Sowing Britain’s longest meadow

As the sun begins to drop below the horizon, the team from Pictorial Meadows are just starting out, checking plans and unloading their convoy of trailers. Across a busy four nights this month, this team will transform the central reservation of a busy dual-carriageway into Britain’s longest urban meadow, extending for over six miles through Rotherham, and dubbed the River of Flowers. 

Across the UK, meadows are disappearing at an alarming rate, with over 97% of the wildflower meadows that were around 100 years ago no longer existing. Meadow landscapes are not only beautiful, but provide an important resource for our bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. The River of Flowers project shows how meadows can be used to bring benefits for both people and nature in towns and cities. 

The meadow being sown has been specially developed by Pictorial Meadows for urban areas and contains more than 30 different flowering species, carefully balanced to offer beautiful changing colours across the season while also ensuring improved pollen and nectar availability for wildlife. 

The response from the public to the meadow in previous years has been overwhelmingly positive, with Rotherham Borough Council commenting that they had “received hundreds of compliments from local residents, and visitors as far afield as Scotland, Cornwall, and even Australia”.

Connecting the M18 and the M1 motorway, the meadow brightens the journey of hundreds of thousands of commuters every year, as well as being appreciated by local residents. 

“The flowers are so much better than the plain grass that was there before, it just helps you feel more positive every time you see it – I hope more councils do the same,”  says David, a regular traveller along the route. 

Creating such a large meadow in an urban setting is not without its challenges however, as Dan Cornwell, Landscapes Director at Pictorial Meadows, explains: 

“Establishing a traditional native meadow requires some very specific growing conditions, and can often need extensive soil conditioning works. This can make it unfeasible for many locations. The specialist mix of species we have developed for the River of Flowers project is perfectly tailored for an urban environment, and requires significantly less investment than a standard meadow.”

Based in South Yorkshire, and part owned by the University of Sheffield and social enterprise, Green Estate, Pictorial Meadows has developed a reputation for providing high quality, reliable meadows across the UK and beyond.  Projects have included work in locations such as the Olympic Stadium, Windsor Royal Parks, The Royal Horticultural Societies gardens at Trentham or the National Trust Gardens at Bodnant, or even further afield at the Gothenburg or Madrid botanical gardens.

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