BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 16 Oct '14

DISUSED, DERELICT SITE COULD BE TRANSFORMED INTO A ‘WILD-HEART’ ECO-PARK FOR SHEFFIELD

A disused heart-shaped plot of land in Sheffield city centre will be transformed into a radical new eco-park filled with wildflowers and UK native plants, if it wins a bid for £120,000 lottery funding through a national competition.

Guerrilla gardening – there are guerrillas in our midst, and they’re changing the urban landscape

The University of Sheffield’s Love Square scheme is in the running for a cash injection from the Big Lottery Fund through the Grow Wild initiative, led by the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, which is open to a public vote until 4 November 2014.

Love Square, the innovative mobile eco-park proposed by Sheffield, will put a living heart-shaped garden back into the city by transforming a derelict site into a vibrant wildflower meadow teaming with wildlife.

The shortlist

The Sheffield scheme is one of five finalists in the running to become the Grow Wild England’s flagship site. Plymouth’s City to Sea, East London’s Cody Wilds, Bristol’s People’s Planet Collection and Liverpool and Manchester’s Tale of Two Cities are also on the shortlist. Visit Grow Wild before Tuesday 4 November to vote for your favourite.

The Love Square design has been led by Professor Nigel Dunnett from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Landscape. Professor Dunnett previously created the world-famous wildflower landscapes at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford.

‘We’re hugely excited about this project, which is all about rethinking the boundaries between urban spaces and nature. For more than 100 years we have been weaned on the idea that pristine urban environments that are carefully manicured are a good thing. And we’ve thought that nature is scruffy, untidy and wild. This thinking urgently needs to change.

‘Love Square is a new type of ‘Smart’ urban nature park: colourful, modern and strongly designed. It will lead the way in showing that it is possible to have a city space that is great for nature and the environment, but which is also fun, contemporary and forward-looking. We desperately need to change the way we view nature in the city’.

Professor Nigel Dunnett, University of Sheffield’s Department of Landscape

Good to go

The scheme is ‘open-source’, and the 2,000m² site’s moveable modules can easily be replicated, remixed, changed or moved to other parts of the city.

Professor Dunnett hopes that people will take the drawings and templates and start their own urban schemes. ‘The centres of cities are fluid spaces that change as dramatically as the fields around them’, he said. ‘By creating moveable and modular components, we can bring nature and wildflowers into the very heart of our inner cities.’

Love Square features a community café made from converted shipping containers with wildflower green roof, and a living wall of native climbing plants. Outdoor seating areas are surrounded by colourful wildflower meadows.

Community benefits

A mini wetland soaks up rainwater after storms, helping to prevent flooding, and the artwork-packed Love Square will be lined with an edge of bird-friendly trees. It’s designed to be a colourful community space bringing social and economic benefits to a neglected part of the city, and a go-to place for all of Sheffield.

The project has received the support of modern-day ‘Johnny Appleseed’ and ‘renegade gardener’ Ron Finley from South Central, Los Angeles.

Ron, who sparked a revolution when he began planting food on a grass verge outside his home, visited the site during a trip hosted by the University of Sheffield during its Festival of the Mind.

‘I see Love Square as a place for people to stop and think – where they can enjoy nature and be a part of nature. I think it’s going to be a magical experiment in combining the urban with the garden.

‘Love Square is the perfect name for it. It brings love into the environment and it’s going to be so sexy to have this happen.

‘This isn’t just for Sheffield. We want this all over the country – all over the world. With your vote we can start making this happen.’

Ron Finley, guerrilla gardener

Grey to green

The eco-park at Love Square will form the hub of another regeneration project: Grey to Green, which will transform 1.3km of a redundant dual carriageway into a green cycle and pedestrian route.

Supported by the Big Lottery Fund and led by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Grow Wild inspires communities, friends, neighbours and individuals across the UK to come together to transform local spaces, by sowing, growing and enjoying native wild flowers.

For more information about Love Square, visit Sheffield University’s Love Square site. More information about the four other projects shortlisted for the funding, along with how to vote, can be found at growwilduk.com.