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Our volunteers have seeded five sites, digging and raking through roots and ballast to prepare the soil. We’ve sown cornfield annuals on all the sites, including poppy, cornflower and corn cockle, which will hopefully flower this year, and perennials which we won’t see until at least next summer.
We’ve used general purpose perennials, knapweed, campion, ox-eye daisy, and other flowers, on the two sites near Newton Primary school, one opposite Brook Lane access point and one near Victoria Road, as these sites are relatively sunny. The site opposite Liverpool Road access point is shaded by trees, so we’ve tried out some woodland perennials, including betony, foxglove, bluebell and selfheal.
You’ll see the notices on the sites, and can look out for seedlings as you walk or cycle by.
We have one more site to seed this year, on our next volunteer day. This site next to Northgate Ponds is partially shaded by a tree, so we’re trying out a woodland margins mixture with wild grasses in with the perennials. Again, a cornfield mixture will be added, which may flower later this summer.
It’s been hard but enjoyable, and we hope, rewarding work!
We were thrilled to receive funding from Newton Primary School’s Make the Earth Happy last summer. We had always planned to use the money to create a wildflower meadow near to the school because we wanted it to be seen by the children. We also felt the section of Millennium Greenway between school and Total Fitness needed ‘cheering up’.
Before we could start anything we decided we needed to do some research and two volunteers made a number of trips to see the wild flower meadows at Ness Gardens (www.nessgardens.org.uk) and talk to the gardeners there. They really were helpful and very willing to share their knowledge and expertise. We soon learned that creating a successful meadow isn’t just a case of sowing seed. If we wanted our own wildflowers to thrive we would have to prepare any site carefully, removing unwanted vegetation and ‘weeds’, especially grass which chokes young plants. It would be best if the site was in full or partial sun, although some wildflowers will grow in shade. We also found out that wildflowers grow best in poor soil and that perennials bloom in their second year whereas annuals bloom in the year they are sown. Perhaps we should sow a mixture of both? We were told that planting yellow rattle would help to keep the growth of grass under control. It was news to us. We soon realised that there were many different firms who sold wildflower seed. Which to choose and what flowers to choose? So much information and so many decisions but the sight of the wildflower areas at Ness made us feel that the hard work would be worth it and we had to give it a go.
Chris, one of the two volunteers who visited Ness and a wildflower enthusiast, carried on researching seed suppliers. After searching websites, making phone calls, sending for catalogues and talking to people who had bought seed from various firms she decided that Emorsgate Seeds (www.emorsgateseeds.com ), a British firm who produce seed of wild British plants on their farms in Norfolk and Somerset, was the one to use.
So far so good. Now it was time for the actual work on the sites to begin. In January 2014 it was decided to prepare more than one so that we could experiment with various environments and wildflowers. Hopefully, based on this years’ experience, we will then increase the number of meadows next season. In the light of that decision eight sites between the Kingsway Fields and the Total Fitness access points have been mown ( we think Mark from Sustrans who arranged the mowing got a bit giddy in his enthusiasm and cleared possible areas for next year as well as this). Initially we will develop three of the sites this year. Volunteers have already begun to work on these. Preparation for sowing will continue over the next few months and hopefully we will be ready to seed in April. Of course there may be trouble ahead – weather which is too wet, too cold (who can forget last spring) or too dry, dogs fouling or weeing on the sites and people walking or throwing litter on them. Hopefully, however, we will overcome all of that if and when it happens. Watch this space. We will be posting updates as the project progresses.
During June we were delighted to be asked to go to Newton Primary School to talk to the children during a whole school assembly about our work on the Millennium Greenway. On the 9th July we were invited back and spent a most delightful afternoon at the school’s Make the Earth Happy Event.
The weather was beautiful and everyone, including ourselves, had a very enjoyable afternoon. Certainly those present had an entertaining time with attractions that included a birds of prey flying display and various stalls. We listened to individual children giving their reasons why the Millennium Greenway is so important to the environment. As the shared path runs directly alongside their school grounds many of the children use it on their journey to school as well as for cycle rides into the countryside or walks into the city centre. The children spoke of the wonderful plants and trees they saw along the way. When asked why the pathway was so important one young man said ‘It makes the Earth happy and it makes me happy too.’ That says it all!
As part of our work with the school we asked if Year 6 children would us help by producing posters highlighting aspects of the Greenway which they thought were environmentally important. We received 29 posters and were interested to see that the children mostly picked litter and dog mess as their main focus. The posters are delightful and will be displayed on the Greenway notice boards from early September so look out for them.
Just before the end of term we went back into school to thank the children and to award prizes for the ones we considered to be the best. See the posters here.
We were amazed and thrilled to hear that the Friends Volunteer Group had been chosen by parents and children as the local beneficiary of their Make the Earth Happy Year fund raising efforts. We were presented with two bird boxes, made by Year 4 children, together with a cheque. How wonderful to know that the Millennium Greenway is still (see history section) so close to the hearts of the local community and appreciated by young and old alike.
During the coming year we are hoping to use the donation to create a wildflower garden and to plant wild cherry saplings. We’ll let you know how we get on with those plans in future news updates.
Happy walking and cycling.