Hugging the edge of one of the main roads into London, the roughly mown grass of Mabley Meadow previously have warranted a second glance. But over the past few years residents have enjoyed seeing the area explode in a riot of colour, covered with wildflowers and buzzing with wildlife.
The transformation was brought about by community group Mabley Green Users Group, working in partnership with Hackney Council.
From wasted space to popular picnic area
'We were initially concerned about the decline in local wildlife,' says Project Leader and nearby resident Chris King. 'This was a wasted space: a flat, mown grass desert that was doing nothing for biodiversity or for the community – I only ever saw people walking through as quickly as possible.'
'The Council was incredibly helpful when we explained what we wanted to do and helped us prepare the areas for sowing. We stripped back the turf and scattered Pictorial Meadow seed mixtures. The parks team relaxed their mowing regime for the summer and we sat back and waited.'
In July the meadow bursts into colour with a mixture of cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus), poppies, fairy toadflax, red flax (Linum grandiflorum) and bishop's flower (Ammi majus). And relaxing the mowing regime meant that yarrow (Achillea millefolium), cow parsley and clover joined the display.
'The change has been amazing,' says Chris. 'I've seen people lingering in the meadow, taking photos, some even having picnics. The bee population exploded and we got more birds, too.'
A simple idea with dramatic results
Sam Parry, Parks Development Manager at Hackney Council, says: 'The Mabley Green Community Meadow is a fantastic example of what happens when passionate local people have a great idea and the determination to see it through. The idea was essentially quite simple, but the result is truly dramatic.'
The group is aiming for year-round planting and has been busy putting in crocus and daffodil bulbs and planting test patches of native bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta), snake's-head fritillaries (Fritillaria meleagris), star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum) and glory of the snow (Chionodoxa).
They also secured Big Lottery funding to install two new carved benches in the meadow, along with launching a programme of events to celebrate the new space and the blossoming community that is growing around it.
Mabley Green Users Group is an award-winning community gardening group in East London.