Cllr Caroline ffiske says: Let the grass grow
In London’s largest parks, its long been a common sight to see areas of lovely long unmown grass. In recent years, there has been a trend to have more of these long-grass areas.
For example, Margravine Cemetary, pictured here, has long had unmown areas. Now the new normal seems to be unmown, with meandering walkways and a few mown areas. It’s lovely.
Ravenscourt Park has a small “nature area” (pictured below) which is kept very wild (and has wonderful frogs and newts) – but its long grass is very much the exception.
I used to assume Western Civilisation spent a fortune mowing lawns for a good reason. I assumed it must be something about the health of the grass. But now I get the feeling it’s a 1950s hangover. Too much overmown lawn in an urban enviroment belongs in the same camp as those 1950s-style urban flower beds you still sometimes see which are 95% concrete, brick, and bare soil, and 5% a few shortlived plants. Grim to sit in, grim to look at. Expensive to maintain. Hot and dusty or cold and windswept.
I was hoping that not mowing grass might be a rare example of a win-win-win. It looks lovely. Surely it costs less. And its unambiguously better for wildlife, insects, and the environment.
Sadly, one of our local parks officers says “There are some downsides to creating longer grass areas, later in the summer they can become a fire hazard and also to maintain any show of flower they need to be cut and collected at the end of the summer to keep the nutrient levels low (high nutrient levels generally leads to nettles and thistles). The cost of cutting and collecting is generally more expensive than grass cutting through the year as different/specialist equipment is required.”
Hmmm. That cost argument is annoying. But I’m told that we could mow grass less often. And then that would save money. This little stretch opposite the Lillie Road antique shops is never walked in – indeed it is fenced off and only gated at one end. Look at these daisies. Our parks officer says “the show of daisies is simply down to the early flourish of growth – a combination of damp and warm weather.” Go daisies!
Perhaps mowing less often, in areas like the above, could provide the cost saving to allow us to create many more long grass and wildflower areas. Imagine if we did this. Make unmown grass and wildflower beds the new normal? Of course, we would decide that there should be very very large areas where grass should be kept short – for sitting, picnicking, and playing ball. And then there would be areas – like the one above – where the grass could just be mowed less often, and daisies and buttercups could flourish. This would create the cost saving for the third kind of area: we would, by default, become aware of very very many more spaces suitable for long grass and wild flowers. Every park has those long skinny areas around the edge or alongside paths. Every park should have a long grass and wildflower area.
Almost every housing estate also has areas where long grass and wild flowers could flourish and where kids should be able to spend their time spotting grasshoppers. Here is a patch on one of our local estates where the gardeners have done a great job of maintaining long wild edges, and some nice not-too-frequently mown grass as well. This is perfect for sitting on a summer’s evening.
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date – let the grass grow where and while it can.