14 July 2020
While studying for a degree in Textiles at Manchester Metropolitan University, Eleanor Sofia Walker has undertaken a personal wellbeing project which brings attention to the plants and wildflowers that grow all over our city, particularly in Ancoats and New Islington.
Ever since I moved to Manchester I’ve always felt aware that there are very few green spaces, especially in the centre of town. For just over a year I’ve felt pretty negative about it, always wishing there was more nature to enjoy, and although it’s true there aren’t many large green areas, I recently started to take notice of all the plants and wildflowers that grow around the city.
When I start to look around I noticed that there’s so much life that I see everyday, without really ever noticing. For example, Manchester in particular is absolutely covered in Buddleja. This plant is very easy to recognise because of its beautiful purple flowers which are great for insects, and it is for this reason that it’s known as the Butterfly Bush. A lot of people see it as a weed due to its ability to grow pretty much anywhere, but I think it’s so beautiful to look at and it has a lovely sweet smell too.
I know a little about plants from an interest in nature and knowledge from my parents passed onto me. However, there are so many that I don’t know, so every time I’m outside and see a plant that catches my attention I take a picture and look up it up, to find out more about it.
After enrolling on an ‘Arts for Wellbeing’ course at my university, we were given the freedom to create and execute individual projects connected to creativity and wellbeing. Because I have this passion for nature and get so much happiness from noticing different plants and animals, I wanted to share that with other people, which will hopefully inspire them to start taking more notice too.
I wanted my project to encompass as many of the ‘Five ways to Wellbeing’ as possible, they are: Connect, Give, Be Active, Take Notice and Keep Learning. I thought that the simplest way to do this would be to just label the plants that I think look interesting. It’s quite an unintrusive way of teaching and I hope when people stop to look at the plants they might learn something new on a walk, to work for example, and in turn improve their mental health.
"It’s quite an unintrusive way of teaching and I hope when people stop to look at the plants they might learn something new on a walk, to work for example, and in turn improve their mental health."
Doing a project like this is something that’s new to me, so it’s just the beginning. I have put some signs along the Ashton Canal, and in Cotton Fields park but hopefully there’ll be more to come. I document it on an Instagram account called @jardin.de.lenore where I also share interesting facts about plants and animals I find outside, the plants I’m growing on my balcony and my houseplants.
Eleanor Sofia Walker is in the final year of her Textiles degree at Manchester School of Art. Follow her @jardin.de.lenore
Photos by Christian at Blossom. Email: email@example.com