Say No To The MowComments Off on Say No To The Mow
The Story so far…
Earlier this spring we launched the Say No To The Mow campaign to bring together the voices of the many Cardiff residents who are concerned about the council’s management of parks, verges, and other grassy areas for wildlife.
Mowing, and the use of herbicides, are issues that come up every spring and seem to irreconcilably divide people. Some see an un-mown corner of a park as scruffy, unkempt, full of weeds; others see it as thriving, beautiful, full of life. Councils across the country are berated for mowing, and for not mowing, and have to walk a tightrope between the conflicting wishes of residents. For a number of years now, those of us who request a more wildlife-friendly approach have been brushed off, or so it feels, with the justification that complaints of untidiness come flooding in if mowing is reduced. We started Say No To The Mow because we would like our council here in Cardiff to listen, communicate, and adopt an evidence based and biodiversity friendly approach to grass management.
What did we do?
First, we wrote a letter to the council (you can read it here) explaining why we believe that mowing and spraying less is critical for biodiversity but also supports wellbeing and aligns with their own declaration of a climate emergency in 2019. We invited Cardiff residents to sign it and over 300 people added their names. We sent this to Cardiff council in early June.
Next, we decided to create something visual to represent this collective support for doing things differently; after reading that 700 species of native wildflower can be found on road verges alone we were inspired to create a pop up wildflower meadow with the help of fellow Cardiffians. We asked people to make and send us colourful pom poms to represent those 700 species- we weren’t sure at first if we’d reach our goal of 700 but we needn’t have worried… over 1200 pom poms arrived by post and were heroically sewn onto a giant green rug by Charlotte of Twin Made.
Lockdown has of course restricted where our beautiful pom pom meadow can pop up but it’s already had its first outing in support of the Save the Northern Meadows campaign and we’ll be using it around the city this year and next spring to raise awareness of the potential of city parks and verges to support wild plants and creatures. If you would like the pop up meadow to visit your green space then just let us know!
We were also able to achieve some media coverage of the campaign, helping to spread the word.
What happened next?
Cardiff Council replied to our open letter with a fairly technical explanation of why different areas are mown – you can read their reply here. We were pleased to be in contact with the council about this issue but unsatisfied with the lack of commitment to trying anything different. We wrote back, sharing feedback from the community, asking some more specific questions, and restating that residents across the city support the council in taking courageous action on this issue. Again the answer was disappointing, especially as it described our campaign as an ‘adversarial approach’.
Between the first and second replies from the council some interesting news emerged: a list of eighteen new ‘one cut’ sites across Cardiff! ‘One cut’ is as simple as it sounds; these areas will be left to flower throughout spring and summer with a cut in late summer or early autumn (and hopefully with all the cuttings removed). This regime allows larger, slower plants a chance to grow and allows flowers to bloom, providing food for insects. Councillors have confirmed that these areas won’t impact sports pitches. We also noticed that some new signage has appeared at pollinator areas around Cardiff explaining how they’re being managed – brilliant.
We did notice that no ‘one cut’ sites are listed in our local area of Splott, Adamsdown, and Tremorfa. Thanks to our fantastic proactive councillors, in particular Councillor Ed Stubbs, an additional 2.6 hectares of pollinator sites have now been announced for Moorland, Splott, and Tremorfa Park.
We’re by no means the only organisation campaigning for these changes – Cardiff Civic Society in particular have been working hard all spring and summer to push for change – but we’re proud to have played some part in making this happen, and grateful to everyone who responded to our campaign and sent their lovely squishy pom poms.
In announcing the one cut areas Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure, Cllr Peter Bradbury said: “But there’s still more to do, we know that. That’s why, among other things, we will continue to look at areas where we can further reduce our use of herbicides, explore options for introducing more pollinator friendly sites in the future, and later this year we will also be publishing our One Planet Strategy which will address the multiple challenges posed by climate change and loss of biodiversity.”
We’re really happy to hear that Cardiff Council are already thinking about the next steps. Here are some of the things we’d like to see:
Better communication with residents. There was a bit of a backlash when the most recent one cut areas were announced on social media with many people feeling upset and angry about the plans. We feel like there’s some critical bits of information that are regularly missing from council communications around mowing, or else poorly explained, that would help bring more people on board. It’s really important that they actually explain what ‘One Cut’ means and provide a little detail on how it benefits wildlife without impacting sports and recreation facilities. We think that the council should be willing to state the seriousness and urgency of climate and ecological breakdown and tackle complaints about tidiness head on, emphasising that these decisions are evidence based and actively working to shift language and thinking around the place of nature in the city.
Equally, our communications with the council have been detailed but very technical and jargon heavy, with information buried within long documents that can be very difficult for a layperson to follow; this makes it really hard to engage properly with the issue and risks wasting everyone’s time as we end up asking daft questions through a lack of understanding!
As well as online communications and physical signage there are some clever tricks that have proven successful in other places to increase the acceptance of wild areas in public places. These include ‘picture framing’ meadows – simply mowing a thin strip around them to form a neat border to show that there has been a deliberate choice to let the area grow – or mowing paths and circular sitting spaces through long grass.
More habitat connectivity, and more site specific management. We’re not ecologists and the art and science of meadow management is complicated! Our understanding is that different sites benefit from different management regimes to achieve floral diversity, and that a single autumn cut may be suitable for some established meadows but not necessarily new ones. We hope that each of these new sites will be monitored and managed carefully to maximise their benefit – it seems like a great opportunity for some citizen science activities, working with residents to survey the species present year on year. We’re also hopeful that these new sites won’t be isolated islands but allowed to connect with other green spaces through careful management of verges and park edges.
An end to glyphosate use, as achieved by Vale of Glamorgan Council and as recommended by the Future Generations Commissioner in The Future Generations Report 2020 (page 213)
Keep in touch!
If you’d like to stay up to date with our work and campaigns then please sign up to our newsletter here – and keep an eye out for the pop up meadow coming to a green space near you!