 2013

Philip Hough inspects the wild flowers on the edge of the meadow he’s created in Manley

Philip Hough inspects the wild flowers on the edge of the meadow he’s created in Manley

Meet an 82-year-old from Manley who is passionate about encouraging wildlife back to Cheshire's countryside WORDS BY EMMA MAYOH PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS

Philip Hough has had a lifelong passion for nature. As a child he spent day after day exploring the countryside near his home at Norley. The amount of time he spent repairing birds wings and catching rabbits - instead of attending classes at Norley Primary School - became such a problem that his mum sent him to boarding school in another county. He also lived across the globe over the years, including some time in New Zealand, but his love for the flora and fauna of Cheshire never waned.

Over the past few decades Philip, who lives in Manley with wife Kath, has noticed a decline in the natural environment. He is now using his enthusiasm for the countryside to establish an ambitious biodiversity scheme to encourage more wildlife back to this corner of the county.
He said: There has been a decline for almost 50 years and many people are not aware of the true extent of it. There are things that just arent there anymore.

I used to be able to hear partridges and skylarks and the calls of many wild birds. Various things have happened, including the change in farming methods and pesticides that have come into being so much so that the balance of nature is upside down.

I want to try to restore that balance and reverse this trend. From providing a haven for the smallest micro-organisms that will help insects to multiply to the butterflies moths, bees, small animals and rodents that will follow. It is all part of a chain and I want to link it all up again.

Three years ago Philip, also a trained blacksmith, bought a three-acre patch of land near his home. And a year later he started to transform the site into a wildflower meadow which will eventually mature into a shaded woodland area.

Already he has singlehandedly planted 2,000 trees of different species as well as around 90 different types of wildflower seeds. He has built and erected dozens of bird boxes and nest sites and has cultivated areas ideal for small rodents to store their food. A large barn owl box has also been installed by The Barn Owl Trust.

He said: Already amazing results are being achieved. The butterflies enjoy the 90 species of wildflowers every bit as much as I do and the trees and hedging provide food for wildlife during the autumn and winter.

I know I will never see it mature but to see so much happening already is very encouraging.
The 82-year-old has the support of many wildlife groups including The Woodland Trust and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation. Philip is also taking part in The Great British Elm Tree Experiment, a project run by The Conservation Foundation to discover why some trees survive Dutch elm disease and why others dont.

Many elm trees have suffered but Philip is now nurturing an elm sapling, micro-propagated from a disease-free tree, to ensure it flourishes. He is also hoping he will eventually be able to cultivate cuttings of the tree for others to nurture.

Philip has also planted a handful of Wellington trees around Manley village and is hoping to host school outings at the meadow to teach young children about the importance of local wildlife.

He said: I do see myself as a saviour of the countryside. People think Im mad for taking on such a big job but I love it.

Over the next 100 years it will become a beautiful woodland that people will be able to walk through, as well as a place abundant with wildlife. I know I cant change the whole world but I also cant stand back and let nature decline any further. If I can do my bit in Cheshire then I will be very happy.

The print version of this article appeared in the September 2011 issue of Cheshire Life

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