River of Flowers’ new project, is working with communities to create wildflower areas in urban landscapes.
River of Flowers is a nonprofit, eco-social enterprise working with communities to create wildflower areas in urban landscapes to provide trails or ‘rivers’ of floral forage for bees, butterflies and other insect pollinators. Since River of Flowers recommends planting for habitat too, we include wild flowering trees as well as wildflowers, and advise on growing ‘urban meadows’ in rooftops, balconies, pavements, city parks, urban woodland, housing estates, roadside verges, roundabouts, playgrounds, playing fields, cemeteries, brownfield sites, urban orchards, city farms, vacant lots, public and private gardens.
The Wild City Project will enable us to work with ‘start partners’ in three UK cities, Bristol, Manchester and York, to develop a River of Flowers in each city. We will guide and support the start partners by providing a talk and workshop at two site visits, purchasing suitable wild plants for the start meadows, demonstrating appropriate horticultural methods and developing a plan for maintenance and management of these wild spaces. The partners will contribute to the project by providing the growing sites and manual labour to plant and maintain the sites, project liaison, publicity and venues for the workshop and talk.
River of Flowers Bristol: Green Play Project, which creates playscapes for children using natural materials, are our Bristol start partners. The schools that Green Play offer as growing sites are great places to educate the young on wildflowers and pollinators since the best way to understand pollination is to see it in situ.
River of Flowers Manchester: As collaborative start partners, the Manchester Gallery and the Manchester School of Art will provide surrounding grounds and planters beside rooftop beehives respectively. We will be able to involve students and staff in planting wildflowers, food growing and beekeeping.
River of Flowers York: Buglife, the largest invertebrate organisation in Europe, will be partnering with us in this city. The organisation will work directly with community groups to connect the new River of Flowers to the wild spaces in its pollinator friendly, B-Lines in the Yorkshire countryside.
Meadows are important as a main source of wildflower forage for wild pollinators. In the UK, we have lost 97% of our wildflower meadows since the 1950s, mainly through urban sprawl and agricultural practices and we hope to introduce the wild back into both to achieve a balance between the needs of pollinators, plants and people.
Through the Wild City Project, we will map the new urban meadows with existing wild spaces in each city, and link these to local city farms and beekeepers. By connecting communities, River of Flowers becomes a social network for people supporting bees and other pollinators. People can see what is being done for pollinators in their own city and in other cities. Bristol can learn from Manchester or York and vice versa. Each River of Flowers is a way of sharing good practice and great ideas.
Every time a River of Flowers is created, it has the potential to inspire another, and this could eventually create a global network of cities with resilience to some of the effects of climate change.
The Wild City Project will help to set that in motion.
UPDATE APRIL 2014
We worked closely with our Start Partners to find new sites to plant wildflowers and organisations to encourage, advise and support in growing wildflowers. We discussed and curated wildflower selection, organised procurement, ground preparation, planting and maintenance of these wildflower areas, and venues for workshops. This is the most dynamic part of the process and crucial to sustain.
The Wild City UK Project started on 17th October 2013 with the first visit to York. River of Flowers linked up with the Friends of St Nicholas Fields based at the York Environment Centre. The funding from Artists Project Earth is being used to restore a meadow at St Nicholas Fields and create an all-yellow bee pasture – the Tour de France will pass through Yorkshire in 2o14 so yellow is a topical colour. Hopefully this will stimulate the creation of more bee pastures at York St John University and York University since many students are volunteers at the Centre. We provided wildflower seed and plug plants to the Derwenthorpe Gardening and Wildlife Club. River of Flowers has linked up with TIM in York, part of a network of Incredible Edible cities in Yorkshire. Ten new groups have joined River of Flowers York.
Our Wildflower Workshop on planting a bee pasture takes place at the York Environment Centre on Saturday 26th April and there will be talks on ‘Feed the Bees that Feed us’ by Kathryn Lwin of River of Flowers and ‘Bee Homes and Habitats’ by Vicky Kindemba of Buglife our key partner in York.
The River of Flowers York is here: Map View and List View.
In Manchester, the Artists Project Earth funding is being used to create an all-white bee pasture and part of an urban orchard of wild crab apple trees at the Manchester Art Gallery and to extend the River of Flowers Manchester along the Oxford Road corridor via the Manchester Museum, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester University and Manchester Metropolitan University and out to community spaces in Mosside and Levenhulme. Local community group Avenues and Alleyways will be creating a mini floral trail through the narrow alleyways up to Whitworth Park. We have connected up with food groups: Incredible Edible Levenshulme and Mosscider. Eleven new groups have joined River of Flowers Manchester.
Our first site visit to Manchester was held on the 24th October 2013, followed by a workshop/talk by Kathryn Lwin on ‘How Does Your Garden Grow?’at the Manchester Art Gallery on the 12th November 2013. The River of Flowers Manchester is here, see: Map View and List View.
By contrast, the River of Flowers Bristol has been slower in progress since we lost touch with our original Start Partner, Green Play Project. The pace is now picking up now that a River of Flowers is developing across the two-acre site at Feed Bristol, our new Start Partner and a food-growing project run by the Avon Wildlife Trust. The Artist Project Earth funding will be used to create a native wildflower meadow and an all-blue bee pasture, as well as restore a meadow. Several local organisations, e.g. Friends of Arnos Vale Cemetery, have wildflower areas so we will connect up with these. Three new groups have joined River of Flowers Bristol.
Our wildflower workshop on creating bee pastures and a talk on ‘Grow Wild in the City’ by Kathryn Lwin will be held on the 10th May 2014.
The River of Flowers Bristol is here, see: Map View and List View.
We have commissioned an animation film about the River of Flowers to attract new groups to wildflower planting, which will be uploaded on to YouTube and our website soon, and will set up a #riverofflowersstory.
Our goal was to initiate three influential Rivers of Flowers in the UK in order to inspire Rivers of Flowers in other cities. There has been on-going evaluation of how many new community groups are starting to grow wild plants and linking to River of Flowers, attendance figures at talks and workshops and email enquiries about starting new Rivers of Flowers in nearby cities. Although the project is not yet completed, we have received enquiries from Stockport, Bath and Leeds, where new Rivers of Flowers could be developing soon so we have achieved our goal.