The charity making life better by water

Wild in the city

Last month, award-winning garden designer, writer and presenter, Arit Anderson, met with volunteers from our ‘Wild in Birmingham’ project in Birmingham city centre. Arit was last here in 2018, documenting the flagship scheme for Gardeners’ World. Four years on, she was keen to check on our progress.

‘Wild in Birmingham', which has been funded thanks to a £1.7million grant as part of the Government Green Recovery Fund Project, has transformed the local area, creating vital green spaces across the city, encouraging wildlife and attracting visitors to the canalside. Our volunteers have been working tirelessly over the past few years, planting wildflowers, trees, plants and herbs to brighten up the towpath. On her return, Arit was eager to pitch in and impart a little of her expertise.

Since Arit's last visit, the team has restored and reimagined many of the unloved sites along Birmingham's canals. Once an industrial heartland, the area is now fringed with greenery, with shaded gardens, pockets of fruit trees, and specially converted narrowboats brimming with wildflowers. It even boasts the world's longest community orchard, stretching 50 miles along the bankside, all the way from Wolverhampton to Worcester. These incredible spaces, linking green corridors across the city, provide a unique experience, allowing people to escape the hustle and bustle of modern life, relax, reflect, and reconnect with nature.

Arit Anderson talks to a group of volunteers next to the canal

As Arit discovered, perhaps the biggest accomplishment of ‘Wild in Birmingham' has been the impact on local wildlife. Spearheaded by the Trust's senior ecologist, Paul Wilkinson, the goal was always to bring people and nature together.

As Paul says: “Urban areas can often be hard places for nature, so we are giving nature a helping hand by introducing both native wildflowers that are great for pollinators and horticultural plants that put people back in touch with the fruit, vegetable and medicinal plants that they may remember from their past. Butterflies, bees and other insects have thronged to the area, drawing in birds and bats. Aquatic plants have attracted fish, otters and damselflies have been spotted in the city for the very first time. It's not always easy, and the city can be a tough place to soften for nature, but through these connected natural habitats right along the towpaths, we're creating ‘stepping-stones' of green space that wildlife can use to spread right across the canals of the West Midlands.”

Paul Wilkinson standing in a boat surrounded by plants ready to plant

None of this would have been remotely possible without the hard work and dedication of our volunteers. Through their skill and enthusiasm, we've been able to transform Birmingham's canals, brightening up the towpath, creating a haven for wildlife and connecting people with nature right in the heart of the city. Arit, for one, was struck with how the introduction of plants, trees and wildflowers has engaged the local community and brought the city centre to life.

Green Recovery Challenge Fund

Last Edited: 17 January 2023

photo of a location on the canals
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