In response to our declaration of a climate and ecological emergency, we are trialling a number of changes to the way some green spaces across the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole area are managed.
These changes will help us to develop policies and procedures that are sustainable, help tackle climate change and improve conditions for wildlife.
More grass meadows will be created by leaving some areas of open space uncut throughout the summer months. Therefore some areas of grass will not be cut and others will be cut less frequently.
The potential benefits of establishing meadows include:
- an increase in biodiversity as meadows attract and support a range of species, including important pollinators such as bees and butterflies which have suffered widespread decline in recent years
- carbon sequestration (the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon) as, in grassland, carbon is stored in roots and in organic matter in the soil
- visual interest as leaving areas uncut allows flowers to bloom and grasses to grow tall, creating a variety of colours and textures.
Where necessary the edges of meadows will be cut. Informal footpaths and areas for picnics and recreation may also be cut in larger meadows. Meadows will be cut in late summer or early autumn and the clippings will be removed from the surface.
Verges and other green spaces
The cutting of some verges and other green spaces will be reduced. By starting grass cutting later in the year and reducing the frequency of cuts, plants within verges and green spaces will have the opportunity to flower, providing a valuable source of nectar to important pollinator species. Central reservations and roadside verges are not used for recreational purposes therefore the grass does not need to be cut regularly. Approaches to junctions (sight lines) will still be cut so that road users can see oncoming traffic.
If present within an area, less common plants such as bee orchids and oxeye daisies will have the chance to flower and reproduce adding interest and colour to general amenity areas. The edges of these areas will be mown to prevent any longer grass overhanging roads, cycleways and pavements. Approaches to junctions (sightlines) will be cut so that road users can see oncoming traffic. When these areas are cut the clippings may be removed or left on the surface to break down naturally.
Many verges and green spaces do not need to be maintained as short grass therefore resources can be focussed on areas that do require regular cutting or on other maintenance tasks.
Future plans to monitor and survey meadow sites will create the opportunity for residents to become involved in the trials. It will also provide important information to help shape future policies that protect and enhance our environment. Further changes to grassland management may be trialled in the future based on our continued learning and availability of resources.
Not all areas of open space will be managed as meadow. Grass meadows that have been created on open spaces tend to be close to larger areas of close mown grass such as parks and recreation grounds which can still be used for leisure activities.
Length of trial
The trial will take place over the summer months and mowing will take place between mid-July and October. This work is likely to be ongoing over a number of years with different methods and practices being trialled based on our continued learning. This will enable us to assess the best way to manage our grass areas to achieve our aims.
Where possible paths have been cut through the grass meadows so you can still have access to exercise your dogs. Parks and recreation grounds will still be mown on a regular basis providing areas with short grass where dogs can be walked. Regardless of the length of grass it is the dog owner’s responsibility to pick up after their pets. If a person allows their dog to foul and does not pick it up, they are committing an offence. This applies to all public land in the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole area.
By reducing some of the grass cutting we are aware of potential concerns regarding fire, hayfever, ticks, snakes and wildlife issues.
The risk of fire is considered to be extremely low compared to the significant benefits that can be achieved by allowing grass areas to grow.
It would be very difficult to tell if hayfever symptoms were made worse by leaving some areas of grass uncut. High pollen levels in the atmosphere are normally experienced during the summer months as a result of pollen being released from many different plant species in addition to grass, such as trees and garden plants.
Ticks live in some areas of long grass, heath and woodland. It is always a good idea to check yourself and your pets if they have been walking through long grass.
Of the three native species of snake found in the UK, the adder is the only one that is venomous. In the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole area adders are rarely seen away from heathland. They tend to be wary of humans and will often move away from anyone approaching when they feel vibrations in the ground.
The life cycle of many plants and insects occurs in the core summer months, therefore cutting after this time will not have a detrimental effect on the diversity of these species. Most of the trial areas are close to areas of denser vegetation such as hedgerows which can be used as shelter by other animals when the meadows are cut. Leaving the grass uncut at the trial areas for the summer months will have a much more beneficial effect on wildlife than keeping the grass short at these sites throughout the year.
It is unclear at this stage whether the trial will generate any cost savings. However, the trail does offer clear environmental benefits and BCP Council is committed to exploring new ways of working to ensure services are both economically and environmentally sustainable.