Wet weather followed by a warm spell creates the perfect condition for prolific plant growth, possibly affecting our amenity areas and the safety of our highways. As always, we need to balance the need to ensure that our highways are managed safely with the need to protect our wild spaces and to encourage wildlife, particularly insects.
With this in mind, we periodically review the recommendations for grounds maintenance, taking into account feedback from local communities, to establish how it can be improved to encourage more flora and fauna into amenity areas while keeping highways safe - particularly at junctions, roundabout and bends. Currently the amenity maintenance is based on keeping grass cut regularly, while in rural areas, cutting is based on safety - the cutting schedules for these areas are listed below.
Rural highway verge mowing This year we have modified our approach to mowing our rural roads, in recognition that these verges can provide a significant environmental benefit. Historically we carried out one single cut of the entire rural network through May and June. This year we started cutting visibility splays on junctions and some bends, along with some of the particularly narrow lanes in the middle of May. The remaining verges will be left uncut until September. Leaving these areas much later to cut will enable wildflowers to set seed and spread more widely in the verge.
In addition to this we have also been holding a pilot on the A350, where we have been 'cutting and collecting grass'. We have identified areas that are able to utilise a rear mounted collector flail. This then impoverishes the soil and creates conditions that encourage the growth of wildflowers. Normally grass cuttings remain in situ, creating a nutrient-rich environment that wildflowers do not prosper in.
Progress on our current mowing program has been good; we have been utilising ten tractor flails across the county and we are anticipating that we should have completed the cut by 21 June. Following this, any issues reported to us will be investigated and revisited if necessary.
Urban grass cutting We mow the grass in urban areas regularly, but the frequency of mowing depends on the area and conditions. Cutting is deferred in very wet or frosty weather, and when it is very dry for a prolonged period, we may also suspend cutting so we can direct resources into other allocated works.
We are currently running some wildflower trials to enable wildlife to thrive in these areas. As with highways verge mowing, we 'cut and collect' in these areas to create better conditions for wildflowers to thrive. Current wildflower trials are only undertaken in large open spaces with good access for the tractor, relatively flat geography with appropriate locations for onsite composting.
Grass Cutting Schedule
More information: https://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/news/grass-cutting-policy