6000 Flowers Arts Project creates a buzz for bumblebees as Cornwall welcomes the first day of Spring

A new art show launched yesterday at The Environment and Sustainability Institute’s Creative Exchange as Cornwall welcomed the arrival of Spring.

Artist Josie Purcell alongside some of her work for 6000 Flowers

Artist Josie Purcell alongside some of her work for 6000 Flowers

‘6000 Flowers’ is artist Josie Purcell's response to the 'Farms for AONBees' pollinators’ project currently in progress between Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (CAONB) and The Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI), University of Exeter.

Spring sees bumblebee queens visiting up to 6000 Flowers per day to collect enough nectar and pollen to establish her colony. However at this time of year there can be a shortfall in the availability of high quality flowers across agricultural landscapes.

Josie is a photographer with a passion for alternative and historic photographic processes that have as little impact on the environment as possible. The image making technique she has implemented for this exhibition is the anthotype. This makes the most of nature's bounty through the use of a photosensitive emulsion made from the juice/pulp of plants, flowers and berries. The resulting delicate monochromatic images are produced within several hours or weeks depending on the solution used and the duration/strength of sunlight.

One of Josie's images

One of Josie's images

The ‘Farms for AONBees' project is seeking to make a significant difference to the quality of our landscapes for conservation and food production. At the core of this project is a computer programme developed in Prof. Juliet Osbornes’ pollinators research group at the ESI that replicates the foraging and colony survival of bees in realistic landscapes. The ESI and the CAONB are currently doing real time testing of the computer programme on agricultural holdings by working with 5 farms across the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Josie's exhibition draws on the science behind this project and its importance in helping us understand more about bees’ health, survival and the pollination they provide.

Researchers from the ESI with Josie

Researchers from the ESI with Josie

Colette Beckham, CAONB Partnership Manager says, “It’s great to see how science and the arts can come together through a project like Josie’s, to illustrate just how important it is to find solutions to the shortages of forage that can affect Cornish bumblebees whilst they’re on the wing right now”.

Dr Grace Twiston-Davies, the ESI Research Associate on the project says, “I am fascinated by Josie’s environmentally friendly techniques, powered by plants and combining traditional methods with modern technology, the perfect interpretation of our Farms for AONBees project”.

Josie with Dr Grace Twiston-Davies, ESI Research Associate and project lead for Farms for AONBees

Josie with Dr Grace Twiston-Davies, ESI Research Associate and project lead for Farms for AONBees

The 6000 Flowers exhibition is open to the public and will run in The Creative Exchange from 21st March 2017 to 12th May 2017.


 Farms for AONBees


The Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI)


The Creative Exchange programme


Josie Purcell Artist Statement

As a photographer, my interests lie mainly in alternative and historic practices yet include the digital world we now live in, particularly smartphone photography.

I set up a participatory photography enterprise, ShutterPod, a few years ago to introduce some of the now antiquated photographic process to new audiences. Despite the ease and accessibility of digital photography (since the 90s), which saw more traditional processes diminish, I believed that the tactile nature of these older techniques would eventually gain traction with new audiences and this is currently being borne out in a resurgent interest in them.

Many of the participatory workshops I run use the natural world as a means for creating artwork. Wanting to take this a step further, I began a MA in Photography with Falmouth University in 2016. A number of the older process or products I am interested in can use potentially toxic chemicals and as someone whose current practice is focussing on our human impact on the environment, the MA is providing an opportunity to research which photographic processes will have the least effect. 

Therefore, I am now using both the anthotype and cyanotype processes. The anthotype uses sunlight and the juice of vegetables, flowers or berries to create ethereal images in a variety of single colours, while the chemicals in the cyanotype produce beautiful blue and white shades made by the action of sunlight that can be washed in the ocean. Both are precursors to the official invention of photography as we know it. Their discovery is attributed to scientist, Sir John Herschel. It was botanist Anna Atkins who first used the cyanotype process to create the first photo-book to detail her botany research on British algae.

One of the peculiarities of both processes lies in their predisposition to fading if not cared for appropriately, while the anthotype in particular requires exposure times of hours, days or weeks.

The 6000 Flowers project is an amazing opportunity to showcase how science and art can come together to support our environment for the benefit of bumblebees.

It is through the use of the nature that I aim to reflect the aims of 6000 Flowers and its new software, created by the Environmental Science Institute researchers to monitor and, in turn, support pollinators on farmland within Cornwall’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

My images include rural landscapes but I have incorporated Victorian botanical drawings to represent (some of) the missing flowers needed to help bumblebees thrive. The flowers are currently not there in reality but it is through work such as this that it is hoped flowers will bloom and bumblebees will flourish.

By using processes with a kinder environmental impact, ones that use nature to create themselves and ones that require time, patience and ongoing care to prevent them fading away, I hope to spark curiosity for 6000 Flowers and conversation about our impact on pollinators and what can be done on an ongoing basis to bring about benefits for all. 







 20th March 2017 to 12th May 2017: 6000 Flowers Art Exhibition

Organised by: Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI)

Held at: The Creative Exchange, ESI, Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9FE

Artist Proposal Submission Dates: From 9am 13th February to 5pm on 15th February 2017 (please note applications received after this period will not be considered).

Artist proposals to be sent to: rhardy@cornwall.gov.uk

We invite photographers and visual artists to submit a proposal to create an artwork/s that responds to the cutting edge research work currently being undertaken by the ESI and the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) through their Farms for AONBees project.

Farms for AONBees is seeking to make a significant difference to the quality of our landscapes for conservation and food production. At the core of this project is a computer programme developed in the pollinators research group at the University of Exeter, that replicates the foraging and colony survival of bees in realistic landscapes.

This cutting edge, but easy to use program, can predict where bees are feeding, what they are feeding on and in turn help us to understand how this affects their health, survival and the pollination they provide. 

The ESI and AONB are currently working with 5 farms across Cornwall, as part of a pilot project so we can do some real-time testing of the model on agricultural holdings. By using the model directly with farm owners and land managers we expect to be able to offer them tailor-made management recommendations to increase pollinators and pollination on any site.

Agricultural land in the AONB covers 73% of the total land area of the protected landscape. With that in mind, working on a project such as this in its infancy could, in the long term, help us understand so much more about our bee communities; what they need, and how they can continue to help us all.

6000 Flowers

Our project brief for the Creative Exchange Programme has been inspired by the fact that a bumblebee queen will visit up to 6000 flowers per day to collect enough nectar and pollen to establish her colony in the spring. However, at this time of year there can be a shortfall in the availability of high quality flowers across agricultural landscapes. The Farms for AONBees project is helping farmers to understand the needs of bees better and provide them with more forage and at the times they most need it. Our overriding aim is to make a significant difference to the quality of our Cornish landscapes for conservation and food production.

Through 6000 Flowers we want to bring this research into contact with art, to aid our understanding of broader perceptions and interpretations of this ground-breaking work. The Farms for AONBees project is important as it seeks to sustain and grow our essential bee populations. We want to ensure that a wide audience can access this information, and be drawn into its dynamism.  A grant has been made available to the Farms for AONBees project through the ESI’s Creative Exchange programme and the AONB to invite and fund an artist to respond to the project and its implications.

The Creative Exchange programme is a joint initiative between the ESI and Falmouth University’s Research in Art, Nature and the Environment. The programme aims to facilitate collaboration between creative practitioners and ESI researchers who share an interest in issues of environment and sustainability.

Please note - given there is a very short production time for this project, we are looking for well-considered proposals that are able to move forward with immediate effect to meet the project timeline.


Artist Fee - £350

Materials, Travel and Research Costs - £500

Mentoring - A ½ day session with an experienced artist to support artist development

The Farms for AONBees project team will be available to meet with the artist to help them learn more about the project and they will be able to accompany them to a farm involved with the pilot study to support artist research.


Shortlisted artists notified: 16th February 2017

Interviews (and selected artist notified): 17th February 2017

Project start date: 20th February 2017

Exhibition date: 20th March 2017

Exhibition close and project end date: 12th May 2017


The outcome of the selected artist’s project will be exhibited at The Creative Exchange, ESI, Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9FE.

The exhibition space is a secure multi-purpose space on the ground floor of the ESI building. It is located adjacent to a large foyer and sit-down area, which is busy with students, lecturers and visitors.

It has some natural lighting as well as overhead artificial lighting. There are multiple power sockets along the bottom the walls, a wall hung TV monitor and a small kitchen area. There are mounting boards fixed to the top half of the walls where artwork can be hung.

A private view will be organised to launch 6000 Flowers, with all associated press and publicity co-ordinated by the ESI and AONB (details to be confirmed).

AONB Annual Conference at Goonhilly Earth Station – 20th May 2017

The selected artist will have the opportunity to present a taster of their project at our annual conference. This will be discussed further with the selected artist on the commencement of the project.






Image credit: The Eden Project

Read all about It - AONB Natural Capital Report is officially launched!

banner image - The Rumps, Ian French

The official launch of the first assessment of Cornwall AONB Natural Capital was a great success.


75 delegates from a range or businesses, organisations, community groups and government bodies joined the Cornwall AONB team at New County Hall to hear about our year long project on Natural Capital and its potential for improvement to Cornwall’s landscape, well being, business and biodiversity.

Presented by Oliver Holzinger from the Consultancy for Environmental Economics and Policy (CEEP) and Pat Laughlin from the UK Business Council for Sustainable Development (BCSD), the Natural Capital report assessed data over a 10-year period on 5 main habitat types of the Cornwall AONB and examined its monetary and societal value for the economic and environmental growth of Cornwall.

The report is in three parts

Executive Summary

Main Report

Technical Appendices

  • The definition of Natural Capital and ecosystem services in the context of the Cornwall AONB.
  • Examination of data for ecosystems within the Cornwall AONB areas including wetland, heathland, grassland and woodland areas to discover whether these habitats have improved or degraded over the decade of available data.
  • A Natural Capital assessment case study: assessing wetland, heathland, woodland and grassland habitats in the Godrevy to Portreath AONB area.
  • Outcomes of an opportunity mapping stakeholder workshop
  • Vision and Principles for the Natural Capital management in the Cornwall AONB
  • Tools and mechanisms for management and investment in Natural Capital as well as businesses engagement
  • Conclusions, recommendations and the next steps.

The recommendations, through an a comprehensive All-Partner action plan include short, medium and long term goals which include monitoring and data collection to ensure up to date information is collected and maintained. It also looks at investment and funding opportunities and positive planning for Natural Capital. This would take the form of further business engagement and working with individual sectors and development sites to gain grass roots information and data to feed into the next part of the project.

This is the first stage of what we hope will be a momentum towards a strategy to improve and manage the Natural Capital in the Cornwall AONB and Cornwall wide for the benefit of us all.

The report is available to download from the Cornwall AONB website from Monday 30th Jan.

The Business Survey click here is also still online and we encourage you to take 10 minutes to get involved, have your say and be part of the Natural Capital movement.

Any questions or comments on the report or for any further information please contact Colette Beckham, Cornwall AONB Partnership Manager : email cbeckham@cornwall.gov.uk.