Hertfordshire County Council is set to try out a new approach to grass cutting in an attempt to preserve wildflowers and the bees who rely on them.
The county council has announced that 70 roadside verges in rural areas – around 500,000 square metres of grass – will be cut in a different way in order to encourage the growth of wildflowers.
Under this new approach, the county’s verges will be cut only once a year, between mid-July and mid-August, with the grass cuttings removed.
This will prevent aggressive plant species from dominating roadside areas and will allow for the growth, flowering and seeding of wildflowers. This in turn will provide the ideal habitat for bees and other pollinating insects.
‘Everyone has heard about the sharp decline in bees and pollinating insects over recent decades and like most people we’re alarmed by this,’ said Mark Kemp, director of environment and infrastructure at Hertfordshire County Council.
‘We’re determined to protect and improve Hertfordshire’s natural environment and this fairly simple change to how we cut roadside grass will help increase the habitats and food that our pollinating insects rely on.’
Kate Petty, road verge campaign manager at the charity Plantlife, which recently published guidance on grass cutting, welcomed the move.
‘Hertfordshire County Council’s progressive moves to better manage road verges as part of their Sustainable Strategy is wonderful news for wild flowers and the wealth of wildlife they underpin,’ she said.
‘We are delighted to see politicians from across the political spectrum in Hertfordshire recognise the transformative effect presented by Plantlife’s new best practice management guide that sets out practical and cost effective ways all councils can change grass cutting regimes to benefit biodiversity and brighten up people’s lives.
‘Cutting later and removing the cuttings is a fantastic first step to replenishing the seed bank, restoring floral diversity, saving councils money and providing pollinator habitat estimated to equal the size of London, Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff and Edinburgh combined.
‘Having declared a climate emergency in July, and given all the ecosystem services a well-maintained verge provides, I hope the council will now work towards implementing wildlife-friendly management principles on all road verges, and we’re very happy to support them to do that in 2020 and beyond.’
The charity said that 97% of wildflower meadows have been eradicated in less than a century, so road verges provide a haven for over 700 species of wild flowers.