Today's Object of the Week is a sculpture which aims to highlight a County Durham town's surprising secret.

THINK of Newton Aycliffe and what comes to mind?

Whatever you're thinking, I'll bet it's not wildflowers.

But people who live there are aware that there is a lot of green space in the County Durham town.

And today's Object of the Week is a reminder of that.

The four metre high sculpture of a common blue butterfly resting on an orchid stands in a wildflower meadow on Greenfield Way, alongside the town's railway station.

The Northern Echo: The sculpture stands four metres highThe sculpture stands four metres high

It was commissioned by Great Aycliffe Town Council in 2009 and was created by by Brian Russell of Little Newsham Forge in Winston, near Darlington.

It is one of several sculptures along the Great Aycliffe Way, which winds its way through the town.

The wildflower meadow in which it stands is part of a larger project.

The town council manages more than ten acres of native wildflower meadows across the parish.

The railway station meadow is the largest and there are others in West Park, three along Woodham Burn, Moore Lane, the School Aycliffe wetlands, three at Byerley Park nature reserve - and other smaller sites elsewhere.

Steve Cooper, works environment manager at Great Aycliffe Town Council, said: "The sculpture is to raise the public's awareness of what we're doing.

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"I'm aware that a lot of people drive past and don't really stop to take in the wildflowers there.

"It's a really flower rich environment and the sculpture was put there to highlight the meadow.

"A lot of the meadows have information boards. A lot of people don't stop to read them, but the sculpture is really noticeable so if you do drive by, you'll see it."

The Northern Echo: The common blue butterly and the orchid are among several species present in the meadowsThe common blue butterly and the orchid are among several species present in the meadows

There has been a sharp decline in the number of meadows across Britain - since the 1930s, 97 per cent of all native wildflower meadows have been lost.

"What we're doing is a drop in the ocean, but hopefully we're doing something to improve the environment and the biodiversity emergency, " adds Mr Cooper.

The meadows are not expensive to maintain, but there is a cost associated with them as they need to be harvested each autumn.

And because they have been established in Newton Aycliffe for several years, the town is often held up as an example of how to manage wildflower meadows in a largely urban environment.

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