Needs of pollinators at heart of land management approach

Canterbury City Council has put the needs of pollinators and their habitats at the heart of its approach to managing its land through its Pollinator Action Plan (PAP).

And with spring in full bloom, it’s a vital time for creating and improving the habitats of pollinating insects throughout the district, which is highlighted by the national No Mow May (NMM) initiative.

The council’s approach through the PAP is to go further than NMM by identifying sites in its ownership that have been managed as amenity grass (which involves more frequent cutting), but instead benefit from a reduced cutting regime of twice a year in June and September.

This will allow grasses and wildflowers to flower and set seed over a longer season, rather than just having the month of May.

It is for this limiting reason that the council does not sign up to NMM. The presence of grassland and pollinator habitats that only last for one month before being stripped away creates the risk of a sudden deficit of pollen for the insect population.

A blanket No Mow May policy also presents operational difficulties for the grounds maintenance team at Canenco.

Not cutting the grass for up to six weeks at a time of rapid growth means there will be a mass of grass to cut on the first cut in June.

While the grounds team has good quality machinery, it is most effective on short grass, not longer grass. The same goes for strimmers, which work well up to a point but not on the length of grass that would undoubtedly be seen after a month of no cutting.

And in terms of capacity, there are no additional crews or machines to make up the time once May ends. They simply would not get through the sites they are responsible for on their usual schedules once June started.

In addition, after the first cut in June, there would be huge piles of cut grass (these are not collected post-cut) which would be in place for weeks. They do not disperse, can rot down and increase nutrient levels, and can kill off the grass below.

So while local residents can expect to see cutting continue on some land during May, there are sites across the district that will be left uncut in line with the approach set out in the PAP.

Residents wishing to enjoy a site managed well for pollinators can visit Wraik Hill, Reculver Country Park or Curtis Wood, where there will be extensive areas demonstrating the benefits of not cutting grassland until late summer.

Cabinet member for open spaces, Cllr Charlotte Cornell, said: “This council takes its responsibilities towards the environment very seriously and spent a long time speaking with local ‘Friends of…’ groups and environmental groups when putting together the Pollinator Action Plan.

“It was very well received and demonstrates our commitment to ensuring we put a lot of emphasis on supporting pollinators and the many benefits they bring to our district, and managing our land in the most appropriate way to achieve this.

“We are lucky to have a raft of very active and passionate ‘Friends of…’groups locally who do such a great job helping to look after our open spaces, and our continued thanks goes out to them for everything they do and the care and love they show for the environment.”

Cabinet member for biodiversity, Cllr Mel Dawkins, said: “Our maintenance approach has been very carefully considered. We know there are limited ecological benefits if we stop cutting in May and then restart in June.

“It is far better to develop a mowing regime that allows a greater range of plants to flower and then set seed, and the move to conservation cuts achieves this.

“We already manage around 40 hectares of land as conservation/meadow grass in the district, but we will be looking to increase this further over the next few years, working closely with ‘Friends of…’ groups, residents and councillors to identify the right locations.

“We definitely don’t want to discourage anyone from carrying out No Mow May in their own front or back garden or their lawn, but the timeline of the council’s own open spaces falls under a different, well-managed regime, which is unique to our estate.”

Published: 1 May 2024

Sign up for email alerts

You can sign up to receive notifications when a post is added to an area you’re interested in.

Sign up