Small changes make a big difference as wildflowers and pollinators encouraged in No Mow May

We’re working across Cornwall to encourage nature to flourish on roadside verges, alongside paths and in parks and open spaces, this No Mow May.  

No Mow May is a national campaign to encourage people not to mow their lawns and other open spaces until the end of May in order to boost the flowers, and nectar, available to pollinating insects such as bees, butterflies, and moths.  

Cornwall Council is changing the maintenance of sites under its control to, wherever possible, support this important initiative. 

Verges are now being cut just two or three times a year and projects like Making Space for Nature, working with residents to improve open spaces in seven Cornish towns, are local examples of what the Council is doing to contribute to a great environment for all.  

The Council’s urban verge cutting policy sees verges in towns and villages cut after the flowers have finished blooming and seeds are set. This encourages native wild flora, drawing in insects and other wildlife and creating corridors of wildlife-friendly planting without compromising road safety.  

Projects like Making Space for Nature in Bodmin, Falmouth, Launceston, Liskeard, Newquay, Penryn and St Austell are creating havens for wildlife by planting wildflower meadows to provide pollen, nectar and shelter for butterflies and bees and new hedges and trees to provide homes for hedgehogs and other wildlife.   

Martyn Alvey, Cornwall Council portfolio holder for environment and public protection said: “We need to work together to help reverse the decline of pollinators in urban areas. The steps we are taking encourage us all to appreciate the value of creating wildlife-friendly planting.”    

“Projects like Making Space for Nature can be the start of creating bigger, better and more joined up wildlife corridors if local people can do the same in their own gardens and nearby green spaces.”  

“Similarly, the Council’s cutting policy for verges and paths aims to help flora and wildlife thrive while also ensuring that our roads and pathways remain safe for residents and visitors.”  

“Many verges that in the past would have been cut back by now are covered with beautiful wildflowers.  

“Areas that need to be cleared for safety reasons will be cut back but care will be taken to ensure that wildflowers are left to flourish where possible.”  

Describing how making small changes can make a big difference, Nicky from Cormac’s environment team that carry out the work for the council said: “A few years ago, I noticed a few small patches of wildflowers trying to grow through in a roadside verge on Abbey Hill in St Ives. I started to cut around the wildflowers and watched as the area began to get bigger and bigger each season. We haven’t planted seeds or laid any wildflower turf. Apart from continuing to carry out a small safety cut around the footway and bench, we have simply let nature take its course. Now, to my delight, the old roadside verge has been transformed into a beautiful haven for flower and fauna.”  

The Council is responsible for maintaining over 75 hectares of urban verges across the Duchy. 

In the past, these sites were mown around eight times a year starting in spring. Now, we trim path edges, cut around benches and fixtures, ensure visibility for safety reasons, as well as remove noxious weeds but leave other areas for nature. Cutting at junctions and bends on the highway also continues to ensure roads remain safe and visibility is not compromised.  

The Council also works with town and parish councils who manage land and footpath networks on its behalf through Local Maintenance Partnerships.  

Cornwall Council declared an ecological emergency last year in a bid to tackle the decline of wildlife and nature. The declaration works alongside the unitary authority’s plan to help Cornwall become carbon neutral by 2030, ensuring that the recovery of nature is prioritised alongside efforts to reduce impact on the climate.  

Martyn added: “Projects like Making Space for Nature, changes to how we manage verges and paths, and our approach to mowing closed churchyards are an important part in delivering on that plan. We can all play our part in supporting our pollinators.”  

The Council’s Grow Nature initiative, underpinned by Cornwall’s Environmental Growth Strategy, includes the Grow Nature Seed Fund to help local projects to deliver Environmental Growth, by offering up to £2000 in match-funding for community Crowdfunder projects.  

There are also tips from the Council’s pollinator action plan including:  

  • Let native plants thrive in your garden. Flowering ‘weeds’ are nature’s own supply of colour, refuge, and food  
  • Plant pollinator friendly plants to boost food  
  • Avoid garden pesticides including aphid spray, slug pellets and weedkillers. You can also buy organic fruit and veg  
  • Leave areas of your garden undisturbed and naturally messy. Make space for log piles, compost heaps and rough, grassy areas  
  • Reduce the frequency of lawn mowing. Let daisies, buttercups and clover come through and flower especially in early spring  
  • Help thirsty pollinators. A bird bath or sunken bin lid are ideal watering holes for parched bees and bugs 

The official name of Making Space for Nature is Green Infrastructure for Growth 2 which is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund with Cornwall Council and University of Exeter providing match funding. 

Story posted 13 May 2022

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