Wildflowers set to bloom across Plymouth

Our Green Estates Manager, Chris Avent, pictured here at last summer's Poole Farm Open Day, explains how some changes to the way we cut grass could result in an increase in wildflowers and wildlife.

This year, we are going to change the way that we cut grass across the city.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, we were planning to trial leaving a few verges and boundaries in certain areas of the city to grow wilder.

The idea was that we’d monitor the positive impacts that this would have. We expected petrol savings, more insects, more wildflowers and staff able to prioritise work in parks – all things that support our Climate Emergency Action Plan and help to provide food and homes for struggling insect species like bees.

But then along came Covid and with it a number of factors which mean we’ve decided to roll the scheme out a little further.

How does Covid possibly effect grass cutting?

While the effect of the coronavirus pandemic continues to bite, we as a Council have got to prioritise which things we do.

Like everyone else, we’re down on numbers. With the best will in the world, we can’t mow as much grass as we did last year.

On the ground and on the streets, domestic waste collection – green and brown bins from people’s homes – is taking priority. So is emptying public litter bins.

With staff shortages in that department, we’ve seconded some of the staff that normally cut grass over to waste. Clearly, and we’re sure that most residents will agree, we need to be able to keep that vital service working as it should do.

On top of this, government and industry guidelines say that we should try and stay out of built up areas until the worst of the pandemic is behind us.

So you’re just going to let it all grow wild?

No. We will continue to keep the parks and open spaces that are so vital to people’s daily exercise managed so that they provide great places to visit. We know that this will continue to be important.

You’ll see the biggest difference in the verges and banks alongside the roads around the city. Of course, we’ll still be cutting some to ensure that roads are safe, but you will see more plants growing than usual.

We then expect to be cutting these verges later in the summer in line with guidance from wildlife charities such as Plantlife and Buglife to allow more types of plant a chance to grow.

It is possible that as the year goes on, we’ll have some of our staff back and things will go back to normal. We’ll be playing it by ear.

Won’t it look a mess?

Some areas may start out looking scruffy but the happy by-product of this is strategy is that we will allow wildflower meadows to grow in the places we’ve decided not to cut.

This adds to the many wildflower meadows that we have created across the city in recent years with partners like Buglife. The beauty of this approach is we can do more and let nature take the lead.

This will be great news for people and wildlife. Longer grass and flowers provide food and homes for pollinating insects like bees and butterflies – and all manner of wildlife, help reduce our total carbon footprint and by the summer, will mean there will be all kinds of wonderful colours where once there was only green.

We are not alone in this, across the country councils have had to adapt their services with many either stopping or changing the way that they are cutting the grass. Wildlife charities are supporting this and encouraging people to do the same in their gardens through #NoMowMay.

How can I see the progress?

Make sure you follow Nature Plymouth on social media – we’ll be posting updates on the kind of flowers that are blooming, where you can find them and the different kinds of wildlife that our teams are noticing because of them. We'll also be working withvolunteers in their local communities.

Thanks for your understanding on this. If you’ve got any questions, please do get in touch with us. We’re happy to help – natinfra@plymouth.gov.uk