Wildflowers helping communities blossom
Bees, butterflies, ladybirds and other bugs have been given new homes by roadsides and in pockets of flowers around some of the most urbanised parts of South Yorkshire.
The rivers and pools of flowers were created in Sheffield and Rotherham in an attempt to brighten up the grey landscapes of town and city centres and help save endangered insects from extinction.
Plantlife has been driving the ‘meadow movement’ since 2013 by encouraging councils to preserve green spaces.
It estiamtes the UK had lost around 97 per cent of its wildflower meadows in less than a century, with roadsides being particularly hard hit.
It said: “We want flowers to be allowed to flower so pollinators can work their magic and seeds can ripen and fall to the ground. In this way, the floral display will become better and better every year.”
It said safety and access considerations along with a desire for ‘neatness’ and the logistics of litter-picking had resulted in authorities adopting an overzealous approach to keeping verges short.
But after years of campaigning many councils are now starting to drop the mowers and plant more seeds.
In Rotherham, authorities planted an eight mile river of flowers between the town centre, Catcliffe and Bramley.
The council said it also saved £25,000 in mowing costs as a result.
In Sheffield, residents had seen some of their favourite sites lost to cutters in the past decade but had seen some new places pop up.
Councillor Douglas Johnson, speaker for the Green Party and City ward representative, said wildflowers planted around 2007 on the ring road, near the Riverside pub, had been mowed away.
He said: “They were planted to make it look nice but it’s also really important for biodiversity for insects, bees, butterflies and ladybirds.
“But then around 2012 Amey came in and continually mowed it down because it was in their contract to cut the grass. Now, there’s nothing but dandelions – it’s a real loss.
“When they are finished their contract they need to go and replant them.
“There seems to be more of an awareness of biodiversity now. The amount of space that’s available on roadsides is huge. Using spaces like this for flowers just makes people’s environment nicer.
“We should be thinking about how we want our cities to look and feel. It’s the same reason people plant flowers in their garden.”
However, Green Estate, a non-profit organisation working to create greenspaces in Sheffield, have helped bring new flowers into blossom around the city.
Sam Holloway, of Green Estate, said: “It brings all kinds of benefits and helps biodiversity and pollen and nectar counts.
“They are fantastic opportunities to introduce people who live in the city to nature. There are also studies which show it improves mental wellbeing.”
The group has helped with many projects in the region and further afield and in some cases got residents involved with planting.
One wildflower project, on the Lansdowne Estate in Sharrow, has helped encourage more community engagement, Mr Holloway said.
“We helped the Tenants and Residents Association there install a meadow right in the middle of the social housing estate.
“It had experienced lots of negativity with knife crime but it’s helped lift the area.
“It’s just come into full flower and it’s fantastic.”
Sheffield City Council said it was also working on a phased scheme to make the city centre greener to enhance habitats for wildlife, encourage active travel and prevent against flooding.
Phase two of the Grey to Green scheme has seen the start of transformations in the historic Castlegate area with plans for wildflower meadows on the inner ring road, sustainable drainage, segregated cycle lanes and public art.
They hope it will encourage wildlife, a nicer landscape and work as a defence against flooding.
Coun Johnson said: “They are environmental improvements to make it look nice and it also works as a flood defence mechanism. It stops so much going into the river, like a big sponge.”