"What happened to No Mow May?": South Ribble Council explains why grass verges have been cut this month and what its doing to improve biodiversity

Questions have been raised over a council's decision to cut grass and wildflowers during 'No Mow May'.

By Catherine Musgrove
Thursday, 26th May 2022, 4:09 pm
Updated Friday, 27th May 2022, 8:28 am

Started by environmental charity Plantlife and supported by wildlife groups including the RSPB, the initiative is an attempt to increase nectar for pollinators - and supporters are urging councils to lead by example by not cutting the grass for a month.

But in recent days South Ribble Borough Council has sent workmen out to cut back grass verges – to criticism by residents and a local bee keeper.

But SRBC say it has to trim verges for highway safety, and that it is actually expanding their wildflower areas – and cutting the grass allows seed to germinate.

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South Ribble Council have been cutting verges

What did residents say?

Jackie Cardy wrote on Facebook: "Every time I visit my mum in Penwortham, I really appreciate the lovely verge on the junction of Pope Lane and Penwortham Way when I turn left to go home. Beautifully planted by someone. Last time I went it was full of beautiful blue spikes of camassia. Today when I went past it was strimmed down to the ground.

"Not only that verge, but every trace of wildflowers on every verge, between there and the Lostock Hall junction were eradicated. Sad."

Louise Holden said: "The wild meadow flower patch on Hawkesbury Drive had gone when I walked past the other day too."

Bee keeper Steve Ganner

Ann Rochester asked: "What happened to ‘No mow May?"

Bee keeper

Bamber Bridge beekeeper Steve Ganner says he's been lobbying South Ribble Borough Council for 15 years to stop them mowing the grass ‘early’.

He said: "Other councils hold back the first cut of the year so that first flourish of dandelions benefits a thousand pollinators on their first brood cycle in spring, and if there's a sudden cold spell they're able to cope with it because they've had their early feed.

Where wildflowers were admired only days ago

"For the past 15 years I have been lobbying South Ribble to do this and they've even put me in touch with the man in charge of doing it.

"He's a very nice bloke, but he says waiting causes problems of people complaining that the verges look a mess, and that if the grass gets too long, the mowers have difficulty with it."

He added: "But if insects can't feed, then there's less of them for the birds, and we end up with less birds.

"It's a whole cycle affected simply because they want to mow a month early."

Bamber Bridge bee keeper Steve Ganner

What the council say:

Councillor Mick Titherington said: “As part of our action to tackle the climate emergency we’ve created a number of urban flower meadows across the borough over the last few years and are expanding this for 2022 to create over forty of these areas.

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"This year’s areas are currently being prepared for seeding which involves having to cut the grass to allow the seed to germinate and thrive.

“Mowing of grass verges on highways does take place however this is something we are required to carry out on behalf of Lancashire County Council to their specification. With highways, a balance between efforts to support biodiversity and the safety of motorists need to be considered.”

He added that throughout the borough’s major parks, “significant areas” are left uncut for the majority of the season, to benefit pollinators and to support biodiversity. An area in Worden Park will be left uncut until September.

South Ribble Council have been cutting back grass verges in recent days

The British Bee Keepers Association has launched a petition that the Government makes it mandatory for local authorities to replace roadside grass with wild flowers.

To sign the petition, click here

>>>Click here to have your say on the council’s biodiversity policy