Nottingham Catchfly: The Project So Far

The Nottingham Catchfly owes its name to the presence of the wildflower within the Castle grounds in the 1600s. It’s also the county flower of Nottingham, even though it is now mostly absent from the city in which it was originally spotted.

Now, volunteers across Nottinghamshire are growing the plants from their homes. We are hoping to bring them back to coincide with the unveiling of Nottingham Castle’s £30 million redevelopment.

Our Volunteer Manager, Pippa, has told us the story of the project so far, and why she was so keen to get behind it…

Pippa said: “I found out about Nottingham Catchfly during my first week as Volunteer Manager at Nottingham Castle, almost a year ago.

Nottingham Catchfly in Bromley House Garden
Bromley House Garden – Nottingham Catchfly Plant

The wildflower was mentioned in the plans for the redevelopment of the Castle. However, with only a year until opening, and only half a dozen members of staff, it seemed unlikely that we’d be able to get the project off the ground. I had, however, bonded with the story and strongly felt the need to bring Nottingham Catchfly back to its rightful home.

With buckets of enthusiasm, I visited Wollaton Hall‘s herbarium and Bromley House Library to see their dried specimens. The latter even has a living one in their garden!

I received advice and support from a whole host of fantastic Nottingham-based organisations, including Nottingham’s Natural History Museum, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, Nottingham Urban Wildlife SchemeNottingham City Homes, Nottingham City Neighbourhood Services, Nottingham Open Spaces Forum, Honeybee Farmacy, and Nottingham Women’s History Group.

As a self-confessed newbie to gardening,  I needed further help. I knew who I needed to turn to – volunteers!

Nottingham Catchfly Seed packs in a crate
The Catchfly seed packs ready to be sent out

With the go-ahead from Sara, our CEO, support from an external team of designers at Bonner & Hindley, and supplies from local wildflower seed provider, Naturescape, the project was taking shape.

Then we were struck by COVID-19. The project took on a new meaning; people were looking for exciting activities to do at home, and ways to make connections with their community from afar.

Within 24 hours of doing a call out for volunteers, all seed packets had been assigned.

Led by Josh Osoro Pickering, our Community and Engagement Manager, the project grew. We partnered with the Renewal Trust and Nottingham’s City Council Play and Youth Provision to distribute 750 packs to vulnerable families in Nottingham.

People of all ages, backgrounds, nationalities, and gardening knowledge were united, connected and championing the mission of returning the wildflower to Nottingham Castle.

Nottingham Castle Volunteer Manager Pippa meets with horticultural students from Nottingham Trent Uni
Socially distanced first meet with NTU horticultural students.

I joined forces with a marvellous volunteer, Jann, who undertook invaluable research into the Catchfly and its history, together with a team of final year Nottingham Trent University horticultural students who worked on  proposals on the plants’ final location.

So now you know how the project came to be, you might want to find out more about the Catchfly and its history. Watch this space for more information as we get closer to welcoming the Nottingham Catchfly back to the castle grounds.”

We love to hear from you and see how your Nottingham Catchfly are doing – please post your pictures with the hashtags #NottinghamCatchfly and #CampionsLeague or email them to pvidaldavies@nottinghamcastle.org.uk