From this month Wivenhoe Town Council will be the first to undertake a trial on altering the way selected verges and areas of open space are managed to encourage wildflower or naturalisation and better biodiversity.
Colchester Borough Council (CBC) is supporting Town and Parish Councils to implement these changes as part of their work under the Colchester Woodland and Biodiversity Project.
This follows on from the changes made last year by CBC to the grass cutting regime in ten areas across the borough and 14 areas being left to naturalise, all to encourage greater biodiversity in some of our green spaces. This approach will encourage wildflower growth and help develop the area for invertebrates and pollinators such as bees, butterflies and moths.
CBC will retain responsibility of the verges and open spaces they currently maintain, and Town and Parish Councils will retain responsibility of verges and open spaces they currently maintain.
Each site will be 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. CBC have been working with school children across the borough to design signage which will be placed where suitable.
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.
Cllr David King, Portfolio Holder for Business and Resources, said “We are really passionate about doing all we can to let nature grow, to green Colchester, create new habitats for wildlife, and help bio-diversity flourish.
“The change in grass-cutting regime and reduction in glyphosate weedkiller removal we’ve already put in place really supports this and the results we have already seen in species of wildlife is fantastic. It’s brilliant to be able to support some of our town and parish councils to do the same, and to work together on such an important initiative.”
Cllr Glyn Evans, Wivenhoe Town Council, said “We’re losing wildlife, including wildflowers and insects fast so we’re letting areas grow wild during the summer to help them flourish.
“Not mowing these areas between March and September will let wild plants flower and seed, and the insects that feed on them to breed. In Wivenhoe we’ve long argued that nature knows best: that biodiversity will recover quickest where plants grow naturally. That’s why we are so excited to be leading nature’s recovery without artificial sowing of wildflowers or high-cost planting regimes.”
A key focus of the Colchester Woodland and Biodiversity Project is working to stop or reduce grass cutting in specific locations across the borough and to create safe and glyphosate weedkiller free areas. The council is ending its use of glyphosate-based weedkillers in all general maintenance of our parks, open spaces and hedgerows from 1 April except if needing to treat some invasive species such as Japanese knotweed and giant hogweed, which are a serious threat to biodiversity.
Changing the grass cutting management regime can quickly improve the biodiversity and visual appearance of the grass verges. These areas will be left to re-wild and be managed as wildflower areas or left to naturalise as scrub and eventually woodland.
You can find out more about the Colchester Woodland and Biodiversity Project at www.colchester.gov.uk/better-colchester/colchesterwoodlandbiodiversity.