The following proposal was put to Braunston Parish Council and was accepted.
The proposal is supported by:
Braunston Canal Society, Braunston Scout Group, Braunston Walkers, Braunston Village Gardens Association, Rev Nat White, All Saints’ Church, Jetty Fields Committee, Braunston CE School, Braunston Women’s Institute
Over recent years Braunston has had a mowing schedule in which some large areas are mown weekly and other extensive areas are mown fortnightly. Mowing as frequently as this increases costs and leads to higher carbon emissions and greatly reduces biodiversity.
The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 places a duty on government departments and public authorities in England and Wales to show regard for conserving biodiversity in all their actions. This regard must be shown on public authority managed land, including roads and verges. (Plantlife, The Good Verge Guide)
In preparing this proposal we have taken advice from Plantlife, the Wildlife Trusts, Butterfly Conservation and Wild Flower Lawns and Meadows.
In addition, we have taken advice from those who have guided changes elsewhere including Northamptonshire ACRE and Chesham Town Council.
We believe this proposal can meet the following aims:
Reduce carbon emissions that arise from land management by Braunston Parish Council. (Action 4 in the Braunston Parish Council Climate Action document)
Increase the biodiversity in areas of land managed by the Parish Council which will have a positive effect on the number and diversity of invertebrates, small mammals and birds in surrounding areas.
Maintain or reduce current levels of expenditure required to mow the land.
Achieve the support of residents, village groups and visitors for the changes in mowing and land management.
Provide examples for others of how private land such as gardens can be managed in more sustainable ways.
We propose that most of the areas currently mown are classified as amenity grassland and mown every three weeks. Under this regime grass should reach around 3 inches between cuts. White clover, creeping buttercup and bird’s-foot trefoil can flower between cuts at this interval, attracting pollinating bees and other invertebrates, thereby leading to greater biodiversity than with weekly or fortnightly mowing. The flowering plants mentioned can spread and flower with the current ‘cut and fly’ method of mowing. Mowing these areas every three weeks rather than weekly or fortnightly will lead to a reduction in carbon emissions and financial costs of around 50%.
Amenity grasslands are areas used for playing or as paths or verges in residential areas. In some parts of Braunston there are large areas of such land. This proposal envisages that residents may prefer that some parts of the larger areas could be converted into wildlife-rich grassland as described below. We do not propose this for 2021. It could occur in later years, either following a request from residents of the surrounding houses or as a suggestion which is put to them in a consultation. The suitability of any areas put forward would be considered before proceeding.
In specified areas we propose the creation of wildlife-rich grassland. These areas will be mown twice a year and managed in ways that support greater biodiversity.
In August 2020, the Parish Council agreed the commencement of work to establish a wildlife-rich grassland on the inside of the Butlin’s Hill bend. This work will continue, resulting in a flowery grassland that supports many more bees and other invertebrates that will in turn support a greater range of wildlife.
To achieve this, mowing will need to be ‘cut and collect’. In 2021 the mowing dates should be week commencing 15th March and 30th August but may vary depending on weather.
We propose that Welton Road south side beyond Spinney Hill comes under the same mowing regime.
The road edges of Butlin’s Hill and Welton Road will be mown as amenity grassland. This will ‘frame’ the wildlife-rich grassland to indicate that the whole area is managed.
Jetty Field will come under the Parish Council mowing contract in 2021. Two areas are mown, the main field and the garden. We propose that the grass areas in the garden are maintained as amenity grassland. The same arrangement will apply in the north east section of the main field which will be used for Braunston Forest School activities.
We propose that the remainder of the main field, with the exceptions mentioned below, is maintained as described in 2 above.
Five rights of way, all footpaths, cross the main field which is used as a pedestrian route between the canal and the village. The field is also used a lot to exercise dogs. We propose that the footpaths are mown to a two-metre width, every six weeks. A strip of the same width should also be mown along the southern edge of the field next to the community orchard. Mowing these areas is important to ‘frame’ the areas of wildlife-rich grassland.
Whilst creating wildlife-rich grassland requires less regular maintenance, i.e. mowing, it needs commitment and long-term management. We will therefore provide guidance and support. We also hope that the Parish Council will continue to take advantage of the advice and networking available to it, for example from organisations including Northamptonshire ACRE and NALC.
It is important to achieve ‘buy in’. We will take responsibility for communicating information about the proposed changes through Facebook (Braunston Bugle), the BVN and on-site notices and information boards. Reactions on the Bugle this year suggest public opinion is moving towards supporting more sustainable practices.
We hope that this proposal is accepted for the 2021 mowing season and that further changes can be made in subsequent years which would further reduce carbon emissions and increased biodiversity.
We will help with discussions between the council and contractors during tendering.
Churchyard wildlife-rich grassland
In May 2021 Braunston Brownies helped plant wildflowers. On 24th June over 30 species of grass and flowers were counted in this area.