SPURRED on by the need to protect peanut supplies from thieving squirrels, the makers of garden bird feeders are scaling new heights of ingenuity. Banana Barn's Nature and Wildlife catalogue offers a feeder housed in an outer cage made of heavy gauge steel wire; this allows birds to slip in, but will foil larger, unwelcome guests. Squirrels, being unquenchable beasts, are no doubt practising with their wire-cutters. Traditional wooden nest boxes are old hat next to the array of cocofibre and jute roosting and nest pockets that are de rigueur in the wildlife garden. Also available are fake "mud bowls" to attract swallows and house-martins (many house- martins die each year from collapsing mud nests). Buy a dovecote and you move into a different league altogether. Forsham Cottage Arks (01233 820229) offers a range of executive dove homes that include the Tenterden (four floors of five bays, a kind of Chelsea Harbour for doves) and the Thatched Lamberhurst. A bat box is quite different to a bird box; it is accessed from below by a little ladder that the retiring bat can scramble up. Banana Barn are the proud manufacturers of the Original Oak Hedgehog House, its roof double-layered with internal roof felt, supplied complete with optional air vent. Hedgehogs are probably about the largest thing it is sensible to encourage in most gardens; badgers, deer, wild boar, wildlife park escapees etc should be left beyond the fence.
Original Oak Hedgehog House, pounds 34.50, from Banana Barn, Street Farm, Stinchcombe, Dursley, Gloucestershire GL11 6AW (01453 544276)