#NoMowMay: Councils support biodiversity during No Mow May and beyond

Published: Friday, 28th April 2023

Councils across Oxfordshire will be supporting No Mow May by allowing grass verges to grow long in May and beyond - in order to prioritise and promote biodiversity across the county.

No Mow May - which was created by conservation charity, Plantlife – is an annual campaign to encourage all garden owners and green space managers not to mow their lawns during May – leaving long grass and wild plants to grow and providing a space for nature.

Verges that are cut regularly are often perceived as neater, however they not create the best environment for plants and wildlife to thrive.  Allowing verges to grow means that wildflowers can flower and set seed.  This provides greater food sources for pollinators, such as bees, and enables the wildflower populations to flourish.

According to the Wildlife Trusts, around 700 species of wildflower grow on road verges – nearly 45% of the UK’s total plant population.

Councils across Oxfordshire will be adopting the following approaches:

Oxfordshire County Council

Earlier this year, the County Council updated its highway verge and vegetation maintenance plan, following guidance from Plantlife and Oxford University.

This new approach will mean that from spring 2023, all roadside verges in Oxfordshire - including both rural and urban areas – will be cut once a year on an annual basis in order to prioritise biodiversity wherever possible.

As highways authority, Oxfordshire County Council is ultimately responsible for the maintenance of grass verges throughout Oxfordshire - excluding motorways and trunk roads.

This new approach will apply to all roadside verges, with the exception of wildlife refuges which will be cut in rotation every five years.

District councils often follow the same approach within their areas; however, some may elect to carry additional cuttings due to their landscape and layout. Parish and Town Councils are responsible for all localised areas, including sports facilities, village greens and some highway verges.

Oxford City Council

Oxford City Council manages the majority of highways in Oxford, on behalf of, and paid for by Oxfordshire County Council. Therefore, from spring 2023, Oxford City Council will be cutting all grass verges in the city once a year– with verges cut in the late summer.

During 2021, Oxford City Council trialled an annual cut approach at 26 locations across the city, with just one cut taking place in the late summer. This trial was extended in 2022 to cover more locations.

Now, following these trials, and taking into account feedback from local residents, stakeholders, and the County Council’s updated programme – this approach has extended to the whole city on a permanent basis.  

The Council will continue to maintain sight lines for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians at highways junctions. Areas outside Council flats and homes will continued to be maintained, with cuttings taking place six times a year.

More information can be found at www.oxford.gov.uk/grassverges

West Oxfordshire District Council

West Oxfordshire District Council will once again be operating a reduced cutting regime throughout the growing months, not just in May. Grassed areas in residential estates, managed by the Council, will be cut on a four-weekly basis to give flowers the opportunity to bloom. 

Wildflower meadows located in council-owned parks and larger, open spaces within the estates will be able to grow until the end of the summer to support pollinating insects and encourage biodiversity.

A small number of identified highway verges will be allowed to grow for at least four weeks with areas that are important for plants, such as bee orchids, left for longer.

South Oxfordshire District Council and Vale of White Horse District Council

South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils have launched the ‘Let It Bee’ campaign, which aims to increase biodiversity on council owned land by allowing wildflowers and plants to grow on specific sites.

The pilot project follows last year’s successful No Mow May trial on seven council owned sites across the districts. This year the parks team is increasing the number of sites to 17.

The councils have selected locations which do not impact on pedestrians or sightlines for drivers and are also near shorter grass areas and pathways for people wishing to exercise, play or relax. 

More information about South Oxfordshire District Council can be found here.

More information about Vale of White Horse District Council can be found here.

Oxford City Council is committed to supporting biodiversity across the city. We will be expanding our long grass verge approach to cover all of the city and helping biodiversity to thrive. At the same time we will be also continuing to ensure that visibility and safety at our junctions are maintained, as well as communal areas. We are looking forward to seeing our grass verges bloom.

Mish Tullar, Head of Corporate Strategy, Oxford City Council

“Improving biodiversity and nature recovery is a key aim of our verge and vegetation maintenance policy, although the safety of all road users remains our priority when it comes to visibility and ensuring ease of access to our footways and cycleways. This is a balance we continually strive to get right.”

Bill Cotton, Oxfordshire County Council’s Director of Environment & Place

“The Let It Bee project is part of a wider programme of managing council-owned land for nature which includes existing and new wildflower meadows. The parks team actively sow flower seeds and work on the land to encourage growth.

“We plan to consult the local community at the end of the growing season to see the difference that this approach is making and to use the results to develop this programme next year.”

Suzanne Malcolm, Deputy Chief Executive (Place) at South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils

“The Council is responsible for the management of a range of public spaces across the district. In response to the ecological emergency, we have adopted a range of practices that will protect and restore the ecosystems and wildlife habitats these open spaces support. Our cutting programme is just one way we are delivering on this.”

Rachel Crookes, Biodiversity and Countryside Land Management Officer, West Oxfordshire District Council