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The British Garden: Life And Death On Your Lawn

Tuesday 11 July BBC 4, 9-10.30 pm


No wonder snails are the bane of every gardener’s life. Their homing instinct means that even if you chuck them into the field next door, they will crawl back, determined to get to their home turf – even at a snail’s pace!

This and other fascinating facts are uncovered by Chris Packham and a team of wildlife experts who spent an entire year exploring every inch of eight gardens on a suburban street in Welwyn Garden City. The question they posed was: how good for wildlife is the great British garden?

Our gardens turn out to be more exciting places than we thought. Through all four seasons, the gardens’ residents continued to surprise. The robin’s iconic red breast, far from being festive, is the bird’s equivalent of war paint. A single litter of foxes can have as many as five different fathers.  And spiders can change colour to help them catch their prey.

As for the slugs, 65 of them were collected from the four corners of a Welwyn garden, divided into groups and painted fluorescent red, blue, orange and pink. Just to make things more interesting, some extra snails were brought in from Cornwall and painted green. The slugs were put in the middle of the lawn and videoed. They set off at their top speed of 1 mile per hour and almost all ended up in the right quadrant of the garden – the red slugs in the red quarter, and so on. The Cornish slugs – amazingly – set off west, which for them was the right direction.

By the end of the year, all is revealed as Chris and a team of experts tot up how many different species live in a typical back garden and assess how good our gardens are at supporting wildlife.