A local conservation project, Flourishing Floodplains, has introduced young people in Gloucester to the wonder of their local wetlands and brought them together with a local artist to co-create a vibrant art installation celebrating floodplain meadows.
The artwork, being installed in the Eastgate Shopping Centre in Gloucester on Saturday 11 February, brings the beauty of wetland wildlife into the heart of the city centre.
The artwork was created in response to the youth groups’ visits to the little known Alney Island Wetland Nature Reserve in central Gloucester, and it features 16 species of floodplain wildlife found locally. These include two focal species for the Flourishing Floodplains project: the critically endangered European eel and the iconic curlew, of which only about 35 pairs remain in the Severn Vale.
The Flourishing Floodplains project, delivered by Wildfowl & Wetland Trust (WWT), Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group South West and the Floodplain Meadows Partnership led by the Open University, is working to restore vital but threatened habitats alongside the River Severn.
Local artist and designer, Ella Daniel-Lowe explains:
The children were so inspired by sights and smells of the Alney Island wetland wildlife found so close to the city. They loved the electric-blue damselflies and smelt the honey-scent of meadowsweet for the first time. We spotted multiple species of butterflies and even a rare bee orchid. We wanted to use all these experiences to create a joyful, eye-catching artwork that will stop shoppers in their tracks and encourage the people of Gloucester to discover wonderful wetlands, just a short stroll away from the town centre.
Sue Kinsey, Wetland Engagement Officer at WWT, said:
The young people had their eyes truly opened to the diversity and richness of local floodplain wildlife. We hope the resulting artwork will encourage local residents to learn more about the vital role our wetlands play in supporting biodiversity, and the many other benefits they bring: such as preventing flooding in urban areas further downstream, cleaning our water, and helping us combat climate change.
Wildlife-rich floodplains are disappearing fast. The Severn and Avon Vales were once a large, connected mosaic of floodplain meadows, marshes and small wetlands but today over 88% of this habitat has been lost or has reduced biodiversity. Nationally, only 1,100ha (about 2,000 football pitches) of species-rich floodplain meadow remain in England and Wales.
40% of the world’s plants and animals depend on wetlands. In addition to supporting so much wildlife, floodplains help store floodwater, improve soil and water quality and store carbon. Additionally, as the Gloucester youth groups discovered, spending time in these nature-rich places can boost our sense of wellbeing.
Jason Robinson, Eastgate Shopping Centre Manager, commented:
It is fantastic that we have been able to host the workshops and exhibition for this project and look forward to displaying the finished article. It’s great to see the space being used so effectively and we hope that this will inspire customers to investigate the local wetlands for themselves.
The artwork is on display in Eastgate Shopping Centre, next to the entrance to Eastgate Indoor Market, over the coming weeks. On Saturday 11 February from 11:30 until 13:30 members of the public can also join a free drop-in workshop (subject to availability, located in the former 'A Write Card' shop) to paint their own wooden dragonfly or butterfly to take home.
Further information about the Flourishing Floodplains project is available online.
The Flourishing Floodplains project, which concludes in 2023 is supported by the Green Recovery Challenge fund.