UPDATE! Since we posted this we’ve received a response from Cardiff Council – scroll down to read what they said.
Last year, after receiving a flood of messages and tweets from people upset about their local green space being flattened by council mowers, we decided to channel some lockdown creativity and launched the Say No to the Mow campaign.
We invited you to make pom poms to create a huge ‘pop up wildflower meadow’ representing the 700 different native species grassy areas such as road verges can support if left to grow. We wanted to push back against the idea that tidiness is more important to Cardiff residents than biodiversity, and show that there’s a really high level of support for managing the city’s parks and verges differently.
Our wonderful community did not let us down! We received over 1,000 colourful pompoms and we’re now able to make the wildflower available to anyone who would like to use it to raise awareness of biodiversity issues in their area. It recently popped up in Footprints Cardiff North‘s No Mow May activities, and will shortly go on display as part of the Wales Millennium Centre’s Your Voice exhibition. Do let us know if you would like to adopt if for a bit to use in your community!
We also wrote a letter to Cardiff council, signed by over 300 people, asking them to cut later, cut less, and end their use of glyphosate weedkillers. We were very pleased when, at the end of summer 2020, Cardiff Council announced the creation of 18 new ‘one cut’ sites. These are areas where the plants will be left to grow and only cut once in the later summer/ early autumn. Another three site were added when we pointed out that there were none in Splott or Adamsdown.
So far, so good. But when spring arrived this year the mowers were out once again and we started seeing more messages from people devastated that their local patch of flowers had been reduced without warning to scorched piles of cut grass and shredded litter.
This issue seemed so widespread that we decided to map it, and created a Google map where anyone could add a location that they would like to see managed better for wildlife and people. Throughout May over 150 locations were added, with annotations and often photos, and almost 3,000 people viewed the map.
Last night members of the Senedd voted to declare a nature emergency alongside the climate emergency declaration so we thought this was a good time to share the map with Cardiff Council. Here’s the letter we wrote to accompany it:
We are writing to you today to talk about the issue of mowing and spraying around Cardiff.
We are delighted that so many new one-cut areas have been created around the city, and that signage has been added in places. This is a fantastic start to normalising provision for nature in the city and we know it has been a huge boost to the wellbeing of many residents to see the plants and wildlife left to thrive. We were also really impressed that a glyphosate-free trial has begun in Riverside and Pontprennau & Old St Mellons – we look forward to seeing the results of this trial.
With news of the Senedd’s vote to declare a nature emergency, we felt it was a good time to get in touch to continue the conversation around mowing and spraying around the city. While the one-cut areas are greatly appreciated, we continue to receive feedback and photos from our community about areas that have been mown apparently needlessly and confusion around which areas have been set aside for wildlife. We’re also conscious of the need for the existing one-cut areas and green spaces around the city to be connected, helping wildlife to reach the habitats and resources they need. We felt it might be helpful to gather residents’ suggestions for further areas to be managed for wildlife so we created a map and invited our community in Cardiff to add locations where they would prefer mowing and spraying regimes to be changed.
We are pleased to share with you this map, with over 150 locations added by residents and annotated with details of how they could be managed differently. We hope this will be helpful in informing future planning for a greener city. Although we do appreciate that many of the sites identified may not be managed by the council, this does suggest that more support and guidance to encourage businesses to manage their space for wildlife could be effective. We also feel that the map demonstrates the continued high level of support for a Cardiff that values and nurtures biodiversity and the wellbeing of residents, with the map being viewed 2,991 during May.
We would also like to reiterate our offer to make our communications and community engagement experience available to help facilitate positive conversations about nature in Cardiff; in our experience it is often difficult for residents to find current information about biodiversity policies and practices in their area, and many people feel disconnected from decision making around the nature on their doorstep.
We would be grateful if we could receive any future press releases concerning biodiversity and we would be very happy to organise and facilitate a discussion session between Cardiff Council and residents for you to provide an update on current achievements and future plans.
Thank you for your time and consideration. We would appreciate a response to this letter if possible, as it would be good to let those who contributed to the map know of any future plans concerning mowing and spraying.
Update! On July 15th we received the following reply from Councillor Peter Bradbury, Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure:
I do note your comments regarding the community feedback that you have received and the 150 locations identified, as indicated in previous correspondence the Council is committed to enhancing and promoting biodiversity and will review the locations, giving consideration for inclusion for the 22/23 maintenance season.
I also note your offer of services in respect of community engagement, at present we have no plans for commissioning in this specific area, with regard to your request for copies of future press releases I have made arrangements for your email address to be added to our distribution list and would welcome any support that you could offer in sharing material with a wider audience.
In terms of your engagement and as previously suggested, you may wish to consider involvement in our Local Nature Partnership. The partnership, facilitated by Council staff with expertise in engaging with communities on conservation and habitat management projects, provides a forum for individuals, groups and organisations to join a conversation that is already helping to shape the work we do in this area. If this is something that would interest you, or others, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The Biodiversity section of our Outdoor Cardiff website is the main portal for accessing policy documents and up-to-date information around biodiversity and also includes further information about the Partnership.
In conclusion may I take this opportunity to thank you for your continued interest.
There are three key things we’ve taken away from this reply:
- The map suggestions will be taken into account for next year’s maintenance season! We think this is a great outcome, well done everyone!
- In future we need to make it clearer that Green Squirrel aren’t trying to charge the council money for our help with engagement around this issue, we’re doing it because it matters to us and our community, and we think there’s a lot of room for improvement in terms of communication.
- The Outdoor Cardiff website Peter recommends is… not great. Luckily, #WildCardiffHour, led by the fantastically knowledgable Pip Gray, have created a map of wild spaces (below) to explore and enjoy in Cardiff, and are on twitter every Tuesday, 7-8pm for nature chat.
Now the question is – what should we do next year? Let’s keep the momentum going and continue to show Cardiff Council that we value biodiversity in our city. Let us know what you think Say No To The Mow should look like in 2022 – leave a comment below, email us, or get in touch on social.