Landlife Project – Tale of Two Cities case study by Dave Barlow.
National Wildflower Centre Seeds were used for all wildflower sites.
In 2014 the Tale of Two Cities project won the Grow Wild England Flagship Award, securing over 19,000 votes and overcoming competition from Bristol, Plymouth, East London and Sheffield-based community projects. Grow Wild – supported by the Big Lottery Fund and led by the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew – seeks to inspire communities, friends, neighbours and individuals across the UK to come together to transform local spaces into colourful wildlife havens, by sowing, growing and enjoying native wild flower species. The £120,000 of funding provided was put towards forging new partnerships between the environment, the arts, schools, sports and popular culture through collaboration between communities in both Manchester and Liverpool, covering an area of 10 hectares to create a cultural landmark.
Transforming the landscape in Manchester was complex. A linear network of green spaces along a key arterial route were chosen, all with different identities and challenges, from parkland, to roadside verges, forgotten subways, school grounds and incidental spaces within housing estates. One-size fits all approach would not work.
Key to the success of the project was engagement with stakeholders, from site users to grounds maintenance staff. It was imperative that land managers bought into the idea from the outset and took ownership of the long-term maintenance of the changes that were to be employed.
The project succeeded in increasing the quality and functionality of the landscape. Aesthetically, the wild flowers look magnificent, contributing to Manchester’s wildflower meadows winning the North West in Bloom Biodiversity Award in 2015.
• The rejuvenation of these previously under-used and neglected spaces has opened them up to the public once again, altering public perceptions of safety through improving the aesthetics of space… “It just seems so much nicer walking under the Mancunian Way with all that colour and it feels more secure, more cared for and more like a usable, pleasant public space, park-like even”. Robert Docherty, Manchester Resident.
• Instilling a real sense of community, both during the process of transforming the space and as a result of the increased functionality after completion… “There were older people, young people, people of different nationalities. There really was a sense of community to it.” Michelle Inwood – volunteer.
• Having been seen by over 100,000 people, the transport routes of Princess Parkway and Islington have a direct impact improving the quality of peoples’ commute to work, potentially improving both productivity and quality of life… “I now actually quite enjoy a bit of congestion… I’d like to make a difference… You’ve improved my life so much.” Deborah Garnett, Manchester Resident.
Through considerate green space management, harnessing community spirit across two cities, this project has challenged and changed people’s perception of their local open spaces, their uses and value and what they can mean for a community as a whole. There is a need to engage thoroughly from the outset; it’s essential for stakeholders to feel a connection to the project. Also, to share good news and bad – communication breakdown can lead to the occasional challenge, so be clear about, and manage expectations openly and honestly.
Behaviour change, no matter how simple, can yield results. Changing mowing regimes to twice a year instead of once a month. Cycling through a site instead of avoiding it. The project has developed a sustainable connection to place. And the flowers will keep coming back, if looked after. Maintenance plans have been agreed with land managers to ensure sensitive and appropriate management continues. The size and scale of green spaces mean the lessons learned from the Tale of Two Cities can be used anywhere and everywhere as a replicable model.
“This has been a vibrant, innovative, mind opening project that has brought colour and a different environment to our ward.” Councillor Lee-Ann Igbon, Hulme.
Case Study courtesy of Dave Barlow:
Environmental Strategy Lead, Manchester City Council