A money-saving landscaping choice by South Tyneside Council has sparked a photography competition and seen photographs published in national newspapers.
The local authority switched to flower meadows in 17 sites around the borough and saved more than £300,000 in maintenance costs. Then once the flowers bloomed, local photographer John Short brought them to a wider audience with a series of photographs on his Facebook page, See Tyne and Wear Differently.
Over 10,000 people viewed the images in just a few days, with the album chalking up over 500 'likes' in the same short time, sparking the idea of the council and local paper, the Shields Gazette running a photography competition inviting residents and visitors to capture their favourite meadow view.
This week both the Guardian and The Daily Telegraph newspapers ran a picture of a child enjoying one of the meadows in full bloom.
South Tyneside Council’s lead member for area management and community councillor Tracey Dixon said: "We have had fantastic feedback for the wildflower meadows so far. The project has brought a splash of colour to the borough and created a whole new set of beauty spots.
"We are keen to find out more about which sites people are enjoying the most, so that we can plan for future years as well as considering any changes to sites in the future.
She added: "I'm looking forward to seeing South Tyneside's photographic talent in action."
The success of the project is so like a marketer’s dream that it is perhaps no surprise that Short recently retired after more than 40 years as marketing director for a local printing company.
He said: "I'm passionate about the environment and I'm passionate about South Tyneside, so when I saw the beautiful meadow flowers I wanted to say thank you for a job well done. I think it's important to celebrate the good news stories and raise the borough's profile. Everything we can do to make South Tyneside a better place to live and work will encourage people to invest in the area's future."
The meadows have been sown with a range of different seed mixtures, including British native mixes and some exotics. The British wildflower meadows are in full bloom with cornfield flowers like poppy, corn cockle, corn chamomile, corn marigold and cornflower, creating a sea of red, pink, white, yellow and blue.
The more exotic seed mixes have been sown in more urban or formal settings with colour schemes dubbed strawberries and cream, contrasting and candy mix.