Ealing Abbey, its grounds and the gardens of of Overton House, are in the Ealing Borough’s conservation area and so we try to cultivate the gardens appropriately, by trying to make them interesting for visitors and friendly to wildlife.
OVERTON HOUSE: 74 Castlebar Road Herbs: 2015: During the summer we hope to rejuvenate the herb collection in Overton House garden. It will be replenished and re-organized into different sections. There is also a potager garden which is an old-fashioned type of vegetable garden behind the study centre.
Organic: The garden of Overton House is ‘husbanded’ by Mee Kuon Cheong, Esme Boyd and Fr James when in Ealing on organic principles. For example, the garden is frog-friendly and butterfly-friendly, with several small areas of water and damp spots, compost heaps and no insecticides are used.
You can find links here to many of the species living in the garden:
Amphibia: Frogs and toads are sensitive to their surroundings, and are useful indicators of a healthy environment. Our frogs arrived from other local ponds and now breed every year. 2014 was a great year for froggie breeding and in the Autumn there were lots of fingernail-size froglets hopping about the water sites. It seems that 2015 will be a less good froggie year. There were far fewer mating frogs seen in the pools. We have added a new sunken water container for frog escape, swimming and hibernation. The first frogspawn of the year was seen on 15 March 2015. We also have common toads and we would like some newts please. Amphibia not yet resident include the common newt, greater spotted newt, edible frog and tree frog.
Reptiles: Grass snakes and slow worms (a legless lizard) are found elsewhere in Ealing, but not yet in our gardens.
Birds: Regular visitors and residents include green and greater spotted woodpeckers and an occasional flock of ring-necked parakeets. Robins, blackbirds, song and missel thrushes, great, blue, coal and long-tailed tits as well as magpies and jays are year round residents. In the winter we have seen fieldfares, redwings and waxwings; in the summer, swifts, house martins, chiff-chaffs, willow warblers and blackcaps, and in the autumn linnets and goldfinches. The swifts are around (11 June). Grey herons frequently fly over to visit garden fish ponds and to hunt frogs, and a pair of kestrels visits every spring looking for a nesting site on the Abbey church. We have a list of birds seen in the garden.
Mammals: Hedgehogs used to be seen and breed every year, but they have disappeared. Foxes, field mice, wood mice, common voles and grey squirrels also present. Pipistrelle bats, which probably roost in the roof, have been seen in June and July 2011 and 2012, and we have also put up bat boxes to tempt them to stay and breed. Several years ago we had a muntjac deer in residence for several days.
Insects: We grow special plants as food for caterpillars and flowers to provide nectar for bees and butterflies at different times of the year. Since 2003 we have seen peacocks, small tortoiseshells, small browns, commas, fritillaries and red admirals; and a local speciality is our holly blue colony. We have stag-beetles, which are becoming rare, and whose larvae live in rotten wood. Every year since 2003 several flying adults were seen and heard in June and July at dusk.
article: G. K. Andersen, “Designed for Prayer: A Bibliographical Essay on Medieval Monasticism for Contemporary Designers and Gardeners”, Cistercian Studies Quarterly 36/4 (2001) 457-471. e-mail for G. K. Andersen.
© copyright Ealing Abbey, edited 22 April 2015