Southwark Council has been implementing a ‘no mow’ policy in our major parks and elsewhere. We have recently introduced ‘cut and collect’ techniques with the purchase of new equipment funded by the Mayor of London’s rewilding fund.
Southwark Council has been implementing a ‘no mow’ policy in our major parks and elsewhere. We have recently introduced ‘cut and collect’ techniques with the purchase of new equipment funded by the Mayor of London’s rewilding fund. Changing our approach with relaxed mowing will further support and encourage floral diversity and enhance nature for all. Southwark is on track to contribute to about 10 per cent of the wider London target for creating 20 hectares of flower rich grassland by 2025.
A key part of Southwark’s Climate Action Plan is a commitment to protecting and supporting nature and wildlife. Southwark already has 86 per cent of our local sites in positive management, which ranks the borough 5th in England out of 152 councils. However, we recognise that more can be done to build on this.
The main challenge has been in changing people’s perceptions on keeping grass short. Short mown grass has been commonplace and seen as the norm in our parks, housing estates and road verges since Victorian times.
A big focus of the council’s early engagement on Southwark’s Climate Change Action Plan in 2020, and our Citizens’ Jury, was about biodiversity. It was interesting to see that grass mowing came up in many responses, with respondents questioning business as usual and wanting to see longer grass to support local nature.
The council has continued to expand its ‘no mow’ policy and has recently purchased cut and collect equipment to improve the ecological quality of our meadows. This technology removes nutrients and reduces the dominance of ruderal plants, which tend to outcompete rarer wildflowers and finer grasses. This will result in less cutting in the long term and provide more diversity and improved access to nature for all in Southwark.
Increasing the floral diversity of our meadows allows for more contact with nature which is often associated with improved health and wellbeing. The new meadows will support a wider range of flora and fauna including butterflies, birds, mammals, and invertebrates.
In Burgess Park, butterfly diversity has increased with 23 species being recorded and over 90 species of bird. Recently, the Siberian white-fronted goose has been spotted on Burgess Lake.
Across the borough, butterfly species that have been recorded since 2019 include the Green Hairstreak, Brown Hairstreak, White Letter Hairstreak, Brown Argus, Marbled White and Short Tailed Blue.
Birds that have been recorded include the Grasshopper Warbler, Yellow Browed Warbler and short eared Owl. Peregrine Falcons are also doing well with breeding pairs reported at 2 new locations in the borough.
All of this contributes to increased connection with nature and the ecological resilience of the borough.
Longer grass also fixes more carbon.
How is the approach being sustained?
The new equipment allows us to deliver improved maintenance for our meadows and this is built into the grounds maintenance contract. We will continue to review mowing and identify new areas of amenity grass suitable for reduced cutting.
The transition from amenity grass to flora rich grassland can take several years. Obtaining the right tool for the job is key to delivering this output.