Under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act, Hildersham Parish Council, in common with every other public authority, must always show regard for conserving biodiversity. (See also the Biodiversity Strategy for England: Biodiversity 2020; and the expected announcement of a legally-binding target for 2030 to drive action to halt the decline of nature and wildlife).
In the spring of 2020, Hildersham Parish Council demonstrated their concern for biodiversity by giving formal support to the Pollinator Action Plan (for more information on PAPs, see the Horseheath PC website).
One of the principal concerns of the PAP is to encourage bees, which play a very important role in the pollination of plants that provide food for us.
(More on local pollinators).
In recent years, bees have been finding it ever more difficult to survive, especially as the countryside is suffering contamination by chemicals from pesticides and weedkillers. In time to come, more than 30 species of bees could become extinct.
Gardens free of weed-killers and pesticides can also grow flowers that encourage bees: buttercups, red clover, nepita (cat mint), annual dahlias, cornflowers, hellebores, lavender, alliums, caryopteris, verbena bonariensis, and muscari.
There is growing evidence of the harmful effects that pesticide use can have on pollinators and other wildlife. Local Authorities should aim to use pesticides only if absolutely necessary … and avoid using pesticides on flowering plants or where pollinators are active or nesting.
Of particular concern is the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. (“Helping pollinators locally,” #5, p. 14, PDF 16).
Part of the thinking behind the Pollinator Action Plan incorporates a strategy designed to encourage councils to reconsider a desire for neatness and tidiness, and to let “neatly-mown grass verges become mini meadows where wildflowers and wildlife can flourish”. Bees love displays of wild flowers such as cow-parsley.
“Changing mowing regimes on road verges etc. [would] allow more wildflowers to bloom naturally. Roadside verges and roundabouts are often maintained as short grassland. This may be required for road safety purposes but often it is just carried out as it has always been done this way. Reducing cutting frequencies, or creating wildflower lawns or meadows can be an effective way to provide attractive areas beneficial to pollinators and potentially reduce management costs. Likewise hedge cutting regimes can be changed to allow better structure to develop in hedgerows and flowering shrubs to bloom for longer.
“The precise timing of mowing regimes depends on the vegetation being managed. As a general rule nectar-rich plants should be allowed to finish their flowering period. Early flowering species such as Dandelion and Primrose are of particular value for pollinators as they emerge in the spring.” (“Helping pollinators locally:”#4, p. 14, PDF 16).
In cases where there is concern for appearance and/or road safety, it’s advised that no more than a narrow fringe be cut at the front of the verge – as shown in this photograph taken by councilmember Rob Clay, in charge of grass-cutting.
Centre of Hildersham, May 2021: Flowers blooming; grass border trimmed.
Hildersham Churchyard writes (May 2021):
“As we journey through the seasons, we are hoping to allow areas of the churchyard to become a haven for all manner of wildlife while retaining a respectful and caring attitude towards the gravestones and memorials.
“So, if you are passing in midsummer and the grass looks long and overgrown, it is actually the beginnings of our summer meadow that will hopefully bring birds, flowers, butterflies and bees to glorify what is already a beautiful space.”
Pyramids at risk in Hildersham? Greater Cambridge Partnership to the rescue!
Recently (July 2021), residents noted the presence of a species of orchid (pyramidal orchids, or anacamptis pyramidalis) growing at a precarious location within the parish. Cambridgeshire Wildlife Trust explained that the orchids could not be moved, as they needed to grow surrounded by a specific mycorrhizal fungus. Because of concerns for the plant’s safety, a protective barrier has now been placed around it (thanks to Cllr. Henry Batchelor and Greater Cambridge Partnership).
Should wild flowers be planted on verges?
A tempting idea – but opinions vary! There is a danger in bringing in inappropriate species, such as the commonly sold “pastoral mix'” that includes non-native species like Californian poppies. Great for pollinators, but not necessrily good for country villages that may still have their native wild flowers.
A helpful article on the Plantlife website explains the controversy very well.
Wildlife Trust for Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire (promoting 30 Days Wild 2021)
Plantlife (promoting #NoMowMay)
Habitat Maps (2015):
(These maps are due to be updated at some point by CPERC)
Do any Hildersham residents or visitors have any photographs of verges or gardens with the sort of flowers that attact bees and insects that could be included on this page? If so, please contact the Parish Council.