Taking stock in our green spaces  

Yellow flag iris growing at the green space in Centenary Way 

Yellow flag iris growing at the green space in Centenary Way. - Credit: Groundwork South 

The emerging spikes of yellow flag iris stand stark against the shorter grasses and herbs. 

These sword-like leaves can grow up to a metre and a half tall and thrive in wet or damp areas like this one – alongside a stream and shaded by scrubby woodland.

Just off Centenary Way - and a short distance from the commercial park in The Willows area of Torquay - this green space is not the kind of place you would expect to find a link to linguistics and heraldry perhaps.

And, yet, the natural world is woven through human history, whether through plant names – the name yellow ‘flag’ iris stems from the middle English word flagge, meaning reed or rush – or through the symbolism we have associated with it – the iris’s yellow blooms are thought to be the origin of the ‘fleur-de-lis’ seen on coats-of-arms.

While the reason for the visit to the green space is a community litter pick organised by Torbay Community Development Trust’s community builder for the ward, the native flora spotted while there are a welcome bonus and a way of getting the community to really look at what is there.

Some of the rubbish that was collected on the community clean-up on Saturday 17th April

Some of the rubbish that was collected on the community clean-up. - Credit: Groundwork South  

Saturday’s litter pick has highlighted a range of issues, from all-too-common ones like left-behind bags of dog waste, to how many varied opportunities for recreation and exercise the space offers those who live here. 

Groundwork South works with communities across the South of England to not only help them make changes, but also to keep some things the same.  We offer resources and support to help people look at what is already there and take stock of not only what changes they would like to make, but also what needs to be kept or conserved.

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And the yellow flag? A reminder that we need to look beyond appearance, delve beneath the surface to really see the value of what we have and to celebrate that before we jump in to making change for change’s sake.  

To find out more about how to get involved in caring for green spaces in Torbay, please contact Hannah Worthington on 07940510616 or email hannah.worthington@groundwork.org.uk