Nature bloomed as Quadron let grass grow under our feet

CROYDON COMMENTARY: Back in June, we reported how the council’s parks contractor was struggling to fulfil its duties by keeping all the borough’s green spaces in good order through grass cutting. As we head into autumn, ALEC SELVON-BRUCE suggests that council cut-backs and fewer grass cuts might have some advantages

I am a regular user of the Purley Way playing fields.

The last cut of summer: Has Croydon, by accident, discovered a greener way to manage our parks’ green spaces?

I was very amused by the grass-cutting techniques of Croydon Council’s parks contractor, Quadron. I grew up on a farm, so was not averse to John Deere drying and grass cutting for annual hay-making. I suspected that Croydon’s grass-cutting this summer had been hampered either by mechanical failure or bad weather.

So, when after a week, the tractor failed to reappear, I thought that Quadron were seeing options for cash-making through the lucrative horse stables market.

I expected that by mid-July I would see a John Deere baling machine harvest the hay.

But over the weeks of July and into August the grass continued to grow into a lush English wildflower meadow. It looked like Quadron were trying to compete with the wildlife project in Roundshaw Downs, successfully managed by the Old Surrey Downs Project.

The diversity of clovers and wild grasses was most welcome. My wee Yorkie dog loved dancing through the long grasses.

Back in June when you reported this lack of cutting, one of your commenters, Austen Cooper, suggested that perhaps an austerity-inspired reduction in grass cutting, to manage road verges and green spaces to benefit wild flowers and other nature, could be a way forward. I support Austen on this.

By accident, Quadron contributed to a rich wildlife diversity project.

Now in October the football posts are back up and the grass is back to the usual levels.

In 2017, I’d like to see this accidental wildlife management scheme continue.

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1 Response to Nature bloomed as Quadron let grass grow under our feet

  1. Lewis White says:

    I agree with Austen Cooper and Alec Sevon Bruce in certain circumstances.

    Footie pitches probably should be left to have a rest and grow a bit longer over the summer, rather than become a total hay meadow, as it might be a bit difficult to get the turf back into good playing condition.

    Other expansive grass parks (or rather, big areas of them) would look so much better , and be good for butterflies and other insects (and thus, birds) if they are allowed to grow as hay meadows — but only if cut and the cuttings removed in mid-late August and early to mid-September. Big “islands”, off the main paths, of meadow surrounded by close mown grass along the edges and along paths, tend to work well in many cases.

    The exceptions in my view are places where the great British public go in numbers and liberate coke cans, bottles, take away containers and dirty nappies on to the park landscape. Wildflower meadows look great if not filled with such items, and the grass and flower stems and heads are usable for hay if uncontaminated by dog poo, which as we all know, is a health risk as well as being not nice to step or sit in. This rules out quite a lot of sites. If contaminated, the cuttings can be composted off site, as “Croypost” — as the enormous temperatures created in the heaps of shredded green waste kill all known germs. Some sites have odd corners where the cuttings can be dumped to rot down.

    The key thing is to not leave the long grass to collapse and become a mat. Hence August and September are the right months — October is getting too wet.

    Leaving the cuttings on is also really bad, as the cuttings stifle the fine grasses, leaving just coarse grasses like “Yorkshire Fog”. The rotting cuttings also add nutrients to the soil, which discourage wild flowers, and encourages the coarse grasses, so you end up with a worse, less diverse grassland, without wildflowers and without the attractive fine grasses like fescues.

    So — wildflowers and long grass is fine, but raking off and baling is essential!

    In some cases it will also create a cost saving, but in general, it will cost about the same as close mowing, but with the huge benefit of an attractive living meadow habitat, instead of a “green desert”. Which most people seem to like — if the example they experience is on a suitable site, where littering is absent or nearly so, and dog walkers are responsible, and bag their dog’s poo.

    Lewis White (Chartered Landscape Architect)

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