Croydon’s pro-pollution Mayor has now declared war on wildlife, as he has ignored the #NoMowMay advice of none other than Sir David Attenborough. By PERCY FLAMETHROWER, our municipal horticultural correspondent
So much for the sonnet’s “Darling buds of May”. Jason Perry, the part-time Mayor of Croydon, has ordered that they all be hacked down.
A day after Inside Croydon revealed Tory Scott Roche to be cash-strapped Croydon’s costliest councillor, the propaganda department in Fisher’s Folly was ordered to lend him support by showing him standing side by side with his boss, Mayor Perry (dressed, as usual, in short sleeves and tie, looking for all the world like a Mitcham Belle coach driver) and some bloke on a lawnmower, who the council press office decided wasn’t worthy of being identified.
A council stooge tweeted a picture showing the local Tories’ answer to Dumb and Dumber boasting about the grass-cutting programme. It was May 5, just at the start of what should be a vital wildflower season.
Perry’s penchant for exaggeration, otherwise known as lies, was demonstrated by his claim in the puff piece that went with it that this time last year, “grass was four-to-six feet high”.
In an attempt to brown-nose their way into the King’s first honours list, this needless round of grass-cutting was billed as some kind of effort to smarten things up for the Coronation.
“Heading into the Coronation of King Charles III this weekend, key parks and green spaces are being prioritised – including the trimming of verges – to ensure the borough is in its best shape for the festivities,” they grovelled, with Perry and Roche overseeing “the final stages of the Coronation preparation”.
What His Majesty, tree-hugging King Charles, might make of this eco-vandalism might cause Part-time Perry to go even more puce in the face than usual.
The tone-deaf mentality that has quickly come to characterise the Mayor’s misrule hasn’t proved popular, despite his claims he was “listening to residents”.
That’s because Sir David Attenborough has again urged gardeners and local authorities to go for “No Mow May”.
As part of a movement started in 2019 by conservation charity Plantlife, it involves keeping the mower locked up for another month to allow flowers a chance to grow and set seed before the first cutting, making for healthier, more diverse lawns, gardens and parks.
The wild plants get a foothold in May, to feed bees, butterflies and other pollinators throughout the summer. Councils in London adopting the practice include Westminster and Wandsworth. Croydon had been running a trial on the borough’s verges for the last three years.
Meanwhile, Perry and his under-performing cabinet member for streets and environment somehow think its a good idea to be seen in front of a machine that’s about to mow down some innocent dandelions.
Perhaps they think that Croydon is the 2023 Borough of Monoculture?
Predictably, this went down like a cup of cold sick on Twitter, in something known as being “ratioed”. Of the 65 replies and 8 quote tweets, almost all were unfavourable, though most were polite:
- “Stop cutting down wild flowers – absolute vandals!”
- “It’s supposed to be no mow may and the king has spoken about environmental issues for years. You really think this a good idea?”
- “Why are you trashing wild flowers? You should be ashamed when we’re in the middle of an insect population crash”
Even the few that welcomed the mowing down of potentially wildlife-rich meadows had something to complain about: leaving the clippings to rot.
Perry might want to check out what happened to the Tories running Plymouth council after they ordered the destruction of more than 100 trees in the city earlier this year. At the local elections last Thursday, it was the Conservatives who got the chop.
None of this will bother Perry and Roche, who don’t mind hiking our Council Tax by 15per cent and then spending the cash on things like ecocide and their own publicity.
- Inside Croydon – as seen on TV! – has been delivering local community news since 2010. 3million page views per year in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
- If you want real journalism, actually based in the borough, you should consider paying for it. Please sign up today. Click here for more details
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, or want to publicise your residents’ association or business, or if you have a local event to promote, please email us with full details at email@example.com
- As featured on Google News Showcase
- We offer FREE ads to community groups when they have members who are paid subscribers to Inside Croydon
- Our comments section on every report provides all readers with an immediate “right of reply” on all our content
- Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
- Inside Croydon works together with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, as well as BBC London News and ITV London
- ROTTEN BOROUGH AWARDS: Croydon was named among the country’s rottenest boroughs for a SIXTH successive year in 2022 in the annual round-up of civic cock-ups in Private Eye magazine
The grass looked terrible before. Glad the council are cutting it again. Hope it continues. It’s what we pay our tax for after all.
Is this sort of nonsense to be a triennial event?
I seem to remember a similar spat in relation to the chalk grassland meadow bank that those ‘fondly remembered’ bods from Brick by Brick tried to develop during June 2020 down in sunny Purley (IC ‘Council accused of wildlife vandalism to help Brick by Brick’).
Our glorious leader really should keep up a bit more with ‘modern ways’, and listen to his elders, and as some might say, ‘betters’?
During lockdown, walking through an area of mid 20th C suburban housing with grass verges near Heathfield, I was amazed to see so many wild flowers growing up among the grass. No rareties like orchids, in this case, but the whole scene looked softer and gentler –more green and pleasant– than it would have looked if the verges were close mown. It was studded with little white flowers, and the dart shaped heads of “wall barley”, that grass that boys meanly used to throw to stick in girls’ hair.
I was not been back there since, but I am wondering if last year, the grass was left to grow until October, and then cut and raked off ( the best thing to do, as it encourages the wild flowers and finer grasses) or– more likely– left to grow until it collapsed , into a mat of soggy fallen grass , or left to grow long, then cut with a strimmer, or a rough-cut mower, and reduced to a coarse lawn, covered with a green pulpy mess of the cuttings.
The siggy option awaited a roadside green near me, in Coulsdon. It became a boring mess of longish grass about a foot high (but not 6 foot high). . Then, people dumped a few bits of small rubbish, which lay among the grass like … well.. bits of rubbish. Then last year, brambles grew up. No landscape maintenance was carried out, in an attempt to save money. In the Winter, the grass all fell down and reamained as an unsightly mat.
This year, someone came and blitzed it all. A strimmer gang perhaps. Not sure if they took away the rubbish or just striimed it to smithereens.
In all probability, not much money was saved, as the cost of sending in a gang of people once a year to deal with long grass and rubbish is much the same as sending in a man or woman with mower to regularly mow short grass..
Three years ago, native wild orchids were growing on this small but prominent, street corner green, in Coulsdon. The soil here is on solid chalk….. perfect for wild orchids and colourful wild flowers– and perfectly feasible to maintain, if the grass is mown at the right time.
With regard to mowing, and “UK no mow May”, I suspect that the idea is to resume normal cutting in June, in the hope that most of the wild flowers have flowered, maybe even have seeded, so that they carry on growing in the long term.
In reality, there is no “one size fits all” , as grass on chalky dry sites grows both slower and thinner, with thinner blades of grass , and less dense, than the grass on a well-watered site on clay Here, the leaves or blades of grass will be much coarser.
The presence of wild flowers on any grass area depends on past maintenance history. If the grass has ever been weedkilled, quite understandably, there will be fewer “weeds” (aka wild flowers). If it has been cut short for decades, there will be few wild flowers left.
However, even just a few wildflowers and grass that sends up its flowering spikes bring so much visual delight for human beings and much needed food for bees, butterflies and moths and other pollinating insects.
In its bankrupt state, Croydon’s grounds maintenance managers (if there are many left) are as always under the budgetary cosh, and it is unlikely that they will be very popular if they say to Mayor Perry.. “Excuse me Sir, but we would advise you that the management of grass verges and parks deserves a well-planned approach that respects wildlife and aesthetics, as well as cost- control, via appropriate timing of mowing and litter removal”.
The decision to stop cutting the grass last year as a cost saving measure might have saved some money then, but the clearing up and cutting this year will in all probability cost as much as the amount “saved”. So, litte or no saving overall.
The grass keeps on growing. As does the voulume of cans and bottles, lumps of concrete, bits of old iron, discarded carpets, and plastic bags dumped by the great British public on unmown grass. It all becomes a tangled mess if left.
It’s literally a very sad thing, total neglect and no cutting last year, followed by triumphant cutting down of grass containing many pretty and nectar-rich wild flowers this year.
Such is the shabby horticultural reality in these cash strapped, cut-purse muniicipal times..
Surely for all the work that Part Time does for the opposition he would be a driver for Redwing Coaches and not Mitcham Belles.
Just another thought…….. one of the real problems for grounds maintenance managers and workers involved in grass cutting is that wet weather, particularly when followed by warm weather, makes the grass (and any other plants growing among it) grow very quickly, thickly and lushly, into a meadow a few feet tall.
Within days, an innocent-looking area of shortish grass can shoot up to 6″ high.
A week later, it can be a foot or even higher.
A grass-cutting task that was easy when the grass is 1/2 to 3 inches tall, suddenly becomes very difficult, very slow and time consuming, or even impossible.
A conventional mower (whether a powered push mower, a self-powered mower, or a ride-on) just can’t cope with the height and huge volume of grass.
“Old Father Time / “Grim Reaper” scythes (or mechanical scythes with Eddie Scissorhands style cutting bars) were the cutting solution for long grass up to around 1950 or 1960, when petrol-powered strimmers were introduced.
Scythes are great. There has been a scythe renaissance among ecology-conscious gardeners in the last 15 years, using the “European scythe” not the “English / American scythe well-known to watchers of Poldark grass mowing action.
Use of a strimmer or “flail mower” is the modern equivalent — the modern way of cutting such grass down to ground. Today the choice then is whether to leave it on, or rake / blow/ scrape it off.
There is no “one size fits all solution” to the grass cutting “problem”.
Every site is different, with the resulting grass height and lushness depending not only on soil (dry sand / chalk or wet clay), but on whether the site is in full sun, or shade. Not forgetting the types of grasses present– short, fine, medium or coarse.
The “wildflower friendly solution” on chalky sites where the grass grows more slowly, is to leave the grass and wild flowers to grow and flower over the spring and summer, then let the seeds develop, ripen and fall to ground in Autumn, and then cut and rake it all off in October. The raking off part is vital, to avoid smothering the sward, and avoud enriching the soil. Wild flowers like a certain degree of poor soil. Poorish… not impoverished except for some species.
This cutting and raking is easy to do, totally feasible in small scale settings like a garden, using a sickle, shears, scythe, or powered mower set on the highest setting.
It is also feasible on very large, simple areas like big open areas of parks, using agricultural equipment in the form of a tractor equipped with a long-grass mower, and a big grass-pick up box, or towing a “forage harvester”….. feasible, but seldom done in most urban councils, which don’t understand the farming approach to grass cutting.
Also, the cuttings need to be used or dumpoed or composted.
Croydon, as far as I know, used to hires a local farmer to take a hay crop off big parks like Lloyd Park..
The big problem is the thouands of small, middle to large sites, like housing estates, and grass verges. Studded with lamp posts and sign poles, and peppered with trees, shrub beds, cut up by paths, kerbs, railings, fences, traffic guard rails etc etc, these areas are fiddly at best, at worst a nightmare to cut.
These are the very areas of public landscape that is typical of suburban Croydon.
The cost of eco-freindly grass cutting and raking off the arisings would require a massive additional sum of money.
“No Mow May” is a good half-way-house from the normal ‘short-mown grass’ to the ‘wildflower meadow’ style of grassland management.
In reality, most short grass areas will pop up with pretty surprises- some daisies, some buttercups, at least, or choicer things like orchids on chalky areas– if one ios very lucky. What ever, bees and insects lneed and love all and any such flowers…. the important thing is to have lots of flowers !
With thousands of grass verges and housing estate greens, it would take many, many skilled staff to survey each one, and take a soil sample, and observe what plants pop up among the grasses over the course of the growing season.
My guess is that for every hundred such areas, there will be a handful with a highly diverse flora, notably in chalky areas from Waddon to Sanderstead, and Purley to Coulsdon, but also in old meadowlands on clay. This is not to sideline the importance of every area with wild flowers in any way– all are important for wildlife and beauty– it is just to highlight the very best.
If these very special areas could be identified, a cutting regime could be specified for each, to encourage the wild flowers and diversity of grasses already present.
This would require not only a simple botanical survey, but, if it stands any chance of success, a management plan needs to be in place, with a cutting regime understood, and respected by the workers actually cutting the grass….. PLUS training for these staff. All this takes agreat deal of effort on the part of workers and managers alike.
Plus…… some money to implement properly, but not necessarily a great deal on each site.
For the rest, the general landscape of all those thousnads of verges, parks and housing estates, the best, and affordable solution is probably going to be “No Mow May”.
In reality, “No Mow until Mid or End of May” . After which, the grass can be mown regularly, every ten days or so, or perhaps less often in dry areas. The local staff will know the sites, and how fast the grass grows on each. Then, cut as and when is necessary to not only cut the grass, but encourage the wildflowers.
Grass cutting horses, for grass (with wild flowers) courses.