Storm Katie

1st April 2016


We wish that this was an April Fools joke, but it most certainly is not...


On Easter Saturday 2016 we spent a very enjoyable time at Stafford Ethical Spring Fair raising money for the rescue only to return home that evening to find our brand new greenhouse almost completely destroyed by Storm Katie.


You may be wondering why on earth that should be a big deal to an exotic animal rescue.  Well, it was to be the centrepiece of our self-sufficient garden which aimed to produce top quality home grown fruits, vegetables, greens, herbs and edible flowers for our resident creatures as well as wild flowers and seeds for the local birds and bees.

Graeme rushed to salvage as much as possible while I sent out a plea for help online.

When we arrived home we were greeted by the sight of the greenhouse cover billowing in the wind, visible from the end of our road.  The contents were in complete disarray with debris strewn about the garden, some things are irretrievably lost.   Thanks to Graeme’s valiant efforts in the wind and rain he managed to make the structure as secure as possible.  However, it won’t last long and we now need to find a replacement as soon as possible before the remaining plants die.  With holes in the cover and a less than stable footing all the plants have had to be placed on the floor which isn’t ideal.  Sure, they can’t drop off the shelves if the wind blows but they are still in an awful draft from the hastily repaired holes in the cover plus they aren’t getting optimum light.  We are especially concerned for the soft fruits (strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, logan berries and blueberries) as they are very vulnerable to the cold and must be protected until all chance of frost has passed.  In any case they will not produce a considerable amount of fruit until their second of third year so we need to protect them and give them a great start.  Several of these plants were donated from an RHS nursery and will certainly grow superior crops, all the more reason look after them!


We’ve lost all of the vegetable seeds we spent days planting and nurturing including cucumbers, courgettes, tomatoes (plum and trailing cherry), sweet peppers, peas and French beans to name but a few.  There are three cells in a seed tray that have lost their labels...we’re going to keep them going to see what comes up!

One of three mini troughs of wild flowers that survived the storm, we hope the local wildlife will appreciate them.
The donated strawberry plants are trying to flower, we hope that the will survive until a new greenhouse is installed.

A tray of Mesembryanthemums has somehow survived unscathed as has another tray of Cat Mint.  No seedlings have emerged from them yet but we remain hopeful that some life may emerge.  The Sweet Peas have taken a battering as did the Sunflowers and we are still to see any seedlings appear.  The Nasturtiums appeared lost, totally shook up and with little compost remaining, yet when I was sorting things out a bit further yesterday I see that one brave little seed has begun to sprout.  The potatoes and carrots are thankfully unharmed (they were already outside) as are the three tubs of wild flower/”wildlife” mixes.

These happy little Narcissus survived too, they're bringing a bit of cheer to a pretty gloomy situation.

Our appeal for help following this mini-disaster reached almost 2000 people and we want to personally thank everyone who shared and contributed towards rebuilding the project.  Our patron, Bill Oddie OBE, has been immensely supportive and I have a meeting scheduled next week with a local specialist garden buildings supplier to (hopefully) arrange a more substantial replacement greenhouse.  We’re also remaining positive that Lush, who have been incredibly supportive of our work to date, may also be able to help us to recover in some way.  The garden was originally funded by part of the grant we received from them just before Christmas 2015.


If you would like to contribute towards the rebuilding of our garden you can send a donation safely and securely here. If you would like to donate garden items, seeds or plants please contact us directly to arrange for collection/delivery.


We can’t wait to share all the latest updates on the garden’s progress as it blossoms into life across the year!


Much love and thanks, Clare x

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Meet the Owner-Operator, Clare Barnard BSc.(Hons)


Clare is a research scientist and PhD candidate at the University of Lincoln where she is studying wildlife conservation and the direct impact of the exotic pet trade on wild animal populations.  She will be working from the Laboratory of Evolutionary Ecology of Adaptations.  Clare has also been honoured to become part of the Global Amphibian Biodiversity research team.


Clare has almost 20 years professional experience in the husbandry of exotic animals a specialism in the genetics of British herpetofauna.  She has worked with wild Adders (Vipera berus) and endangered Natterjack Toads (Epidalea calamita) under Natural England license conditions.  Clare has worked as a zookeeper and within private collections including her own.  She lives in rural North Warwickshire, on-site at Grace's Rest, with a whole host of animals!

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