Legacy Maker

Keeping Britain blooming

Richard Scott, Cornwall, England

“Andy Warhol said land really is the best art,” says Richard Scott, director of the National Wildflower Centre. “Nobody would think of a pop artist saying that – but it goes with my experience. What you can do with a piece of land is incredible.”

Richard has worked on the wild planting project since it began in 2000 as a Millennium project, first near Liverpool, now at the Eden Project in Cornwall. It aims to reverse ecological decline, and bring wildflowers back into the UK’s living culture.

“Putting flowers into our everyday experiences is exciting”

“The potential in a seed is immense,” says Richard, 56. “Sowing seed is strongly related to art – think about Van Gogh’s The Sower. Only 50 years or so ago, we sowed fields by hand. And now we have great fun with people sowing our flowers. What’s great is that surprise and delight when the seeds explode into lots of flowers.” Richard works in deprived areas of the UK and Europe, and preaches “creative conservation” – the craft and care of making change, and passing on skills for others to do the same. “There’s a danger in people thinking that there is some green-fingered magic to doing all this,” he says. “It’s important to remove that mysticism. We want to make it accessible. Sowing seeds is the simplest thing in world.”

“We want to find ways to connect to people’s lives and capture their imagination”

“Putting flowers into our everyday experiences is exciting. We want to find ways to connect to people’s lives and capture their imagination. Maybe it’s a nondescript piece of land they go past every day on a commute. It was invisible to them, but suddenly a switch has been flipped, and it’s turned into something special.” And in a world threatened by climate change, rethinking our use of the land is more important than ever, says Richard: “The world is full of talk of mass extinctions. It’s hard to see a butterfly in the UK now. But by doing this, remarkable things can happen. Bees, butterflies and birds reappear if you make this effort, and it doesn’t need to cost very much. It connects people back to the land.”

Photography by Jody Daunton