Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council has been working in partnership with Derry City & Strabane, Fermanagh & Omagh, and Mid Ulster Councils in a knowledge, learning and exchange programme through the ‘Don’t Mow Let it Grow’ campaign.
This innovative project involves a change in grass management on selected Council owned sites across the North West to create grasslands rich in wild flowers and more favourable habitat conditions for bees and other pollinators.
Reflecting on its success so far, the Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council Alderman Mark Fielding said: ‘We are proud to be leading the way in this grassland management revolution, showing that our parks and open spaces can benefit both our local communities and the biodiversity that sustains our vital pollinators.”
Rachel Bain, Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council’s Biodiversity Officer, added: ‘A third of the native bee population in Ireland is potentially at risk of extinction and this partnership approach has played a vital role in conserving the species. We rely on bees to pollinate the majority of our crops and a reduction in their population will result in less choice and higher costs for our fruit and vegetables.
Councils have invested in new specialist machinery which cuts and lifts the grass in late summer, and together we have created 90ha (equivalent to 168 football pitches) of grasslands, rich in native wild flowers and pollinators, including native bees, across the west of Northern Ireland.”
When grasslands are cut too frequently and grass cuttings left behind, soil nutrient levels increase, stimulating growth of vigorous grasses. In ‘Don’t Mow Let it Grow’ areas, Councils have changed the management cycle to create grasslands rich in native wildflowers. On these sites, grasses and wildflowers are allowed to grow over spring and summer, before being cut and lifted in late August and September. This allows the flowers to complete their full cycle and set their seeds for the next year. Removing the thick grass reduces the fertility, and this facilitates sustainable species-rich meadows in forthcoming years.
Don’t Mow Let It Grow is making a positive contribution towards the conservation of the UK’s biodiversity and has helped to deliver the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan. This joined up approach has increased ecological connectivity and enhanced the existing natural capital value (ecosystem services provided by pollinators) of these sites by £21,000 per annum for bees. It has increased the number and diversity of flowering plants, provided a more sustainable service under the current conditions and has reduced the Council’s carbon footprint.