Rewilding the Borough

Action areas:  Biodiversity loss/ Carbon emissions / Health & wellbeing

The Council has taken some significant steps in the last couple of years to benefit our Borough’s biodiversity by altering and reducing our mowing practices.  We have converted approximately 21,700m2 of closely mown amenity grasslands to managed grassland habitats, capable of supporting a much more diverse range of floral species, pollinators, and insects.   As well as the biodiversity benefits, studies have shown that conversion from species-poor to species-rich grassland can significantly increase the soil carbon sequestration rate.  In addition, a significant reduction in CO2 emissions, as a result of a reduction in grass cutting frequency, has reduced the Council’s carbon footprint.

We have also introduced a more sustainable planting schedule with the use of direct sowing annual flowers throughout our flower beds.  Annual wildflower planting is significantly less expensive and produces displays of greater impact with greater longevity. Species in these mixes are specifically chosen for their pollinator-friendly flowers.  To promote the initiative and inform members of the public of the benefits of the altered management practices, informative signage was placed at each rewilding location.

The Rewilding project offers opportunities for education by creating outdoor classrooms, where schools and local members of the community can discover the natural world and develop their understanding of environmental issues through first-hand experience.  Regular positive feedback on the benefits of these sites from residents and visitors highlights the positive impact the project has made to people’s lives in addition to the obvious biodiversity benefit.

It is the intention that the current sites will continue to be subject to the alternative management techniques outlined above with a view to encouraging increased variety of species. In addition to the ongoing maintenance, the schedules will be altered to take account of infrequent event use on certain sites. It is critical that the rewilding parks project works in harmony with the overall use of parks and a balanced offering is available across the parks portfolio. Events and community use will be catered for in the integrated grassland management of each chosen site.

Gaining the public's understanding and support is key to the success of this project. Interpretive signage was incorporated into the 2018-2020 schedule with signage erected at all rewilding sites in 2019. There was some initial negative feedback on one site in particular, but following positive engagement and communication there has been no further negative comments.