Helping Environmental Regeneration in Broomhall is one of many Friend’s groups in Sheffield.
Formed around the year 2000, it has since transformed the outdoor environment of Broomhall; working both to make life more pleasant for people, and to create nectar-rich patches that act as stepping stones for bees, birds, butterflies and other wildlife through the area.
Initially there was quite a lot of work to get funding and permissions to do things; we’ve become slightly ‘guerilla’ more recently! Over time we’ve built very good relationships with Colin Anderson of the Estates Team at the city council, as well as with Darren Butt from Amey. Amey have removed some trees in the area but replaced them and added more; we have worked together well to discuss the replacement varieties and positioning.
Our first major project was to install large containers for plants along the streets, where the pavement had been built out to slow the traffic flow. We also planted trees in ‘pavement pockets’ where the previously planted trees had failed. Some of the containers were quite, others we inherited free from the Parks department at Norton but needed to be stacked two high to meet highway requirements and also repaired and painted as they were somewhat old and battered. We had some problems with plants being removed early on but that has settled down and now there is only occasional graffiti. Recently, University of Sheffield students on a ‘Give It A Go’ day repainted them. All these containers have now been ‘adopted’ by people living close by, who pick out litter, weed and water, replace plants and generally care for them.
Over time HERB has taken over responsibility for small areas of green space. These have each involved major work. At the corner of Havelock Street and Holberry Gardens the shrubs planted back in the late 70s/early 80s had become dense prickly thickets in which litter got tethered and had grown too tall so that the walk through had become so unpleasant as to be almost a no-go area. A large group of local people of all ages and cultures worked together over many weekends to clear all these. Then a mini-digger was brought in by the city council to turn over the soil, grass seed was sown and hundreds of daffodil and crocus bulbs planted. HERB then sought funding to erect a long trellis beside the gable end of one of the houses edging the plot and created a mini orchard of trained fruit trees; a fan-trained Victoria plum, 2 pears and 6 apples as cordons. A group of adults and children also worked over several months to create beautiful, nature-themed, mosaic pictures to decorate the top of the wall around the central mound. The area is now really well used; by children playing, adults chatting, reading or eating lunch, in fact as I went past just now a group of Malaysian students gathered on the grass and around the benches had a delicious smelling array of dishes for a BBQ/picnic.
HERB with more ‘Just Do It’ student volunteers created a garden out of a patch of brambles and bracken at the side of the Broomhall Centre. Later the children planted three trees - a crab apple, a greengage and a quinc - in memory of significant community members, featuring a small plaque that reads: ‘When they gathered they came with good ideas to make the community better.’ They also planted a lovely rose bush in memory of Jane Greetham who, as centre manager at the time, had done so much to redesign the building and develop community engagement. Her plaque reads: ‘She got people to work together; it was not always easy.’
In 2014 when Yorkshire hosted the ‘Grand Départ’ for the Tour de France, Sheffield Hallam University - as co-sponsors - gave HERB funding to create ‘a yellow verge’ at the other end of Havelock Street. More recently HERB have created mini orchards at two other sites. I have really only skimmed the surface of what we have achieved in 17 years so do come and walk around Broomhall and enjoy its beauty. If you’d like to volunteer, HERB meets on Friday mornings between 9am and 11am.