Appreciating Wildflowers in Urban Spaces (Roberts Park, Saltaire)

I live in Saltaire, a village on the edge of the city of Bradford, UK. It’s a mostly urban area, with not much in the way of nature or wildlife. There’s a city and main roads on one side, and then woodlands, a river and moors on the other. So Saltaire is kind of in-between. In my head, at least, I have to travel to find things I want to photograph. Specifically, I miss flowers and insects.

One of my favourite experiences, from a few years ago, was from when I lived in the south west of England – just south of Exeter, next to the Exminster RSPB reserve. I often saw hobbies, peregrine falcons, and migrating birds, but one of the nicest things was seeing hummingbird hawk-moths feeding on wildflowers. I spent hours watching and photographing them. My favourite shot captures a moment when a moth briefly got a flower caught on its proboscis.


I captured some extreme close-ups too, on an eye level with the moths, where I could see their eyes and faces really clearly.

Happy days! Being close-up with wildlife, spending hours watching hummingbird hawk-moths, watching thousands of migrating birds flying overhead… I miss those days!  Living among wildlife helped me to become a photographer. It’s much easier being a photographer if you are surrounded by beautiful things!

Moving up north to a place where I have to search harder to find wildlife has been depressing. I have tried to photograph streets, factories, chimneys etc, but it just hasn’t done much for me. I thought I might be able to adjust to an industrial environment, but I haven’t. I need nature!

So one thing that has brought a smile to my face recently is that in a nearby park (Roberts Park, Saltaire), the council have planted two wildflower areas. The wildflower areas are small, but are little oases of life and colour. Just a few feet wide, and maybe 30 feet long, but there’s so much colour, and such a variety of flowers:


The flower beds look beautiful from a distance. Go closer still, and the stems, flower heads, and grasses, are great. The range of colours become more noticeable the closer in you go:

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And when you’re just a few feet away, there’s the buzzing of bees. Honey bees, bumble bees, little flies – all beavering away searching for nectar. Life!

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Buzzzzzzz, buzzzz….

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And this is the great thing about wildflowers in public spaces and urban areas. It’s a little slice of nature in a park. For photographers like myself, it’s an opportunity to photograph flowers and insects close-up.

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Maybe if I wait long enough, I’ll see a hummingbird hawk-moth again. Because where there is a variety of wildflowers like this, there’s food and habitat for all kinds of insects. Seeing hummingbird hawk-moths again is definitely a possibility.

One thing that impressed me when photographing the wildflowers was how many people stopped to look at them and talk about them. I have spent perhaps one or two hours photographing these wildflowers, and in that time 5 or 6 people have stopped to look at them, photograph them with their phones, smile, wander around the flower beds. With the insects buzzing around, it’s much more of a complete experience than the deadness of normal bedding plants, where there are no insects.

So I want to support wildflowers. I want to support councils, individuals, and anyone, who grows wildflowers. I want to thank Bradford Council for growing the wildflower beds in Roberts Park. It must be difficult for councils to grow wildflowers, when parks traditionally grow the kinds of bedding plants that make for regimented displays of colour.

Thanks Bradford Council!


About rjheeks

From 2008 to 2013 I completed a PhD on Discovery Writing. I also love photography. I'm best known for photographing soap bubbles. I also like rock art (ancient art/markings on rocks). I live near Ilkley (Yorkshire, UK) where there are quite a few pieces of rock art.
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