READING COUNCIL is set to explore a new approach to grass cutting across the borough.
‘Rewilding’ means restoring, reclaiming and protecting natural habitats and native species.
Rewilding of urban areas is being encouraged across the country. There are several national campaigns, like Rewilding Britain, the Blue Campaign, and the Royal Horticultural Society programme to encourage wilding of urban gardens.
In 2018 the Council declared a climate emergency, together with partners from all walks of life. The Reading Climate Change Partnership is currently consulting on the Reading Climate Emergency Strategy (RCES) www.reading.gov.uk/climateconsultation (which has been extended to run until 28 June). Within the ‘Nature’ theme of the strategy is a wide-ranging requirement to improve the urban environment for flora and fauna.
The rewilding project is also a key part of the Council’s new Biodiversity Action Plan, which is currently out for public consultation at www.reading.gov.uk/treestrategy-biodiversity
The plan is focused on promoting natural solutions to climate challenges, such as improving habitats to help wildlife and people adapt to the impacts of climate change. It sets out priority objectives and actions for the protection and enhancement of biodiversity within Reading. One of which is to review the mowing regime of highways verges to allow, where appropriate, more species-rich long grass in corridors along the highway. This creates corridors for small animals and insects to move around town, as well as providing food for birds and insects.
Cllr Karen Rowland, Lead Councillor for Recreation, said: “I am very excited about this project as rewilding connects people back with nature. This is a perfect time to do it – when residents are walking and cycling more. Many people have urged us to make changes that improve things for wildlife in the town.
“The changes this year are an experiment and importantly, it will feed into our wider, far-reaching ambitions set out in the Climate Emergency Strategy and Biodiversity Action Plan.
“We know some verges will look wonderful because they are species-rich, whilst others will not, and we need to know to which these are. The appearance will change over the course of the summer, and we cannot understand how without trialling growth in these areas.
“We are not making any permanent changes, and we can reintroduce mowing where rewilding does not ‘work’ either ecologically or visually. As such, this is essentially a ‘live’ consultation. We very much encourage you to tell us what you think. You can send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit www.reading.gov.uk/rewilding to find out more.
“We are also working to encourage more walking and cycling, as part of our plans to make access around Reading easier and safer. We want you to stop and smell the flowers, watch the bees and bugs and admire nature at work! Look out for our fun information signs coming soon to our rewilded areas. There is a set of 6 signs to spot, featuring honey bees, butterflies, caterpillars, dragonflies, wildflowers and meadows. We’ve also produced a series of downloadable colouring sheets, available on the rewilding webpage, for families to use and mark off the series as they spot them. Please do tell us if you spot any unusual plants, insects or birds on your travels.”
To feedback on the rewilding project please email email@example.com
The Council will review this project at the end of the summer and will make specific proposals to guide future mowing practice.
There are 6 different sets of ‘Rewilding’ signs to spot around the borough including: Butterfly, Caterpillar, Dragonfly, Honey Bee, Meadow and Wildflower.
Families can download ‘Rewilding’ colouring posters here and tick the signs off as you spot them:
Most of the borough’s verges will continue to be mowed as normal.
All verges in residential areas that are crossed regularly by driveways, and all small areas of grass will be mown. At present, the grass is growing very fast, so it is difficult to keep everything looking smart, but, later in the season, as the rate of growth slows, this will be addressed. The unmown areas will look cared for with a mown strip alongside roadways and footpaths, and desire lines cut through some of them to help with walking access.
No changes have been made to parks at this stage. The area of grassland left as conservation grass is unchanged. This will be revisited at a later date. At present, the priority is to provide as much well-maintained outdoor space as possible for exercise through close-mowing.
The list of sites where rewilding is being trialled is below:
View a list of rewilding areas at www.reading.gov.uk/rewilding