Catch up with… Dawn Grehan

23 SEPTEMBER 2021

Here at Battersea we are committed to improving our sustainability and reducing our environmental impact.

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One of the ways we do this is by enhancing wildlife biodiversity at all our centres, which can then benefit the wellbeing of our staff and animals. We spoke to our Gardener Dawn Grehan to find out more.

What does your role entail?

As the gardener, my role involves keeping both the London and Old Windsor centres horticulturally healthy while providing the dogs with organic enrichment which can really help with their stress levels and their mental stimulation.

The two sites have very different environments and so my duties vary greatly at each one. At London, my focus is more on container gardening and trying to ensure the dogs have access to plants on their daily walks with staff and volunteers, so they’re able to stop and have a sniff of the different herbs and plants, while at Old Windsor it is more about going with the natural beauty of the site and keeping on top of the seasonal pruning and the weeds!

Tell us about the work you’ve been doing at our London and Old Windsor centres this year.

This year, I spent more time at the London centre as it was not in great horticultural shape after the lockdown and a very hot summer last year. My main focus has been to grow lots of plants from seed (which is much more cost effective than purchasing ready grown ones). I used these to rejuvenate the main walking routes of the centre, giving the dogs variety on their walks and it’s uplifting for the staff too. At Old Windsor, I have been getting familiar with the site and have spent a lot of time weeding, which seems to be an endless task!

We also entered our Battersea London centre into the London in Bloom (LIB) sustainability project, which involved creating areas of drought tolerant planting, along with the introduction of water butts, bug hotels and natural habitats to encourage pollinating insects and other beneficial bugs. I worked closely with our Environmental and Sustainability Advisor on this project. Next year, we’re hoping to involve our other centres too.

What flowers and plants can we find on site? What’s your favourite?

I use a lot of annual bedding plants like Cosmos, Calendulas and Sunflowers along the main walking areas in London, as these are easy to replace and give a lovely splash of colour. The dogs can trample on them and it's no big deal as I can just plant another one from my stock plants. I also plant a lot of herbs as they provide lovely smells, tend to be tough and drought tolerant and are also great for pollinating insects. I personally love the Cosmos as they have a long flowering season, are a really good value plant and have gorgeous wispy foliage and delicate simple flowers.

Have you had help from our volunteers and staff members? (We heard there’s a gardening club in the works…)

I have a team of gardening volunteers who have been a great help in getting both of the centres back into shape. Katie Morgan, our Head Gardening Volunteer, has also been a huge support to me by growing loads of bedding plants from seed in her own greenhouse at her home. The volunteer input has been invaluable and I am so appreciative of their time.

The staff too are very keen to get involved, but unfortunately it has not been possible this year due to animal demands. Next year, I am hoping to start a gardening club open to staff from all departments. It is no secret that the wellbeing benefits from getting your hands in the soil are huge. This coupled with the sense of achievement from doing something that directly benefits the dogs, makes it a win-win!

What has been your favourite or proudest Battersea moment so far?

There are so many! Every day I feel so blessed to be able to come into work and do what I do, sometimes I have to pinch myself! I was really pleased with our London in Bloom entry, that was a real highlight. We used one of the car park beds for the project and filled it with drought tolerant planting. Being able to tackle that car park area felt great as it was something that had bugged me for years! I had this vision of making the space look great while also providing the dogs with a sensory area – it was so good to achieve that.

Also, it may seem a bit strange, but I recently saw a female stag beetle at the London centre and this just filled me with joy! They are endangered and sightings should be recorded so this was a big deal.

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