Since the 1930s, the UK has lost over 97% of its wildflower meadows. This has caused a steep decline in the populations of insects, with substantial knock-on effects to birds and other species that feed on them. Aside from the impact this has had on the ecosystem, insects are vital to our own food supply and it is becoming increasingly critical to reverse their waning numbers.
Road verges and similar patches of grass offer huge potential to reverse these trends and to support biodiversity. To do this, we must stop mowing them so frequently and instead allow the grass to grow long and to encourage wildflowers to flourish. This will make the town buzz with bees, butterflies and other precious pollinators, as well as providing habitat and food for a variety of small mammals and birds.
We are doing this in 2 ways:
- For a number of verges and areas of grass throughout the town, instead of being mown close to the ground several times a year, they will be mown just once and the cuttings removed to reduce competition from grasses. Where necessary, wildflowers will also be introduced to increase the number and diversity of plants.
- The mowing regime across all other verges in the town has been changed from 15 cuts a year to 6 cuts a year. This brings us in line with many of the other towns and villages in Central Bedfordshire and will allow the low growing wildflowers a longer flowering period whilst retaining a neat appearance
Once established, wildflower areas are self-sustaining, as each year’s flowers provide seeds for the following years. Flowers will appear in waves of colour throughout spring and summer, growing in variety and number over several years, and we hope it will bring pleasure to Ampthill residents as well as be great for our local wildlife.
What we have done so far?
We have planted nine areas to date:
- A zone within the Zig Zags
- A zone on Queen's Road close to the junction with Oliver Street
- A zone on the Tavistock Road recreation area
- Two zones on Cherrytree Way.
- The two verges at the junction of Holland Road and Flitwick Road
- The verge on the junction of Brinsmade Road and Lea Road
- A verge along Katherine's gardens
- The verge on Flitwick Road at the top of Station Road
- The bank on Church Avenue at the junction with Church Street (town side only)
We have also added some Yellow Rattle seed to some of the existing sites. This is a wildflower that reduces the vigour of the grasses and therefore helps other wildflowers to flourish. The sites where this has been added are the Zig Zags, Queen's Road, Cherrytree Way and Tavistock Avenue.
A further two areas will be planted in spring 2022, a verge on Ailesbury Road near the junction with Rushbrooke Close, and the pair of corner verges on Cedar Close.
These areas will be cut only once a year, around the beginning of September, and the cuttings collected to reduce fertility which will help the wildflowers to flourish.
A number of other areas will also have their management changed to once-a-year cut-and-collect. These will not have additional plants added as there are already a good range of plants in the sward. These areas are:
- Around the boundary of the wooded area of Verne Drive
- In the 4 corners of the central grassed area of Chiltern Close.
- Both sides of The Alameda and alongside the Sweetbriar to Station Road
- Adjacent to the Alameda gates close to Woburn Road
We have also liaised with Meadfleet who manage the green spaces at Ampthill Heights and who are keen to encourage wildlife in the areas they manage. They will be leaving a couple of areas unmown until later in the summer to encourage wildflowers to develop including the flood pool and bank alongside it, and the area adjacent to the hedging behind the children’s mushroom seats.
Our volunteers have been monitoring the sites, and will continue to do so so that we can keep a record of what flowers are appearing, and how this is changing over time. If you would like to help, please let us know. Training will be provided.
Be a Bee-Friendly Gardener Campaign
In May we launched the ‘Be a Bee-Friendly gardener campaign’ to schools, providing information on how to attract bees and other pollinators to your garden. We would love to see how our youngsters are helping wildlife their own gardens and will publish writing, photographs or pictures on our website.
You can find information about our campaign here:
We would like to thank all of the volunteers who have helped so far, the Environmental Services team at Central Bedfordshire Council for their help in amending the mowing schedules, the Greensand Landscape Partnership for their support and funding, and the Greensand Trust for their expertise and advice.
Please sign up to our mailing list if you would like to be kept up to date on the creation of wildflower havens or any other Ampthill Climate Change Group activity.