GOALKEEPING hero Jimmy Montgomery has swapped penalty boxes for bird boxes, as he works with Sunderland carers to save city wildlife.

Jimmy, a keen gardener, signed up for a shift with Sunderland Carers Centre Garden Group, to install bird boxes, bee hotels and feeding tables in the centre’s gardens.

It is a labour of love for the FA Cup winner, who encourages local wildlife in his own garden.

When Jimmy was initially invited to the Carers Centre to discuss becoming a patron, he was surprised there were no birds into the garden.

He said: “It’s a tremendous garden with lovely seating areas for the carers and staff to use, but I told Graham Burt (Carers Centre chief executive) that I was surprised that there was nothing for wildlife.

“Watching birds, insect and squirrels can be therapeutic and would add something to what is already a bit of an oasis of calm for many of the centre’s users.”

Jimmy puts out nuts and seeds in his own garden and has a woodpecker that visits his garden every day. He encourages sparrows and finches and is creating a hedgehog house for the winter.

He said: “It would be great to encourage hedgehogs to shelter for the winter months – the Carers Centre will not only be a haven for our city’s carers, but also its wildlife.”

Sunderland Carers Centre business support administrator, Alison Smith, worked with Jimmy to purchase the correct equipment to attract birds, insects and animals, investing in bird tables, houses, feeders and insect hotels.

She said: “We take pride in our gardens and I can’t wait to see it alive with wildlife. Our users will find it incredibly calming and I’m sure they’ll welcome the efforts to create something special for carers and staff.”

Jimmy takes part in an annual birdwatch, perhaps, unsurprisingly, he’s not a great fan of Magpies… as they steal other birds’ eggs.

Bill Wright, 71, a Garden Group volunteer from Grangetown, has been involved since the group began, tidying the area, litter picking and planting.

He said: “There are a lot of carers who use the Centre who take part in the Garden Group. It’s relaxing and therapeutic and it’s a positive thing to volunteer for.

“You don’t have to be a gardener to be part of the garden group. It’s more about the volunteering and being part of a group of like-minded people.”

Having been involved in development and planning for the garden over the last four years, Bill is keen to start attracting the birds and the bees and is delighted that Jimmy has shown an interest.

“It’s not every day you get to do something you love with one of your heroes. Jimmy is not only a fantastic patron and ambassador for Sunderland Carers, he’s also passionate about nature and the environment and his participation will hopefully spur others on to create wildlife havens in their gardens.”

Sunderland Carers Centre provides a listening ear and a range of advice and support to carers from across the city.

To find out more about Sunderland Carers Centre, visit www.sunderlandcarers.co.ukfollow @SunderlandCarer on Twitter, @SunderlandCarersCentre on Facebook, call 0191 549 3768 or pop in to the centre on Thompson Road.

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