A compromise between tidiness and biodiversity?

A interesting report from Andrew on a trial at National Botanic Garden of Wales:

“On the fungus walk last week at the NBGW, we all walked round the main entrance of Principality House.  One of the lawns outside it has been mown in a way I’ve not seen before, with concentric rings of short mown lawn alternating with un-mown rings of longer grass containing all sorts of meadow plants.

I asked Bruce Langridge about it, and he said it was something they were trying out for the first time on this lawn.  I thought it looked very interesting, and wondered if it might be one way of trying to find a compromise that would satisfy people at the two opposite ends of the spectrum of opinion on how areas of amenity grassland should be managed – (i) it should be a short-mown lawn which is tidy, and (ii) it should be just mown at the end of the season like a hay meadow.

I get the impression sometimes that one of the objections to leaving areas of grass uncut is that it shows that nobody has done any work to maintain it, that the council tax has been paid so why hasn’t the work been done?   Would evidence of gardening work having been done go some way to satisfying those concerns?  I think the concentric rings of mown and unmown grass here is much more imaginative than just mowing a rectangle in one half and leaving the other half.  You can still walk around on the short lawn grass even when it’s wet without needing your wellies, but half the area of the lawn is species rich and good for not only the plants that inhabit it, but all sorts of invertebrates, birds and small mammals, that you’d find in meadow grassland.  And because you can walk around easily on the mown paths, you can have a close look at what’s in the rings of longer grass as you go. 

Does anyone else think this might be an idea to suggest to local authorities?  Especially if appropriate signage went with it to explain why long grass, (with other species growing in it, mown and taken away at the end of the season) isn’t untidiness, it’s a rare and important habitat for of wildlife.  The short-mown rings would reassure people that the area hadn’t just been forgotten about.”

4 thoughts on “A compromise between tidiness and biodiversity?

  1. The concentric mown and unmown rings are equivalent to a maze, and many other patterns of mowing could provide the same areas of mown and natural space. So I suggest that varying patterns of mowing be used, so giving scope for imaginative creativity. The less regular appearance of an asymmetric pattern of mowing might please the eye of the ‘civilised’ aesthete and the naturalist alike. And Nature herself won’t mind what shapes the unmown areas show.

    Eric Franklin

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  2. I think this sort of approach is an excellent way to engage people who might not, like us, already be passionate about meadows! The concentric, mown circles have a lovely magical quality. When I worked on an RSPB reserve many years ago we had a random path mown through the beautiful hay meadows allowing visitors to wander through the species-rich habitat without trampling anything.

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  3. Andrew, As you’ll be aware we’ve been practicing your 1/2 & 1/2 approach for a while Happy to share the results with the membership ? All the best S & s

    On Mon, 11 Oct 2021 at 09:43, Carmarthenshire Meadows Group – Grŵp Dolydd Sir Gaerfyrdd

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  4. I like the principle that we mustn’t be too efficient at creating any monoculture just because there is clever machinery with which to do it. Inefficient machinery was usually good for biodiversity. Even today there is a huge wet fen meadow in Harford which is cut as soon as a few dry days. A hay crop is taken out of the central blade cut width, with cut height set seemingly about 6 inches. That leaves behind a rich sward with enough unevenness that even Marsh Fritillary larval webs survive, where hay taken, but with strewn cut material in rows between. .

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