For a while during lockdown, grass verges were not being maintained by local parishes. Many people have commented as to how nice it has been to have long flowing grass and wildflowers. Crucially, we need to be doing this. As the climate warms, wildlife corridors allow nature to move to suitable new habitats. Wild flowers encourage insects and pollinators, vital to life on Earth.
So if we inhibit wildlife corridors we are in serious trouble. We need to take radical action considering the situation we’re in. That means changing how we do things, changing how we live. What is more important: short, neat-looking grass or the health of our planet? For anyone who needs reminding, we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction of the Earth and a climate crisis. We need to take positive action now!
Glynis Hales of the newly formed Transition Swindon group and the Bee Roadzz has been campaigning on this very issue, trying to convince the council and parishes to make much-needed changes for 12 years! How do such simple changes take so long? Vital changes for our existence, for our health and well-being and for our children and grand-children. Please see below for the email exchange between Glynis and the Nythe, Eldene and Liden parish. It highlights a lack of understanding of the importance of these issues.
Those of us who appreciate nature being able to flourish in our town, who understand the importance of it, are not currently being heard by our representatives. So, we are asking people to write to their councillors and local parishes to ask for verges to be left to grow long, to be cut only twice a year. This is such an important action. Please share it with friends and family and ask for them to complete it also. It will take a few minutes of your time, it may make a huge difference to local biodiversity and our ability to deal with climate change. Thank you.
11th June 2020
For the past few years I have sent all parishes an email asking that you reduce or delay grass mowing so that pollinators can feed on the wildflowers that grow in these areas. I’m am not sure if it has been my emails or greater awareness of the decline of pollinators and wildlife generally but I have noticed more verges left for longer.
During lockdown it would appear that these grassy areas have been left for even longer resulting in many people commenting on social media about how lovely they are with buttercups and daisies alive with life making a far nicer sight than the desert that is left after mowing.
I would therefore ask that you consider now just mowing twice a year in early spring and autumn. This would move thought on to supply not just food but habitat to breed for bees, butterflies and other critical insects. Some species of bumble bee nest in long grass and I invite you to think where they might find that when most areas are mowed. Also there are specific plants that are required for caterpillars that are now sadly missing from our towns and countryside.
In cooperation with Wootton Bassett Environment Group, Bee Roadzz Swindon and Swindon Cycle Campaign I have written to all councillors on SBC to request they move quickly on creating and improving walkways and cycle paths to allow for social distancing in line with government guidance. We have also suggested these areas could also be part of the wildlife corridors so essential to our wildlife. Most hedgehog losses are on our roads and encouraging wildlife corridors on these walkways would reduce these losses. I see the grassy verges as being part of this project with a new way to manage these vital assets into the future.
I invite any parish representatives who would like to talk about this onto my show The Birds and the Bees which is broadcast twice a week on Swindon 105.5 and podcast on social media. I will also be on BBC Radio Wiltshire to promote this project.
12th June 2020
The Parish has read and considered the email below.
The outcome is as follows:
We are judged on the standard of our grass cutting.
Leaving grass verges to only be cut twice a year would lead to loads of complaints. Further to this it would take a load of work to get cut it back at the end of the year. Residents request more strimming not less.
We currently have wildlife areas around the lakes and an unofficial nature reserve in Eldene.
Therefore we are of the opinion that we make no changes to our current grass cutting programme.
14th June 2020
We recently emailed the parish regarding mowing of verges (see below) and were quite surprised to get a reply within days as we are aware that you do not have a full meeting until 22nd June! We therefore thought we would send you a direct message to ensure all councillors understand the issue.
Meanwhile we would like to address the points brought up in the reply.
“Loads of complaints”
This is an issue we used to hear from SBC many years ago and addressed it by starting the Bee Roadzz Swindon (https://www.facebook.com/Beeroadzzswindon/) and informing people of the need for wildlife corridors and where they are. Bee Roadzz Swindon is also part of a nationwide project called B-Lines from Bug Life (https://www.buglife.org.uk/our-work/b-lines/) and Naturehood (https://naturehood.uk/) run by Wiltshire Wildlife and Earthwatch. For this purpose we suggest the use of the attached poster on sites that have been left and information about fewer mowings on your web site. Many more people are now aware of the need for wildlife spaces and leaving the verges to grow is one of them.
“a load of work”
It is not so much work as cultivation of an important asset. The reduction in mowing (and often leaving an unattractive mass of dead grass) will save money and enable the training of someone to look after these areas. The mown hay can also be sold to farmers as a far more nutritious feed for their stock and a backup in case of floods, which will be occurring more often due to climate change.
As mentioned in our original email, any Councillor is welcome on our show The Birds and the Bees (https://www.facebook.com/thebirdsandthebees1055/) on Swindon 105.5 and podcast to discuss the pros and cons.
Thank you for your consideration.
15th June 2020
Thank you for your email.
The email was circulated to all councillors. All the councillors read your email, and the decision was the Parish would not be making any change to our Grass cutting programme at this time, if this changes in the future we will be sure to make contact with you.
I understand this can be disappointing and we welcome everyone to our Q&A session at the Parish meetings for further questions to be asked regarding any decisions made.