A lottery-funded project has been working with Sunderland schools and young people to create a stunning wildflower meadow on a neglected brownfield site.

The project – Lost Landscapes and Learning – has revitalised Galley’s Gill, a site close to Sunderland City Centre.

As well as improving the site’s biodiversity and nurturing rare species of flowers, the project has aimed to make young people more knowledgeable about the natural world.

The project – which won a lottery grant of £68,600 in 2017 – identified Galley’s Gill as an ideal location that could teach youngsters about their industrial and cultural heritage in addition to raising their environmental awareness.

The children learned about the history of the area by using old photos and maps and talking to local residents.

Five primary schools – St Joseph’s, Hudson Road, Grangetown, Valley Road Academy and Richard Avenue – took part in the Lost Landscapes and Learning project.

Through a number of fieldtrips, classroom-based activities and family heritage events, the schools helped create a wildflower meadow at Galley’s Gill, as well as similar meadows in their school grounds.

The project aimed to remedy the lack of knowledge people – and especially children and youngsters – often have about their local flora. The project included teaching the children the names of different wildflowers.

Training was also given to teachers and adult volunteers and a stunning bespoke website – with many incredible pictures of wildflowers – was created to celebrate the project. The website will also be a means of collecting and disseminating important data about wildflowers.

Before the project began, Galley’s Gill had been identified as being in an ‘unfavourable condition’. Though some wildflowers had colonised the brownfield site, it was declining in species richness and was in need of urgent work to preserve and improve its biodiversity.

The natural environment of Galley’s Gill was also threatened by redevelopment work taking place nearby. This type of problem is by no means restricted to Sunderland – nationally there has been a decline in wildflower biodiversity.

One Year 5 pupil, from Richard Avenue Primary, said, “My favourite parts were when we went to Galley’s Gill and I learned a lot, like the names of different wildflowers and how to recognise them.”

“I also loved learning about the history of shipbuilding in Sunderland. The wildflower meadow (in school) is also doing fine, but it needs a bit more water. On the bright side, it’s attracting lots of bees that are buzzing around like crazy.”

The Lost Landscapes and Learning Project was delivered by OASES (Outdoor Sustainability Education Specialists) along with Sunderland City Council, Durham Wildlife Trust, and CEED (Community Environmental Education Developments).

OASES has been promoting outdoor learning and educating youngsters about sustainability for two decades. The charity aims to “create a more sustainable world where all children can thrive” and to “inspire, motivate and engage young people by providing them with exciting educational experiences.”

You can learn more about OASES by going to https://oasesnortheast.org.uk/.

To see stunning pictures of some of the wildflowers thriving at Galley’s Gill and at the primary schools, please visit https://lostlandscapesandlearning.org/.

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