Touring the Calderdale Corridor of Colour

By Ben Fisher, Grow Wild's North England engagement manager...

Since I started with the Grow Wild team almost a month ago I’ve been hearing loads of stories about the people and projects who’ve inspired others around them to have a go at planting UK native wildflowers or grow their own fungi. It was with a lot of excitement that I went on my first visit to see some of this in action!

Alongside the seed & fungi kits and youth and community projects, another part of Grow Wild that has had some big impacts are the Grow Wild Mentors. Our mentors volunteer their time, knowledge and enthusiasm to help groups in their area with a range of things; from the best way to plant UK native wildflowers, to using social media to share their stories and successes. My visit was to be hosted by one of Grow Wild’s most prolific mentors – Mark Dempsey, from Brighouse.

Mentor Mark stands in a field of wildflowers

Fresh from a train journey through the Yorkshire countryside, I’m greeted by Mark at Brighouse station for the start of a fascinating tour of the Calderdale Corridors of Colour. This is an ambitious collection of projects supported by Calderdale Council and loads of local community groups. By creating corridors of urban wildflower areas throughout the region they aim to combat the loss of UK native wildflowers and splash colour throughout the highways, parks and public spaces of Calderdale. Mark’s extensive knowledge of the area and how to grow wildflowers is second only to his enthusiasm to share this knowledge with others, showing how instrumental a Grow Wild mentor can be in inspiring others.

Driving through the hills and valleys of Calderdale we visited sites in Rastrick, Halifax, Stainland and Heptonstall to name but a few. Many of the sites still had wildflowers in bloom, and even at the start of Autumn the colour and vibrancy were great to see.wildflowers

Throughout, Mark relayed stories of his connections to these places. Driving through the old industrial buildings of Halifax, Mark pointed out the Hebble Trail – his first extensive project involving wildflower growing, that sparked the Corridors of Colour idea. Later, he told me his passion was ignited by his father’s interest in wildflowers, and of his ambition to plant in a part of town where his great grandmother’s house used to be. For Mark, the Corridors of Colour seem to be as much about people as plants.

And it’s the people I meet who really bring together what Corridors of Colour is all about – community groups adding something new to their area and creating vibrant sites for everyone in Calderdale to enjoy.

volunteers holding seedlings

I talked to John, one of the council’s Safer, Cleaner Greener team who’s responsible for maintaining some of Calderdale’s parks and green spaces. Initially sceptical of planting more areas of wildflowers, his involvement with Corridors of Colour has changed his mind: to the point where he created some grass sculptures on Stainland Memorial Recreation Ground’s wildflower area. From the ground (and air) it is very impressive!

grass sculpture

birds eye view of grass sculpture

Steve, another member of the team, told me that in a lot of the parks the wildflower areas are encouraging more people to enjoy their green spaces: walking the dog, jogging or just wandering through to take in the colours.

And in Heptonstall, a picturesque village (up a very steep hill!) outside Hebden Bridge, I met Clive and Lucy from HeLP (Hepstonstall Lights and Planting Group). With guidance from Mark, they have identified small sites throughout the village to sew wildflower seeds and bring the village into the Corridor of Colour. The group’s plan, inspired by seeing other areas in Calderdale, has been kick started by some Grow Wild seed packets, sewn in the stone-walled Pinfold picnic garden and waiting for spring to come.

Pinfold picnic garden

Coming away from my first visit as part of the Grow Wild team, I’m struck by the power of one person’s passion and knowledge to inspire countless others to get stuck in and grow wildflowers in their areas. The Corridors of Colour, involving so many individuals and groups, is bringing wildflowers to communities and commuters – and it’s all through the connecting power of Mark as a Grow Wild Mentor and active community member.

Ben with some of the people he met