The Calderdale Corridors of Colour project is a planting scheme to combat the loss of wildflower meadows by planting new areas using a UK native mix. Mark Dempsey explains how the project aims to provide urban spaces with a pop of colour and increase biodiversity across Calderdale, providing sites that encourage wildlife.
The Calderdale Corridors of Colour project first began in 2006 and is the brainchild of Mark Dempsey, Calderdale Council Support Services Manager (Safer Stronger Greener section). Mark has had a long family history with wildflowers being part of his childhood; both his grandfather and father had numerous wildflower books and water colour paintings around the house and Mark inherited the colourful interest.
Years later, in his role at the Council, Mark introduced the scheme as a project for the Basis degree course in Amenity Hard Surface Weed Control but, it has far exceeded expectations. The project is about improving spaces within Calderdale, through working with local communities, and is an interactive project within apprenticeship groups raising awareness of biodiversity within urban areas. Creating Corridors of Colour in an urban space can help to engage the local community and contribute to a healthy lifestyle and improved feeling of wellbeing.
Mark used the concept as part of a joint canal restoration project, working with the highways section and British Waterways. The aim was to green the canal towpath using wildflowers, along an eight mile section of the Calder and Hebble canal, from Halifax to Mark's hometown of Brighouse. The idea of using wildflowers to enhance the green space, within Calderdale green areas and parks, gradually evolved over the years and helped with health and safety issues such as banking maintenance and a new concept of softer and relaxed grass cutting regimes.
Mark commented: "Wildflowers will really excite and inspire local people in their own community and space where they live. It will bring nature into an urban space close enough for people to see, interact with and enjoy, as part of their daily lives, in a positive way and encourage young people to engage in community environmental activities."
The project has made a huge difference to Calderdale apprentice groups (19-25 year olds) by offering them a work-based environmental project within their own communities, enabling them to engage with their families and give them a platform and opportunity to learn horticultural skills, which will integrate within the project key functional skills.
The Calderdale Safer Cleaner Greener Apprenticeship programme is being combined with an NVQ L2 programme that can also be offered to existing employees. They can help to create opportunities for young people who might not normally achieve a Level 2 qualification, and makes them more employable in the future. This will benefit the Council by contributing to the Government's ambition to increase participation in Apprenticeships nationally from 250,000 to 400,000, which in turn contributes to the Calderdale Community Strategy - more people in the workforce achieving vocational qualifications
Since April 2009, the Safer Cleaner Greener section have successfully worked in partnership with Myerscough College and have taken on forty-six apprentices leading to twenty-three being offered a full time permanent role.
The Calderdale area was particularly hard-hit by the boxing day floods but, now eight months on, the project and completed areas are blooming with colour. Mark takes us through a month-to-month development.
After all the flooding and poor weather over the winter period, which so drastically affected Calderdale, the Safer Cleaner Greener apprentice group used the week as an outdoor learning activity and an opportunity to extend the planning that they had already done into creating seed beds for the Grow Wild project.
This really set the pace for the Northern Flowerhouse that is Calderdale, thanks to fabulous collaboration between local community groups, businesses, and our Safer Cleaner Greener apprentices.
Callum Graham, from the apprentice group, was successful in winning grant funding from the Grow for It Grow Wild Youth Awards, which is partly sponsored by Kew Gardens.
The scheme was to paint the shipping container and install environmental information boards - the project links in with wider Grow Wild Project and also the development of the site at Wellholme into an urban orchard and native wildflower meadow.
Winning the award also offered extended learning opportunities for groups in areas such as project planning, working with the park users and community activities. Positive use of social media promoted the project alongside working with Grow Wild and Kew. Well done Callum and the other apprentice team members!
Sites which were flooded in Copley village and urban community sites at Vickerman Street and Vale Street, were chosen to develop urban orchards and wildflower meadows by the IEB group working with Safer Cleaner Greener area teams and apprentice groups.
Teams from these groups worked on sites throughout the borough, sowing wildflowers in park areas and green spaces. The teams worked with park friends, community groups and partner organisations, throughout winter and spring, preparing areas ready for sowing.
At the time, it was anticipated that the various species of wildflowers would be in full flower within eighty days from sowing, which meant sites such as King Cross Lane and flood affected areas such as Hebden Bridge, Copley and Sowerby Bridge would be riots of colour in July and August.
The Grow Wild sites were starting to develop and become really colourful in areas across the borough, receiving good, positive feedback. The poppies in Brighouse were particularly impressive and reflected the 100 year anniversary of the Somme.
The project continued to raise awareness by showcasing what can be achieved in these hard to grow environments and encouraged the general public to have a go in their own gardens.
The project continued to light up and flower in different areas along the corridor. Tuel Lane, Wellholme Park, Brighouse, Shelf Hall Park, Stainland recreation park and Calder homes at Hebden Bridge were all now bursting into colour.
The Calderdale Apprentice group and Safer Cleaner Greener staff are now cutting the wildflowers over the next month to harvest, collect seeds, tidy and prepare all the sites. They will be removing vegetation ready for spring 2017, and applying for grants within the community to do the same and more throughout Calderdale next year.
The 2016 sites have been assessed to check which worked and which didn't. The Calderdale "Corridors of colour" has been hailed a resounding success. The project has been used as a platform to brighten up the borough after the 2015 floods and raise awareness of utilising urban and green space. Further developments are planned for October using wildflower bunds as a security measure to prevent unauthorised access to certain spaces and then develop new wildflower areas in 2017 within St Johns and Queens Road regions of Halifax.
Grow Wild projects
Tuel Lane, Sowerby Bridge
Stainland Recreation Ground
Wellholme Park, Brighouse
Shelf Hall Park
Calderholmes Park, Hebden Bridge
Stephan Eidsons, King Cross
King Cross Lane, Halifax
Burdock Way, Halifax
Lydgate Park, Copley
Cow Green, Halifax
King George Park, Lightcliife
St Matthews Cemetery