Sheffield Paramedic transforms his workplace with wild flowers!

Several months back Matt Doogue contacted Grow Wild with a vision to transform unloved land around workplaces into work gardens and wildlife havens. We loved his passion and offered free Grow Wild seed kits to all workplaces that wished to take part. Glen Watson who is a paramedic practitioner for the Yorkshire ambulance service was one of many to sign up. We sent Matt Doogue along to the opening party for the garden in Sheffield. Here's what he found...

(Blog and images by Matt Doogue)

When I first caught up with Glen, I asked him why he chose to get involved with Grow Wild, signing himself up to transform an unused grass verge surrounding the ambulance station into a wild works garden?

Glen said “I just thought, why not? The area is perfect for it, it may help improve staff morale and welfare, it may help our native wildlife which I’m very passionate about and it will most definitely enhance the area around the station.”

Glen first sought permission from management and then began to enlist the help of enthusiastic work colleagues, two weeks later; Glen along with colleagues Jenna Wilson, Simon Cutler and Carl Taylor began to survey the area and created a mood board with possible ideas for the garden.  

Finally they were ready to start work on their garden. They worked all habitats at the same time doing what they could when the supplies and time allowed. Local businesses got wind of what they were doing and offered donations consisting of pallets for the bug hotels, tyres for the willow arch and bird table, the local garden centre even donated 300 hedge plants consisting of hawthorn, blackthorn and dog rose.

Over the next few months, Glen and his team transformed the area to include, a bird table made from reclaimed wood and old tyres, a bug hotel made from old pallets, un used bricks and fallen twigs, branches and foliage, a homemade hedgehog house, a bog garden, log pile, nettle patch, woodland garden, a non-native garden and a spring flower bank and a huge table complete with seating made with old wood and bricks. The garden really is beautiful and a credit to Glen and his team.

The Yorkshire Ambulance depot is situated right in the heart of a housing estate and thus attracting lots of attention from the locals, some were confused as to what they were doing and come over to ask questions. One lady in particular dropped off some plants as a donation with a card attached reading: “We would just like to show our appreciation for the wonderful work and effort you have made with the nature garden. It’s lovely to improve the area and hopefully this donation will help with a few plants”

This made Glen and his team feel very proud indeed.

When asked how he felt the garden has worked and plans for the future he said: “So far it has exceeded my expectations, the plan going forward is to build a compost bin to hold the grass cut from the garden, they plan on planting some more plants and bulbs for next year’s display. They are also planning on inviting the local tenants, resident association and schools to visit and see if they can do something similar. He also wants to make a fruit/veg/herb garden in another part of the un used land.

The CEO of the Yorkshire Ambulance Service, Rod Barnes, and the environmental and sustainability manager, Alexis Keech, also attended the garden open party. Rod Barnes was given the official task of opening the garden and cutting the wild flower embedded ribbon that Glen had sourced top open the garden.

Family and friends were all invited down to explore and enjoy the gardens. Cakes were made with a nature theme; with 50% of the profits going straight back into the garden whilst the other 50% were donated to a local charity. A nature trail and quiz was set for the children whilst the parents took a stroll around the garden, some even getting up close with the resident Puss Moth Caterpillar saying: “Wow, I’ve never seen anything like that in my life”

When asked about the garden they said: “It truly is stunning and just shows how easy you can transform an area; I will definitely be signing up for seeds next year and getting my workplace involved”

One of Glen's colleagues said: “I think what you did is absolutely wonderful…I just wanted to say well done, it’s a great idea and very worthwhile”

I managed to grab a moment with Glen to ask how he feels about it all? “I’m proud of it and my mates at work,” Glen said

“There were doubters and we have proved that it can be done and done well. It was a big project, bigger than I expected probably and at times it was demoralising, working through the wet spring, but, to see my colleagues using the area, noticing the flowers, insects and birds makes it all worthwhile.”

If you have been inspired to sow and grow wildflowers this Spring, find out where to get seeds here.