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Council planting more meadows to further boost city's biodiversity

News release from 18/10/2019

SEASONAL flowerbeds in Cambridge City Council’s parks and open spaces are being converted into perennial meadows in order to boost their biodiversity value and remove the need for wasteful watering and weeding.

The perennial meadows consist of a mix of native and non-native species, and are designed to be low-maintenance, drought-resistant and not requiring herbicides. They will provide a vital food source for pollinating insects, as well as colourful blooms for local residents and visitors to enjoy.

Unlike the perennial meadows, the council’s seasonal flowerbeds have had to be replanted every spring and autumn, were of low  value to wildlife and required regular weeding and watering, particularly in the dry summer months.

In addition, being seasonal, the plants and bulbs could not be re-used so were removed for composting at the end of each season.

The council is working with a voluntary group On The Verge Cambridge to sow the meadows at new and existing sites during the autumn, including at Parker’s Piece, Trumpington Recreation Ground, King’s Hedges Recreation Ground and Coleridge Recreation Ground.

The new meadows will not require treatment to combat competitive weed species, but instead will be cut regularly during their first year to reduce weeds.

Wildflower meadows have already proved colourful and popular additions to parks including Cherry Hinton Hall Park, Nightingale Recreation Ground, Jesus Green, Parker’s Piece and elsewhere.

The creation of perennial meadows was initially approved by councillors in 2017 as part of a five year plan to improve the city’s streets and open spaces, and now forms part of the council’s response to declaring a Biodiversity Emergency earlier this year.

In response to the Biodiversity Emergency declaration, the council has already restricted the use of herbicides in its parks and open spaces, and committed to a series of biodiversity pledges for the next two years and beyond, including::

  • Making the council estate, including its parks and opens spaces, more hospitable to a wide range of plants and animals
  • Reviewing its Nature Conservation Strategy to ensure the variety of plant and animal life in Cambridge measurably increases
  • Working in partnership with institutions, schools, businesses and community groups to raise awareness and encourage wider biodiversity action across the city.

Cllr Katie Thornburrow, Executive Councillor for Planning Policy and Open Spaces, said: “We know that our historic seasonal bedding displays were very popular with many residents and visitors, and we will be sorry to see them go.

“However the new meadows promise to provide an equally spectacular display when in flower, with the additional benefit of requiring no watering or herbicide treatments and attracting more pollinating insects which are vital to improving biodiversity in Cambridge as a whole.”