Space To Thrive
When Chelmsford City Council declared a climate emergency in July 2019, we put nature conservation and fighting climate change at the heart of what we do. Space to Thrive is our new initiative to help combat the climate emergency and is all about how we are taking action and what we are doing out on the ground.
This winter we will be starting with a resident’s Free Tree Giveaway. We can all make a difference by planting a tree in our gardens, large or small, or even in a pot on a balcony creating not only shade but habitats for pollinators and other insects that’s support us all.
In the spring we will be continuing with our change to how we manage the 1,700 acres of grassland in the district, with habitat creation that will help to restore nature and biodiversity.
Giving Chelmsford’s wildlife corridors space to thrive
In 2022, Chelmsford City Council changed how it maintains grassland in the district. Large areas like our parks, right through to communal green spaces and small neighbourhood verges are now managed in a different way.
For decades, the council has cut all of the grass every few weeks. Although we did this with the best intentions, we are realising that closely cropped grass is a desert for biodiversity. Now we’re doing things differently to restore lost grassland habitats before it’s too late to support our rapidly declining populations of pollinators.
Changing the way grassland is cared for
Officers from the parks and green spaces team assess each area to decide how it will be cared for, meaning that the mowing schedule varies from area to area. Some areas are cut more often than others, such as recreational areas – as we want people to continue being able to use the city’s green spaces in their usual way. However, other areas will be given space to thrive. We want to give nature and wildlife the opportunity to grow again.
The cutting frequency depends on the location, highway sightlines, safety, visibility, and what’s practical. For instance, verges where lots of people walk will be cut more often than rarely used areas. Areas where tall grass could become hazardous to traffic or block highway sightlines will continue to be cut on a more regular basis.
The weather also has a big impact on how the council manages its green spaces. Prolonged periods of wet weather will lead to grass growing more quickly. The parks team keep an eye on the affect weather conditions have on the land and adapt their plans as needed. Even in places where grass is cut less often, council staff will still visit and pick litter.
Taller grasses support pollinators
Bees, hoverflies, butterflies, beetles, grasshoppers and moths pollinate 80% of all plant species in Europe, including food crops like tomatoes, rapeseed and strawberries. The number of pollinating insects has drastically declined over the years, with a quarter of bumblebee species now facing extinction. This is having a devastating impact on local ecosystems, the food chain, and our own food production.
Relaxing our mowing regime provides early sources of nectar to support bees emerging from hibernation, providing shelter throughout the growing season.
Over 700 species of wildflowers grow on road verges and green spaces and the way they are managed can have a major impact on their value to wildlife.