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Helping biodiversity flourish

As part of the Colchester Woodland and Biodiversity project we are doing a number of things to help biodiversity flourish across the borough.

Changing the grass cutting regime

We have changed the grass cutting regime in 10 areas across the borough to encourage greater biodiversity in some of our green spaces, with a further 14 areas being left to naturalise.  The cutting regime in these areas has changed from once every 3 weeks to once at the end of the growing season (around mid-autumn). This will encourage wildflower growth and help develop the area for invertebrates such as bees, butterflies and moths.

Changes have been made with the aim of benefitting pollinators and other insects, which are hugely important for lots of things, including the regulation of the natural environment and the food system.

Whilst it may be perceived that ‘weeds’ and long growth of plants and flowers can look unruly, this approach has been adopted by other Councils, and the wildflowers look very visually attractive during the growing season, as well as supporting wildlife and our environment.

Since this reduction in grass cutting has been put in place 18 species of butterfly have been recorded in the areas, which is about a third of all the species found across the country. A large number of bee species have also been identified which is a great result for such a short period of time.

We are working with local school children to help design signage for these areas in a bid to help educate them around the project and importance of looking after and supporting our environment to flourish.

Areas we will leave and cut once per year for wildflowers:

  • Riverside Walk Pathway
  • Kings Head Meadow
  • Land Lane
  • Stanway Bypass
  • Clingoe Hill
  • Cunobelin Way
  • A120/Godmans Lane East & West
  • Avenue of Remembrance
  • London Road/Tollgate road verges
  • Dyers Road/Heath Road junction verges
  • Footpath from St Andrews Gardens to Harwich Road

There are 14 locations where we are also allowing some parts of the open spaces to naturalise:

  • Leyfield Open Space
  • Wheatfield Road Open Space
  • Firstore Drive Open Space
  • Lethe Grove Open Space
  • Speedwell Road Open Space
  • Queen Elizabeth Way Open Space
  • Greenstead Slopes
  • Longridge Open Space
  • Egret Open Space
  • Henrietta Close
  • Pondfield Open Space
  • St Johns Open Space
  • Tile House Farm
  • Irvine Road Open Space

Wildflower Verges in Greenstead

Colchester Borough homes are working with the Council to identify areas where we can create wildflower verges. This will not only provide habitats and food sources for a wide range of pollinating insects – it will also provide a colourful display throughout the summer.

Wildflowers not only look amazing they also provide a habitat for a wide range of insects and a valuable food source for pollinating insects like bees and butterflies. The biggest benefits from wildflowers come when they grow as part of a meadow; however, if you don’t have the space for a meadow wildflower verges are a great alternative. This year we will begin a project to create wildflower verges in eleven locations across the Greenstead estate.

Wivenhoe Town Council

In March 2021 Wivenhoe Town Council also began a trial on altering the way selected verges and areas of open space are managed to encourage wildflower or naturalisation and better biodiversity. Each site is assessed for safety and potential issues, and a one metre mowing margin will be maintained for sightlines and to show the sites are being maintained.

Whilst it may be perceived that ‘weeds’ and long growth of plants and flowers can look unruly, this approach has been adopted by other Councils, and the wildflowers look very visually attractive during the growing season, as well as supporting wildlife and our environment.

The use of glyphosate weed killer

In September 2020 our Environment and Sustainability Panel agreed to end the use of glyphosate-based products for general maintenance by the end of March 2021.

A managed approach to phase out glyphosate use across Colchester’s green spaces has been developed, discussing alternative options and identifying new opportunities to enhance biodiversity.

Since April 2020 the council has already taken several actions to reduce glyphosate use:

  • Stop spraying in all children’s play parks (74 sites)
  • Stop spraying in around West Mersea beach huts (384 huts)
  • Stop spraying on The Recreation Ground, off Old Heath Road

The next step is to stop the use of glyphosate-based products across all sports grounds, closed churchyards and Colchester Borough Council managed highway verges.

An exception will be made for the treatment of some invasive species such as Japanese knotweed and giant hogweed, which are a serious threat to biodiversity. With these invasive species, the chemical is safely injected into the plant.

Page last reviewed: 3 September 2021