Wandering along paths that wind their way through a meadow, surrounded by long grass and wildflowers, and listening to the bees and the insects all around you, is one of the best ways to spend the long days of summer. Unfortunately, since the second world war the UK has lost 97% of its wildflower meadows. This has had an impact on populations of butterflies, bees, pollinating bugs and birds. The honey bee population in the UK has halved in the past 25 years, while the populations of three-quarters of butterfly species and two-thirds of moth species have reduced since the 1970s.
This is something that Grow Wild is working to rectify.
Grow Wild is a national outreach initiative of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, supported by the Big Lottery Fund, and is the UK’s biggest-ever wildflower campaign. They work to encourage people from all around the country to connect with wildflowers, plants and the places around them. Through the events and activities that they’ve run in recent years, they’ve engaged millions to take notice of nature, to get active, learn new things, and to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with others.
The Grow Wild team works with over 200 partners and suppliers to reach people across the UK – including charities/not-for-profit organisations, youth groups, local authorities, education groups, health providers, social housing landlords, businesses, central Government, media/press channels, and many more besides. To date, they have funded 256 community organisations, awarding Big Lottery Fund grants of between £1000, £2,500 or £4000. This has created a network of groups across the UK who show imaginative ways of bringing people together to transform communal spaces through the sowing and growing of native plants. They’ve provided a grant of £500 to 147 projects run by young people (aged 12–25).
Grow Wild also supports four flagship projects, one in each country of the UK. These were chosen after a UK-wide public vote that saw 117,000 votes cast online and by phone. These projects are all large scale urban regeneration initiatives, and were each given a Big Lottery Fund grant of £120,000 to transform prominent, often unloved, community spaces with native wild flowers and plants. Each site has also been given another £15,000 to maintain their site. The English flagship project is called Tale of Two Cities, a joint effort by the cities of Manchester and Liverpool, who’ve put aside their traditional rivalry to together transform parts of their two cities. Scotland’s flagship is the Water Works, which has transformed a derelict sewage works on the edge of Barrhead, near Glasgow, into a community-friendly wildflower space. In Wales the flagship project is Furnace to Flowers, that has brought wildflowers to the people and wildlife of Ebbw Valley. Northern Ireland’s flagship is the Cornfield Project in Coleraine, where the creation of a communal garden and city farm on an area of disused land has brought together the communities of Millburn and Ballysally.
Financial support is not the only thing that Grow Wild offers. There is also the advice and assistance of a network of 100 mentors. These volunteers visit inspiring community projects across the country, sharing knowledge, teaching and learning new skills, and connecting with a range of people. Mentors have also taken part in Grow Wild’s training weekends at hubs across the UK.
— Grow Wild Scotland (@GrowWildScot) October 14, 2017
Grow Wild have also encouraged the growing of native plants and wildflowers through the distribution of seed packets and funghi kits. They’ve distributed 750,000 seed packets filled with specially grown, native wild flower seeds to individuals through annual media partnerships, events and competitions. They’ve also distributed kits of wildflowers and grow-your-own oyster mushrooms to groups across the country, with 260,000 kits being sent out to 46,000 groups.
As well as all of this, the Grow Wild initiative also runs annual campaigns targeted at young people and less engaged and disadvantaged adults. These campaigns include both online and on-the-ground activities. In 2014 they paired up with a four-piece female music act, Neon Jungle, engaging their fans to grow wild. In 2015 they took their potting shed and upcycled containers onto the streets of six UK cities. 2016 saw them work with online influencers Brett Domino, Jemma Cupcake and Emily Canham, as well as hosting competitions, early morning dance parties, and student activities. During 2017 they’ve encouraged the planting of a virtual seed, working to raise awareness of the importance of wildflowers.
In a current Grow Wild project they are asking people to turn their street into a bee street. They encourage people to share their seeds with their neighbours, bringing communities together as well as providing habitats for our most endangered pollinator.
If you’d like to become involved in any of the Grow Wild projects, you can find out more at their website.